Griffith Business School research leaders Dr Joan Carlini from the Department of Marketing and Professor Andrew O’Neil Dean Research, have launched their new business impact research report – ‘One Year On: A Business Impact Analysis of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games’ – at the Sheraton Grand Mirage on June 18, that was commissioned by Friends of Griffith Business School.
The research that started back in 2017 looking at mega-sporting events (MSEs) and the affects they have on business communities, analysed the impacts the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games had on small and medium enterprises. And it’s the first time these impacts have been measured and evaluated with the aim of improving future planning of MSEs and their outcomes on business communities.
“This is the second instalment of a research project that Joan and I have been doing since 2017, and the jumping off point for us was to engage in research with depth, around research that has future relevance for business on the Gold Coast, particularly for small to medium enterprises,” said Professor O’Neil.
“The philosophical approach that we had, was approaching everything we did in this research project through trying to understand the perceptions of those who were directly impacted. And direct experience with what those people in businesses felt in dealing with the Commonwealth Games.”
“It’s really important that although we are talking about the data that we collected, there is a lot of good stories out there as well that we should acknowledge,” said Dr Carlini.
“So while a lot of people probably knew instinctively how it affected their business, this is the first time it has ever been documented. Nowhere in the literature, did we see evidence where a mega event had influenced businesses in this way.”
The night began with Professor David Grant’s introduction, Pro Vice Chancellor of Griffith Business School, on the business school’s mission and commitment to research and education, and the strong connections between the Friends of Griffith Business School and the Gold Coast business community that enable Griffith to carry out this research.
“High-impact research like the kind of research you are going to hear about tonight, research that is academically rigorous, which is informed and relevant and more overly research that we hope will inform policy and provide practical solutions for a range of business problems,” said Professor Grant.
Ms Janelle Manders, the Chair of Friends of Griffith Business School, followed with a welcome to country and guests, and a welcome to Professor Andrew O’Neil and Dr Joan Carlini to present the findings of the report.
“This is a follow-up to their report ‘Gold Coast Business and the Commonwealth Games, Impact Legacies and Opportunities’, which was a true collaboration between Gold Coast businesses, particularly private enterprises and the business school,“ said Ms Manders.
“But particularly relevant for me was that many of the predictions made in the report were found to be true, however, our message did not effectively reach all the businesses we thought we could have helped.”
Professor Andrew O’Neil began by highlighting the Commonwealth Games was a case study that outlined the changes small and medium enterprises (SMEs) had to face during the games, some over the horizon challenges, and how this research could guide future business owners and event organisers with a view to promoting better outcomes.
“We really sought to use Gold Coast 2018 the Commonwealth Games as a chronological pivot. A case study that charts some of the changes that are impacting on SMEs in particular, the business environment more generally,” said Professor O’Neil.
“The thing that we were really focussed on is research that is producing an impact, that informs business of the merging in particularly the over the horizon trends. Things that we have the power to anticipate change at a sectoral level in the economy.”
“Research that collaborates with business stakeholders in search of solutions. And this is really the Holy Grail of university research today, producing applied research that has impact and business can use in a practical sense to enhance their bottom line and their contribution to society.”
“Our aim is that we cover research rigour, breadth and depth with application and relevance, that we can produce research that has a significant practical contribution for SMEs in particular and business more generally,” said Professor O’Neil.
The study focussed on the key question of what was the impact of the games on Gold Coast businesses and it included 39 face-to-face interviews and 150 hard-copy and online survey responses that were evaluated by the researchers.
“This all pivoted off the question that fundamentally underpinned what we are doing – what is the impact of the Commonwealth games on business in the general Gold Coast environment,” Professor O’Neil asked?
“The first phase of the project undertook a series of in-depth interviews, essentially identifying the main Gold Coast industries that we were looking to reach out to from the North and to the Southern tip.”
“Businesses in diverse locations, we want to capture a range of ages in business, businesses that had been in the game for a short time, juxtaposed to those who had been in business longer.”
“A selection of small and medium enterprises, interviewees with experience and a number of employees,” said Professor O’Neil.
“We also included in some of the interviews and consultations, local industry associations and other academic experts, and people who had been involved in business for some time and perhaps retired.”
“And finally we really aimed with the interviews to provide insights and nuances that we could then use to instruct the survey, which is phase two of the research.”
Dr Joan Carlini followed with her introduction thanking all the guests for attending the launch event and especially thanking those who completed the business surveys and the business community for their ongoing support of this research.
