How sport provides the ideal setting for corporate hospitality

With ferocious competition for commercial investment, the significance of distinguishing your business from others can be the difference between success and disaster.

Good business essentially relies on the capacity to build and sustain strong relationships with important stakeholders.

As of 2015, hospitality events in the UK are worth a whopping £39 billion to Britain’s economy according to a recent report called ‘Events Are Great Britain’ by the Business Visits and Events Partnership, which can be read in full on the BVEP website.

This figure is broken down into many sectors but three are important in relation to corporate hospitality. Conferences and meetings are worth £19.9bn with corporate events at £1.2bn and sports events bringing in £2.3bn.

Building bridges

Corporate events are used by companies to solicit new business, create a corporate image, and retain and build loyalty with existing customers.

Sports events in general are a huge playground where everyone can connect emotionally to the sport. Corporate hospitality is hosted at various places with the main goal of a return in investment. But sports events are different as they are used to help build relationships, as it is a strategy used by business to leisure the client.

Xanthe Boyle, former senior adjuster at QBE, who sponsor the English rugby said: “At QBE we held an event after an England rugby match with high-profile players for staff and select business partners.’

“Bigger business still find themselves spending a lot of money on retaining clients but more importantly creating new ones”

“The event was set out to sell the marketing piece to the staff so they would sell it forward to clients. For example, we have spare tickets for an England match to meet all the players afterwards, but these tickets will only be given to people we know we will see a return on investment.”

At the 2015 Rugby World Cup, organisers claimed that corporate hospitality sales “were more than 50 per cent higher than during the London Olympic Games, with 90,000 packages being sold compared to 60,000 at the Olympics”.

Research was carried out on the Rugby World Cup 2015 to examine the openings that sports hospitality offers based on corporate hospitality, and it discovered that above 80% of high-ranking business managers thought corporate hospitality assisted the reinforcing of special relations with clients.

The business entertainment industry is doing rather well considering the huge budget cuts companies have taken since the recession in 2009/2010. Although they are not spending huge amounts on private yachts and luxury trips as before it, the trend nowadays is informality so that everyone is relaxed and prices are controlled.

Corporate hospitality is not so luxurious now, with a simple dinner out a much cheaper and interactive way to speak to a client. However bigger business still find themselves spending a lot of money on retaining clients but more importantly creating new ones.

Setting a budget

The market is incredibly competitive with everyone trying to control their marketing budget. At sports events, the majority have areas in a stadium or arena for the ‘VIPs’ to seat where prices are ridiculously high as some packages can include private meals and free drinks along with gifts from businesses who are hosting.

“It may be that for one business, two suite nights and an employee outing is the best way for us to get their support; for another it may be six seats for all 81 games”
– Tampa Bay Rays baseball president

For example, Business ISP Mistral Internet has a marketing budget of £150,000 a year and currently have boxes at the millennium stadium and St Marys home of Southampton. Although they are looking to purchase a £100,000 box at Wembley to give clients the ultimate experience at the biggest stadium in the UK.

As they explain to Growing Business, more of their clients have passion for various sports, so instead buy tickets to single games or other events. The idea behind the budget is to have a return of £1million or more in increased revenue.

For football fans, VIP seats are understandably important for various benefits to the club like helping with funding. But nowadays too many seats are being occupied by business men and officials etc. that it can ruin the atmosphere.

More recently, Uefa have revealed how they will allocate tickets for the Champions League final, with just 20,000 tickets each for the game at the San Siro. The governing body said the remaining 25,500 tickets would be given to the “local organising committee, Uefa and national associations, commercial partners and broadcasters, and to serve the corporate hospitality programme”.

The importance of giving these tickets to these committees, partners and associations etcetera is what helps fund the governing body of football and brings more money to the sport. It could be suggested that it is a different approach to lather these guests with VIP and expensive tickets in hope of a continued business transaction or to create new ones.

Football is very easy to organise and a great way of meeting with your clients as there are often incredible games to watch. Evening games are also a very popular way to engage in some after work corporate hospitality with your favoured clients as you can eat and drink beforehand.

Success of golf

Golf is used to a large extent in corporate hospitality for vacations and short trips where businesses can take away employees and clients to develop a face-to-face relationship where friendships can be used to help the company.

dfmndfCBS recruitment runs a corporate golf competition for £150 per head, which includes 18 holes and an awards dinner. That accounts for £8,500 alone, with boxes at the autumn rugby internationals, including a meal and entertainment, costing £4,000 for each match at around £350 per head.

Top businesses frequently run high-profile celebrity golf tournaments which have major appeal to clients. It helps to maximise exposure and brand awareness to others who will be attending and to new customers who want to be treated the same.

These are called client appreciation events and are a means to thank existing clients and attract new business. One financial company looked carefully at whom its top-producing customers were and what they shared in common. They found that golf was a passion for the majority.

Post event, depending on the package and budget, some can dine with celebrities who are also in attendance and receive photographs to take home along with other freebies like golf equipment.

Field of business dreams

Tennis is arguably the most coveted sport where everyone wants a ticket but you know you are treated well when you have corporate seats and hospitality. Especially at Wimbledon where, if seated, the debenture seats offer the best views.

Xanthe Boyle was a guest at Wimbledon last year where she was hosted by another company. “We were guests from a service provider to QBE where they took us to a corporate lunch at a marquee at Wimbledon with champagne, strawberries and tea. On the back of it everyone attending were current business partners and it was an event hosted so they could continue and extend our relationship for it to grow.”

All sports across the world have hospitality areas and it is companies that entertain well which receive the most praise. Sport is used as a stepping stone for business and is better known in the corporate hospitality industry as being the best place to network with other people.

This in turn will increase the customer experience and overall satisfaction, ideally resulting in repeat business.

The more memorable and high-quality the event, the more likely it is that potential clients will remember your business over your competitors and from research provided it is visible to seen a success in business transactions following corporate hospitality at sports events.