Corporate hospitality and sporting events
Our World | On 22, Sep 2009
Sporting events have always been popular choices for corporate hospitality. Whether it is the Test at Lords, centre court at Wimbledon, the grandstand at Ascot for Ladies’ Day, sales professionals have always been keen to book them up and invite their top clients along. In a cash-strapped 2009, is there still the same enthusiasm for Pimms and bubbly in the corporate hospitality box?
Well no is the simple answer! Our clients have certainly cut back on corporate hospitality this year. It is interesting that public attendance at sporting events is holding up very well; but corporate sales are suffering badly. During the Ashes, I was being phoned at least once a week by an agent trying to sell me Ashes hospitality, claiming that they have had a cancellation and this prime opportunity is now available at a discount. In reality these high profile events are “no go” areas for many organisations. Even Royal Ascot has seen corporate sales drop with the Chief Executive saying that box sales were down almost 30%, but that public sales were actually stronger than last year.
The question many people are asking is where is the money being spent? The mix has certainly changed and the higher the profile or “worse the perception”, the less the interest from the corporate side. In other words, if it’s deemed to be elitist and expensive then it’s off. If it’s perceived as inexpensive, lower profile and good value then it’s OK. We all know that budgets have been cut across the board. What we are finding, is that the balance has swung in favour of investment in private entertainment. Organisations prefer holding a lower profile golf day for 50 clients at £150 a head rather than taking 20 clients to Wimbledon at £750 per head. Half the budget and more than twice the clients – it looks like less really is more.
So which sporting events are the best to take clients and prospects to? Sports events are purely a thank you. They are really a curious choice for hospitality events. If they are just a thank you, then surely you might be better off sending your client 4 normal tickets so they can enjoy a family day out. Or is the aim to gain something more from the opportunity? Apart from say sports like cricket, the match itself usually is no more than a 2 hour affair and far from the perfect way to network with clients. You find yourself sat in stadium rows, which must be the least conducive forum for building business relationships. Afterwards many just want to get away from the venue, so the networking and relationship building is usually pre kick off.
In reality the quality of the event and their interest in it is the “hook” to get them there. Therefore the choice of the pre match facility is key if you want to maximise the opportunity. Every firm has an individual decision to make though. You must work out whether sporting events are the right form of hospitality. In the current environment, organisations must consider public perception as well as the overall return from hosting the event. Even if the potential return is great, a firm may still have to pull the event purely on the grounds that it looks too expensive.
So it’s your call.