“One of the things that I would like to do is thank everyone for coming tonight but also the people that filled in the surveys and the participants in the interviews,” said Dr Carlini.
“We’ve always had outstanding support from industry and that’s really important because this type of research is nothing without the industry supporting us”.
“We asked businesses how they were impacted by the Commonwealth Games and the overwhelming response was – with over half of the respondents reporting that their businesses were impacted very negatively – twenty-three percent somewhat negatively, sixteen percent had no impact, while ten percent was positive.”
Dr Carlini explained the major results of the study that included fourteen business impacts, the dominant factors that influenced business impacts and the disconnect between the overall success of the games and the sentiment from many business operators that they received little benefit from GC2018.
“First of all, we look at the business impacts and report on fourteen types. Then we examine business planning, the quality of the Gold Coast’s Commonwealth Games business information and finally city level impacts,” said Dr Carlini.
“The dominant factors identified for the negative impact on business was a change in customer numbers, 57 percent, with reduced sales volumes coming close second at 52 percent.”
“Other significant factors that affected businesses negatively was vehicular access, pedestrian access, and changes to customer behaviours.”
It was identified a reduction in customer numbers was the largest negative impact on Gold Coast businesses and this resulted in declining sales for many businesses due to a number of factors. Also restricted access affected business with the added burden of increased costs due to night deliveries.
“The largest negative impact was reduced customer numbers and the flow-on effect to sales. We identified several factors contributing to the reduced customer numbers,” said Dr Carlini.
“Firstly Gold Coast leisure tourists was displaced by a budget conscious and sports-focussed tourist, who generally did not frequent retail and food service outlets, outside the sporting venues.”
“Sixty-four percent of businesses commented that residents leaving the Gold Coast affected them negatively and resulted in a reduction of local patronage.”
“Also on the list of impacts was restricted vehicle and pedestrian access. The increased security and enclosure of normal roads forced the vehicle and foot traffic away,” said Dr Carlini.
“Another contributing factor was restricted parking times at park-n-ride stations meant that spectators returning to their vehicles did not have an opportunity to spend at local businesses.”
On the positive impact side, the research found that reputations were increased for those businesses involved with the Commonwealth Games and some institutions have benefited from the global exposure securing new international sporting events and movie projects for the Gold Coast after the games.
“Most businesses didn’t find any impact in regards to their reputation, however, we did find that those businesses servicing the games and participating at the venues saw a reputational benefit,” said Dr Carlini.
“An example includes the Broadbeach Bowls Club, they have recently acquired an international sporting event for the next five years and that was a consequence of the Commonwealth Games.”
“And we need to consider the reputational benefit to the Gold Coast from Village Roadshow and their Commonwealth Games venue Sound Stage Nine. This infrastructure investment has attracted many big budget productions to the Gold Coast.”
Professor O’Neil outlined the lessons learned and constructive recommendations that will help governments, business owners and employees in the future when preparing for mega-sporting events, on the Gold Coast and in other parts of the world, i.e. Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.
“The first is we recommend that more authentic engagement with business is required. What do we mean when we term it authentic,” Professor O’Neil asked?
“Well really what we are talking about here is in future planning, event organisers and government need to be much more in tuned to micro-level concerns of business in the run-up to the event being held,” said Professor O’Neil.
“This requires working meaningfully with small and medium enterprises as well as the top end of town at a grassroots level to identify threats and opportunities arising from events and ensuring that businesses feel and are in fact a part of the planning cycle.”
“Event organisers and governments should focus their efforts on collaborating with businesses, as strategic partners. This can’t be just a kind of foe collaboration that seeks to tick a box with a multitude of stakeholders involved.”
“Rather a process that incorporates, a well-defined feedback loop where businesses can play a direct role in event planning, not just a service provision role within the working event,” said Professor O’Neil.
“Businesses themselves need to be critical. But it’s important they actively source information and data that is independent from governments, and even keep industry bodies including Chambers of Commerce.”
“At the end of the day accessing rigorous and independent research, including from universities, and independent think tanks is crucial for businesses to enable the strategic planning ahead of major events. And business themselves need to be proactive in doing that.”
“The third recommendation, businesses need to be active in distributing information. This is really important. Competition among business in the same sector is often relentless, and the notion of collaboration with competitors is not instinctive,” said Professor O’Neil.
“Small and medium enterprises are frequently too busy focussing on detailed operational challenges, to think about how they might play a role in information exchange.”
“But if these same businesses are to capitalise on opportunities arising from major events, and avoid inevitable costs, comparing notes with peer competitors is a must.”
