It comes at a price, but increasingly inventive corporate hospitality creates a valuable bond with clients and business partners – and delivers a return on investment
The UK has been spoilt for choice in recent years when it comes to major sporting events. The 2012 Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games of 2014 and the Rugby World Cup the following year all presented huge opportunities to those wanting to entertain corporate clients.
Meanwhile, the annual calendar sees high-profile events such as Wimbledon, the Silverstone Grand Prix and the Epsom Derby, in addition to regular Premier League football, international cricket and Six Nations rugby fixtures.
Such events do not come cheap to those who wish to make a good impression on clients or business partners. But research by STH Group, the official hospitality provider for the last three Rugby World Cups and the 2019 tournament in Japan, as well as London 2012 and the IAAF World Athletics Championships, suggests it is a price worth paying.
More than 80 per cent of those who buy corporate hospitality believe it is extremely effective at improving relations with clients, while 71 per cent of those who attend such events as guests say they are likely to increase the amount they spend with that company as a result. ...
This can also extend to taking part in certain competitions or post-match events. Luke D’Arcy, UK president at brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide, points to the rise in “VIP experience”.
“Why watch the Americas Cup when you can be part of the team for a leg?” he asks. “Why just watch Usain Bolt run in Rio when you can have him DJ the after-party and spin your tunes like he did for Nissan? Why just watch the US Open with American Express when you can take on a virtual Sharapova in a match using virtual reality? Participation experience is everything.”
Sports such as football, cricket and Formula 1 are facing growing pressure to facilitate such arrangements, he says.
Yet it’s also important to offer clients a degree of choice, as not all will have the budgets for or want the very top-notch packages. Silverstone Classic, for example, offers three levels of hospitality, ranging from its Club House package, which is essentially a bolt-on to just buying conventional tickets, to the Podium that enables clients to create a bespoke package for parties of more than 20 people.
“One of the things that we’ve been pleased to offer our Podium guests and event partners is add-ons such as a behind-the-scenes tour, a ride out with the course car on-track and fast-track ‘passports’ to some of the more popular experiences around the event,” says Nick Wigley, Silverstone Classic event director.
There’s no doubt, though, that the market will continue to evolve, and providers, sports venues and clients will need to come up with evermore creative ways to ensure guests feel they have experienced something a bit different. “By providing added experiences, you will give a client something unique to take away over and above the usual trappings,” says Mr Garner. “Ultimately, it’s about delivering something special for a price that is realistic.”