By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A Yukon High School graduate has been promoted to a top position with the leading company in the sports tourism industry.
Holly (Shelton) Anderson, a key player in the sports tourism industry for more than a decade, was recently named as the first woman to lead Connect Sports.
“It seems to be the year of the woman and it’s cool to be a small part of the powerful movement,” the 1997 Yukon High School graduate said.
In her new role, the Yukon native will continue to grow Connect Sports’ brand and portfolio of events.
Anderson has spent the past five years with Connect Sports, most recently as senior director. Previously, she spent more than six years at Oklahoma City Chamber’s Visitors Bureau where she was the manager of sports business development.
“I wasn’t sure where the journey at Connect Sports would take me, so after five years to be promoted to lead the charge is super rewarding,” said Anderson, who now lives in Knoxville, Tenn.
“I’ve been able to grow at Connect, help shape the initiatives, create new programs and now being the first woman in this role is pretty amazing to me.”
Based in Norcross, Ga., Connect Sports produces several events per year, including a premier industry event that pairs elite sports event organizers with organizers with in-demand destinations and venues to develop plans for future tournaments and competitions.
Anderson believes being educated in Yukon Public Schools was influential to her success.
“I knew from kindergarten all the way through high school that I was valued,” she said. “I had so many teachers, coaches and administrators that I credit for my success and the list would be so long, but I could name every single one.”
Most of these Yukon educators had influence on Anderson well outside the subject they taught. It was more about their investment in her growth and real-life education.
“They allowed me to succeed and fail in a safe place and created a drive in me to make them proud,” she said.
Anderson earned a Business Administration degree with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Oklahoma.
Patrick Higgins, Connect Sports’ vice president of meeting and events, said he was pleased to pass the torch to someone as capable of Anderson. Higgins cited Anderson’s uncanny ability to forge long-lasting partnerships and her drive to produce the best events possible.
“I can’t wait to see her take this opportunity and run with it,” Higgins said.
Anderson counts herself fortunate to have formed “amazing” relationships during her 11-plus years in the sports tourism industry – from event owners to destinations from third parties to other industry associations.
“My goal is to continue to grow new relationships and carefully foster existing relationships,” she said.
Anderson assumed her new role in time for Connect Sports’ annual trade show Aug. 26-28 in Louisville, Ky.
Sports tourism’s must-attend trade show brought together the top sports planners, destinations and venues for three days of networking, business and education.
Connect Sports specializes in destination marketing. The company produces digital programs, online and mobile solutions, business and travel magazines, and renowned trade shows and consumer events.
Among Anderson’s many accomplishments is the launch and development of Connect’s Women in Sports Tourism Forum, now in its fourth year.
One of the reasons Anderson said she started this summit was because, although there is a “fair share” of women in sports tourism, there aren’t as many in leadership roles.
“(I)t continues to grow,” she said. “This year, we are adding a Women in Tourism Forum running concurrently in Tucson (Ariz.) this November. It’s one of the more impactful events I’ve been a part of, and I challenge myself to make it better and more meaningful each year.”
Connect Sports will host its 2nd Annual Sports Diversity Events Summit next March in West Hollywood, Calif.
“It’s another one I’m super proud of because of the impact and passion of the people involved and the events they host,” Anderson said.
The company’s largest event will be Connect Marketplace next August in New Orleans, La.