“This combined with accessing a wide variety of reliable information channels, has the potential to yield valuable intelligence that can then be integrated with firm-level strategic operational planning,” said Professor O’Neil.
In closing Professor O’Neil explained the importance of future research on the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, that still needs to be investigated and in other jurisdictions – as future mega-sporting events are inevitable – and he suggested some impending questions for further investigation.
“We strongly believe there is much more research to be done on the impact of the Commonwealth Games generally, but also in relation to business,” said Professor O’Neil.
“We don’t feel for a minute that we have done anything but scratch the surface, in this very deep reservoir of questions for businesses here on the Gold Coast.”
“We know that future mega-events here are inevitable and as our report showed the impact on business endures, as Joan said, long after the caravan moves on.”
“It’s important therefore that further analysis of the Commonwealth Games is undertaken both on the Gold Coast and in other jurisdictions nationally,” said Professor O’Neil.
“The sorts of questions that we think that should or could be asked are; which businesses did prosper from the Commonwealth Games? And what were the conditions that helped create this prosperity,” Professor O’Neil asked?
“What have been the pay-offs for Gold Coast businesses and public sector investment in arts, culture and sport? We know in some of our research, for example, the arts and culture sector did quite well as a result of public sector investment.”
“Why didn’t that kind of spill over into other areas? We know the sporting infrastructure here is second to none, how can that be leveraged as a pay-off from the games,” Professor O’Neil asked?
“And finally quantifying the impact on the Gold Coast flowing from the Commonwealth Games, destination image, tourism and trade and investments,” said Professor O’Neil.
“The games was a Commonwealth Games, it wasn’t an Olympics Games, so you had cross-section of countries that weren’t necessarily representative of the Gold Coast key trade and investment partners.”
“What does that mean and how would an Olympics for Queensland change that dynamic,” Professor O’Neil asked?
The report launch was attended by a large group that included members of Griffith Business School, Friends of Griffith Business School, the Gold Coast Business Community, the Gold Coast Chamber of Commerce and Councillors from the Gold Coast City Council.
To learn more about the impacts on business communities of mega-sporting events, and what you can do if you are facing an event in your city, please read the report ‘One Year On: A Business Impact Analysis of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games’.
Feature image: Report Launch Event, Sheraton Grand Mirage, Gold Coast
Dr Joan Carlini is a Lecturer in the Department of Marketing at Griffith Business School. Her scholarly work specialises in the intersection of business, government and society. She chairs the Gold Coast Health Consumer Advisory Group, whose members actively work with Gold Coast Hospital to provide a consumer voice in the design, delivery, and planning of health services. Joan has significant industry experience having worked extensively in marketing and hospitality.
Andrew O’Neil is a Professor of Political Science and Dean (Research) at Griffith Business School. He is the author of a range of scholarly publications and a regular contributor to international and national media outlets. Professor O’Neil is the recipient of a number of grants, including from the Australian Research Council, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Japan Foundation. Prior to entering academia in 2000, he was a Commonwealth Public Servant.
Q – How did we compare to other host cities of mega-events and their management?
“What we found actually is that this type of research is not done, it’s very sparse, and certainly these types of impacts haven’t been documented before,” said Dr Carlini.
“This is a part of the significance of this research, this is finally being documented, so that future host cities can start to document and make comparisons, and put interventions in place and try to make sure that businesses prosper.”
“The second part is around a management issue around the event planning. This particular study was solely focussed on the business experience, so we asked business owners and managers about their experience of the Commonwealth Games.”
“We didn’t delve into the management of the event organisers, so we can only comment on how businesses experienced the Commonwealth Games,” said Dr Carlini.
“But certainly we did hint at inaccuracies in information, a lack of consultation and a lack of engagement, and a real lack of the host city being an integral part of and prospering from the Commonwealth Games.”
Q – Did businesses who engaged with the event planning processes do any better?
“Certainly we found that a lot of our participants, did consult with or went to the information sessions and they did not fare any better, and in fact, we could probably say that they didn’t fare any better because the information they received, in their own words, was inaccurate. Their planning was based on inaccurate information,” said Dr Carlini.
“In the 2017 report, we went back to the original bid document, it was a well-written document highlighting the advantages of the Gold Coast as a host city, and why wouldn’t you award the Gold Coast the Commonwealth Games.”
“In the original bid document the local business and the economic benefit for local business is front and centre.”
“But somehow along the way, you have the bid document and then you have the progress, local businesses and the local host community does seem to fall by the wayside and they are no longer the focus any more, but they were the focus in the original bid document.”