GOOD DOGGIE: Unlike shows and competitions, the Meet the Breeds events give attendees a chance to interact with dogs.  (Courtesy American Kennel Club)

Meet the Breeds event embarks on four-stop tour, looks to add more cities

GF Sports, a live events and sports media entertainment company, and the American Kennel Club are taking AKC’s Meet the Breeds dog breed educational showcase on tour beginning this year. 

The tour kicked off last weekend with the 11th annual AKC Meet the Breeds in New York City, the city where both organizations are based and until now the only place to host Meet the Breeds. The event drew 25,000 people to the Jacob K. Javits Center, where general admission tickets were $32 for adults and $10 for kids, alongside $50 early admission passes and $100 VIP tickets.

Under the new agreement between GF Sports and AKC, three additional cities will host the event this year. Showcases have been booked at Philadelphia’s Greater Philadelphia Expo Center on June 6-7 and Nashville’s Music City Center on Sept. 26-27. Ticket on-sale information for those showcases has not yet been released. Talks are in progress with several cities for the fourth stop, 

“We spoke with AKC and learned about their local chapters and how they run their organization,” said Gary Fuhrman, GF Sports’ managing partner.  “We knew about their Meet the Breeds event and its demographic, and felt the opportunity was there [to take this] across the U.S.”

AKC Meet the Breeds provides attendees with the opportunity to meet and play with more than 160 dog breeds in booths individually decorated to depict each breed’s country of origin, historical purpose and function, and attributes as a family pet, while learning about responsible pet ownership and which breeds may be right for them. Unlike dog shows, Meet the Breeds gives attendees the opportunity to interact with dogs directly, both puppies and adults. 

AKC will tap into its local chapters in an effort to keep extensive travel for dogs appearing at events to a minimum.

The relationship with AKC helps further diversify GF Sports’ portfolio of live sports and entertainment properties and events, which includes ATP World Tour tennis tournaments in New York and Atlanta.

The organizations first talked about partnering when GF Sports was hosting an equestrian event, the Longines Masters in New York, and sought to include dogs.

“We started discussions in April 2019 about other opportunities for public outreach and talked about our Meet the Breeds event,” said Dennis B. Sprung, AKC’s president and CEO.

The tour will expand on the current Meet the Breeds format, which includes dog training, obedience and agility demonstrations.

“For the tour, we’re enhancing the educational portion of the event,” Sprung said. “We’re adding sticker books and trading cards with different dog breeds.” Food trucks also have been added as part of the Philadelphia Meet the Breeds showcase.

Past Meet the Breeds events have brought in both locals and tourists, which Sprung said has a significant economic impact to the host city.

“We’ve been in the live event business a long time, and this is our first in dogs, but it’s a natural extension to what we do,” said Fuhrman. “It’s a great marriage, because AKC has the national reach with their local chapters, and we know how to operate and market events and work with venues nationally. Our job is to find the best markets around the country.”

To promote the event, GF Sports will work with local media partners in each host city as well as a broadcast partner.

“When the right venue is targeted and you go about it the right way, people can find out about the event digitally,” Fuhrman said. “AKC also has a national database of dog owners, so we know how to target the right audience. We had over 10 million impressions for the New York City Meet the Breeds.”

Fuhrman added that the multiyear landscape opens up Meet the Breeds to more sponsors. “This is an event for people of all ages, and those who attend stay for hours, which is what sponsors want,” he said. “There is a basic underpinning of excitement, and the attendance will drive these showcases; we also have a dedicated team allocated.”

He predicts 10 cities total will be on the tour by 2021.