When the BCW 2022 Ranking of Sports Cities was published a few weeks ago, it marked a welcomed return to a level of normality following almost two years of postponements, rescheduling, relocations, and modifications of sports events.
The pandemic created chaos, the organisation of events became uncertain, and tourism and spectators were often banned. It was certainly not business as usual and therefore cities were definitely not benefiting from the same international exposure that they were used to from hosting major events.
Now the international event hosting market has returned to a much more stable situation. So, what does this year’s Ranking tell us about what might have changed over the past two years?
Before I get to some interesting conclusions, a quick overview of the BCW Ranking of Sports Cities.
We rank the top 50 cities that are most strongly associated with sport from around the world based on a combination of qualitative, perception-based analysis and in-depth quantitative analysis. The Ranking is based on surveys among International Federation (IF) leaders and sports industry experts, combined with an analysis of the association between sport and a city in the digital space over the past 12 months using the social media analytics tool Brandwatch.
This year, for the first time in the 10-year history of the BCW Ranking of Sports Cities, a city from Asia ranked first. Tokyo jumped to the top of the 2022 Ranking, edging out Paris and London, which ranked second and third, respectively. Los Angeles sits at fourth place and last year’s winner, New York, takes fifth place.
The full 2022 Ranking of the top 50 cities can be found here: Tokyo tops the BCW 2022 Ranking of Sports Cities (bcw-global.com).
So, what does this first post-pandemic ranking tell us?
The clear trend is that the largest and most prestigious international events are getting even stronger in terms of generating positive impact for the cities hosting them.
It seems that in times of postponement and rescheduling, the big ones are the winners – and subsequently the cities hosting these major events will benefit relatively more in terms of building a global image as a sports city.
This trend is reflected when it comes to hosting Summer Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup and Formula 1.
The Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo did their part in bumping the Asian city to the top of the 2022 Ranking. This underlines the strong association that hosting the Summer Olympic Games has with being recognised as a sports city. The delay and chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t seem to affect the impact that the biggest global sport event had on the Japanese city.
Similarly, the top positions in the Ranking of Paris and Los Angeles - set to host the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games respectively - also showcase how Olympic hosts start to benefit long before the actual event even takes place.
It seems, however, that the positive impact of the rings only extends to the biggest Olympic event, the Summer Games, as we didn’t see the same results for the most recent winter host. Beijing, which hosted the most recent Winter Olympic Games, unfortunately did not realize a positive jump in the ranking.
When it comes to the FIFA World Cup, it isn’t too surprising that when a huge event lands in a small country that the impact on the major capital city of that country gets a huge boost to its image as a sports city.
Such is the case with the FIFA World Cup heading to Qatar. The city of Doha is reaping the benefits and jumped an impressive 13 spots in this year’s Ranking. Interestingly, despite somewhat negative coverage of Qatar by international media, Doha, the capital city, is seemingly improving its image as a sports city.
This is especially interesting given that Qatar is so small and the overlap in terms of FIFA World Cup hosting between the city and country is significant. Moving forward, could other countries that risk negative international attention be better off focusing on promoting their major cities rather than the country as a whole?
And finally, Formula 1 hosting has proven to be an effective branding tool for the cities hosting a Grand Prix stop of the series and a quick way to increase a city’s recognition as a sports city.
We see Abu Dhabi, which just joined the ranking last year, jump up to 25th position – most likely a direct result of it joining the Formula 1 series. Budapest, Istanbul and Melbourne are all other examples of cities benefiting from the Formula 1 brand and rising in the Ranking.
These cities have joined an elite club, and when one of them is shining as the host of the moment, the others are being recognised as a previous or upcoming stop in the same series. They all benefit and increase their image as a sports city with every stop on the circuit.
All interesting trends that we will continue to follow in the coming months and years.
This year’s ranking once again underscores the positive role hosting major sports events can play in terms of connecting sport to the image of a city. A lot of work goes into this annual Ranking and we are happy to deliver this piece of work to the industry and contribute to the ongoing debate of how sports events can play a big role in improving the global perception of a city.