Beth Hecquet, CMP, CMM, must often spell out all that goes into the planning of Scripps National Spelling Bee. “A lot of people think of the two hours they see on ESPN the Thursday after Memorial Day,” says Hecquet. “That’s just a small snippet.” Since leaving NASC three years ago to become the bee’s program manager of events, Hecquet now educates CVBs and sports commissions across the county on partnership opportunities with the famous competition. Ahead of Thursday’s c-l-i-m-a-t-i-c conclusion at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, we present seven facts you didn’t know about Scripps National Spelling Bee.
1. Eleven million children compete nationally.
The journey toward the finals begins in June, weeks after a national champion is crowned. Hecquet adds that is only a fraction of the youth who could be leaving audiences spellbound.
2. Local events vary.
Scripps provides the template to run an event, including the rules and guidelines. But from there, it’s up to hosting communities to determine the nature and size of the competition. “We call it ‘bee in a box,’” says Hecquet, noting Georgia is an example of a statewide qualifier (run by the Georgia Association of Educators) to reach the finals.
3. Smaller events may have a bigger impact.
“Hosting the nationals is huge, but grass-roots events are often more exciting,” says Hecquet. Moreover, smaller events can provide a larger economic impact than the showcase final. For instance, Georgia draws from thousands of schools to compete in one event. “With the nationals, it’s a different story,” says Hecquet. That’s good news because…
4. Nationals aren’t moving anytime soon.
Gaylord National, which took over as host from Grand Hyatt Washington (D.C.) in 2011, is under contract through 2025. While Washington, D.C.,
is synonymous with the championships, Louisville, Kentucky
, originally crowned a champion when a small number of newspapers first created the framework for the bee.
5. It can pay to host a bee.
Scripps provides a rebate to each host based off the number of schools registered. If there are enough, a CVB’s expenses could be completely paid for. Tack on sponsorships, like Dallas Sports Commission
did this year, and it can become a moneymaker. Dallas forged partnerships with 12 sponsors, including AT&T, Southwest Airlines, CareNow Urgent Care and title sponsor Golden Chick.
6. DMOs are buying in.
Discover Lehigh Valley
in Pennsylvania was the first CVB to sign as a bee partner. While an existing relationship from Hecquet’s days at NASC
didn’t hurt, the CVB continues to see its local bee as a branding opportunity. Dallas Sports Commission saw the bee as a legacy project and stepped up when The Dallas Morning News dropped out as Scripps’ partner in 2017. The initiative involved more than 100,000 students in 730 schools across 38 counties. Hecquet says the commission could move from a television studio to a larger venue, where more spectators can watch in person.
7. Changes are coming.
Hecquet says one of the biggest misconceptions about the bee is it stays the same each year. For 2017, it created events and programs tying into its 90th anniversary. Grander ideas are also being considered, such as adding regional competitions like AAU does with its championships, says Hecquet.