The big ticket: sport events for MICE
Looking for a ‘wow’ factor for your next corporate incentive?
Amelia Hungerford discovers that the appeal of sporting events lasts long after the final whistle.
Modern luxury travellers are hard to impress. Not only do they seek beautiful locales with impeccably designed and run resorts, they want to be surprised. Incentives are following this trend. A trip to Fiji is something that most of your clients or top performers could afford; what they want is something money can’t buy. Backstage concert encounters with rock stars, cooking lessons with Michelin-starred chefs and days spent cruising in supercars all attract a ‘wow’ factor and eternal bragging rights.
Of all experiences, however, once-in-a-lifetime sporting events reign supreme. Already sport plays to human passion: team allegiances are passed down through families, Grand Final day is set aside months in advance and the sheer energy of large-scale events can only be described as infectious. Even someone whose sporting interest is luke-warm when separated by a TV screen is suddenly transformed into a fanatic when placed among a cheering mob of thousands.
Sport as a bucket-list reward
Sport and incentives are a natural fit. Both celebrate healthy competition, rewarding hard work with a bucket-list experience; for some, this is holding the trophy aloft, for others, this is seeing that trophy from the fourth row in the stadium.
Daniel Morahan, managing director of Keith Prowse Travel (KPT), easily sees the appeal in big-ticket sporting events as incentive programs: “These events are often bucket-list experiences that guests are unlikely to attend in their own right. They get people talking, encourage competition among work mates and drive a culture of success. People are excited to see who they will be enjoying the event with and there is a sense of wanting to be part of an experience.”
There is a reason that corporate suites are in high demand; a permanent suite in a stadium not only offers guaranteed access to every game hosted at the stadium, but can do double time as a unique meeting room, as well as an advertising opportunity, depending on the venue.
Etihad Stadium’s corporate offerings, for example, allow Permanent Suite holders to represent their brand through their decor and fit-out, as well as four AFL Medallion Memberships for access to matches held at the MCG.
Anything is possible when you think big
The Formula One Monaco Grand Prix is motorsport’s most iconic event, its course hugging the shore of superyacht-laden Port Hercule. Watching the race from the port is one of sport’s ultimate experiences. With Volare Travel Group’s Grand Prix of Monaco Superyacht Hospitality package, you can soak up the frenzied atmosphere from a private yacht with a host of additional experiences including being whisked away to the Amber Lounge, home to the glamorous F1 after party, driving an F1 car on a private circuit and dining with a Grand Prix driver. Julie Hunter, operations director for Volare Travel Group, says, “The sky – or, perhaps more aptly, the client’s budget – is the only limit.”
For those who would rather get behind the wheel, Volare’s core business, Ultimate Driving Tours, also organises incentive programs driving a fleet of supercars through the Alps, along the Californian coast or anywhere else with extraordinary roads, scenery and signature luxury hotels.
Golfers can enjoy a day on the fairway alongside one of Wilcox Events’ Celebrity Golfers, pairing a vast network of NRL, AFL and Union players with fans and experience-based auction items.
In the wake of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Union fans will be looking ahead to the Hong Kong Sevens in April 2016. This event, along with the Singapore Grand Prix, is one of KPT’s most in-demand experiences, combining a trending destination with VIP treatment. It’s a moment that sees the whole city come alive, but there’s much more to it than sold-out events and VIP areas.
“We’ve had the opportunity to tailor some exciting bespoke trips and additional activities: meet-and-greets with celebrities and sports stars; bespoke private dining experiences in secret locations with celebrity chefs; and the chance to drive a Ferrari around a Grand Prix circuit,” says Morahan. “Clients are looking for money-can’t-buy experiences that appeal to the passion points of their employees.”
This, perhaps, is why sporting incentives work so well. The effect lingers within a company, the stories elevated to legend, so that others want to experience the same. The feeling spreads with word of mouth, intertwining with company culture, until it becomes part of a client’s identity.
Thinking outside the box
The sport amplifies the destination. Whole cities come alive with visitors and sideline attractions that are often as much of an attraction as the main event itself. The Super Bowl is a revered day in the American calendar, but it is the lead-up that ignites the anticipation – exclusive parties, celebrity encounters and private dinners with NFL Hall of Famers – with a finale on the field, all arranged by an incentives specialist such as QuintEvents. Even if you’ve never so much as watched a game of gridiron, the Super Bowl is an icon in its own right. Your only problem will be trying to top it next year.
Top 10 sports events for incentive programmes
Highlights from the sporting calendar
1. The Super Bowl: You don’t need to be a gridiron fan to appreciate the most-watched annual sporting event in the world.
2. Monaco F1 Grand Prix: The highlight of the F1 Championship.
3. The Olympics: The pinnacle of international sport where legends are made.
4. FIFA World Cup: National football teams battle it out in Russia, 2018.
5. Wimbledon: The tennis world’s finest in action.
6. AFL Grand Final: An all-Aussie showcase.
7. The Masters: Golf’s hallowed championship in Augusta, Georgia.
8. The Melbourne Cup: The race that stops a nation.
9. The Ashes: Australian and British cricketing pride on the line.
10. Rugby World Cup: It’s the world in union.