Programs & Courses
Program Spotlight: Sport & Event Marketing and Management
For more than 30 years, Natalie Sauer’s passion has been event planning.
As prominent figure in the industry, her love for her community, desire to create experiences for residents, and the thrill and unknown of each event are what drives her to continue that work as a volunteer in retirement.
“At the end of the day, I would say it can be a really grueling profession. You have to have a lot of resiliency, but it’s very, very rewarding."
From entry level to leader
Natalie worked with the City of Medicine Hat for three decades, beginning as a booking clerk and moving her way up to the Manager of Recreation. Some of her highlights were being seconded to open the Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre, being responsible for managing all programming and services for the Family Leisure Centre expansion and spent many years at the former Medicine Hat Arena to help make them true community-gathering spaces.
She also served as director for numerous high-profile sporting events hosted by Medicine Hat, including the Alberta Summer and Winter Games, and currently will play a leading role in the city’s delivery of the 2026 National Special Olympics.
Behind the scenes
"The biggest thing about event planning is consideration for the customer experience,” says Natalie. “Whether it’s a child’s birthday party or an event for thousands of people, you have to ask yourself ‘What’s this event going to look like through their eyes? What do we want our customer to experience?’”
When planning begins, the first step is often picking up the phone. If a promoter is interested in staging a concert, Natalie will phone local radio stations to gain a better understanding of who listens to that artist and their popularity. This provides resources for when it comes time to build a marketing and advertising strategy for event promotion.
“Everybody you connect with is your customer. They could be the person buying a ticket, promoting the event, or planning their wedding reception. If you don’t give that person the proper support, they’re not coming back and they’re not going to recommend you.
"It’s about understanding the customer from every angle and planning and executing an experience that exceeds their expectations.”
Event planners oversee an entire project from budgets to fundraising, all levels of detail planning, plus the work on event day. For large events, like provincial games or the National Special Olympics, planning starts years in advance. Bid documents to host these events can take three to four months to prepare. Time is also needed to fundraise, as some events can require millions of dollars to proceed.
“You need to know that your community can handle the event and that you have a volunteer base, too. The Alberta Games, for example, required about 2,000 volunteers,” explains Natalie.
Creating the overall plan and setting up various directors to oversee details can also take years. Then, about 12 to 18 months prior, physical staff are brought on board to support the event planner and ensure no details are missed.
When the event finally arrives, the team is at their busiest as all the planning and preparation comes to life.
“You know you are going to be putting out fires. There is always something, but if you are as ready as you can be then you almost kind of wait for it to happen,” she says, using the 1998 Alberta Summer Games as an example. No one could have predicted it would snow in Medicine Hat in August, leading to multiple sport scheduling changes and moving the outdoor Closing Ceremonies indoors.
“After much planning, then there is the relief...
it’s finally show time.”
For Natalie, the biggest joy is when the community comes together and people have a great time.
“That is a big part of the satisfaction, because your job really is to make sure everybody has a positive experience.”
A place for everyone
People who are ‘big picture planners’, enjoy building relationships and have great organizational skills will excel in sport and event marketing and management.
“It’s a fast-paced business ... but it’s not only for high-energy people, it’s really a good fit for those steadfast and attention-to-detail people. There are so many aspects to event planning that people can be part of.”
Natalie is thrilled to see the new Sport & Event Marketing and Management Diploma program at Medicine Hat College, as it will help students build better understanding of the full scope of event planning, which includes accounting and cash flow, reading contracts and managing staff, in addition to creating customer experiences.
She also appreciates the practicum component that provides students with hands-on learning and believes businesses will support the program and open their doors to help students gain valuable experience.
“Education is so valuable,” says Natalie of this new learning opportunity. “I think the industry will be better for it.”
For those who share Natalie’s passion for people and planning and have a desire to create memorable experiences in their communities, your future awaits with MHC’s Sport & Event Marketing and Management program.
Apply now for your backstage pass to a new career in Fall 2022: www.mhc.ab.ca/sportandevent.