The Olympics, the Paralympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations will provide a triumvirate of opportunities to boost the corporate hospitality industry, and a report by Market & Consumer Insight predicts the events market in the UK will jump by 8% this year as a result of them. Charlie Miers, managing director at publisher Footprint Media Group, is confident this upturn in trade will revitalise the hospitality trade for years to come.
“After the Olympics, the potential void will be fed by new innovation and ideas, arguably fuelling a new generation of events,” he says.
However the corporate hospitality industry develops, there are a number of common strategies to ensure that each event adds value for the host brand. Here are Marketing Week’s top tips:
Find an event to start a conversation
It sometimes pays to think inside the box as corporate hospitality is about finding time to have conversations to develop good relationships. BT PR manager David Pincott advises: “You must have a dialogue with the people you are inviting. It’s no good putting on a theatre event where half the people don’t turn up for the pre-show meal and the rest turn up, watch the show and disappear straight afterwards. Where’s the communication there?
“Yes, try to come up with original ideas, but don’t give up on things like taking people to football matches. I took two industry analysts to an Arsenal match recently and one was a massive fan. When we see each other again I’m sure it’ll be like we were age-old friends.
“Top-flight football clubs do a great job at hospitality, which makes it looks like I have done a fabulous job.”
Premier League football clubs are investing heavily in corporate hospitality. Manchester City FC has a bespoke Harvey Nichols box at its stadium that can be custom-designed and guests can even purchase goods from it. Conference and events sales manager Angela Hodson says the box pushes the boundaries of corporate hospitality and allows the club to put on different events.
For Chelsea FC, corporate hospitality is one of the club’s highest revenue earners. Simon Hunter, head of venue and brand at the club, says: “Hospitality remains one of the most effective marketing tools, providing face-to-face contact with prospective and current clients in a relaxed environment. The advantages and uses of hospitality range from client acquisition and retention to participation in corporate social responsibility initiatives and staff incentives.”
Invite the right people
Once an event organiser has booked the venue and arranged the theme, the next challenge is getting the guest list right.
No longer will a blanket ‘invite to all’ work, nor will it offer value for money, says Sally Robins, group marketing director for communications infrastructure company Arqiva. “Social time for executive-level guests can be very limited and competitive so you need to ensure that your guests feel you are inviting them personally, which also increases the chances of them accepting.”
Technology company Ricoh entertained more than 4,000 executives and business partners last year. Its key targets are primarily prospects at C-suite level and senior IT executives from Fortune 500 companies across a range of industries, explains its marketing chief Javier Diez-Aguirre (see Q&A, below).
“We build our activities to raise overall brand awareness, position Ricoh as a thought-leader, promote consistent brand messaging across Europe and create programmes that engage with our customers,” he explains.
In addition, Ricoh is getting consumers more involved in the brand, blurring the lines between business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing. The brand, which sponsors the ATP Tennis tournament and the Women’s British Open golf tournament, installed interactive screens at the venues giving consumers tips on how to improve their game. Diez-Aguirre explains: “This gave us the opportunity to talk to the public. Our aim was to raise overall brand awareness and reach new customers to promote the brand and our digital cameras.”
Corporate events do not have to be for executives, clients or customers, they can also be for employees. Rentokil Initial director of corporate communications Malcolm Padley explains why the company has increased the number of internal corporate events it puts on: “It gives us a chance to look people in the eye and make sure they understand the aims of the business.”
Padley says they have brought together the group and divisional events, which is “great value and means management is all focused on this at the same time”. He adds: “We operate in the services arena and that means we have to get things right internally. Getting things right for the customers is important, but you need to ensure your colleagues know where the business is heading and what it stands for too. Well-run internal events can really help get your messages across.”
When the party’s over and it’s time for the guests to go home, brands need to measure the success of the event. Diez-Aguirre at Ricoh says his company has a three-fold approach to measuring the success of corporate hospitality events. “This includes performance indicators, impact indicators and a balance scorecard.”
Miers at Footprint adds: “Traditional marketing channels, such as advertising, are passive, whereas events offer brands proactive exposure. If the content of the event is good, it will attract the right audience and in this case will create measurable commercial opportunity by means of interaction.
“Business is about people and there is no greater way to amplify commercial dynamic than to assemble a community with a common interest or objective. We’ve seen the explosion in optimisation of social media and the evolution this has delivered by offering new channels of ‘common interest exchange’. These models are based on human interaction and can only complement the traditional model of bringing people together.”
Diez-Aguirre concludes: “Brand events and sponsorships have never been more consequential. With 7 billion people on the planet and 5 billion connected, this is an enormously important time for brand engagements to create unique experiences and tailored programmes. To some extent, these living brand activities can reach target audiences in parts where traditional mass media won’t be able to.”
Global brand manager
We do a lot of incoming hospitality for the UK, especially in Scotland for the whisky side of our business. People want to learn about the history, provenance and heritage of Scottish whisky so we put on a programme of events – a bit like a brand induction and experience.
To achieve that, we need to give them a memory from Scotland that will last a lifetime and bring our brand platform to life. For example, our Ballantine’s brand is all about ‘leaving an impression’, so at some events we will work closely with Incognito, which provides singers working undercover as waiters. When you have 800 people singing That’s Amore, it leaves an impression.
This month we have 400 Russian guests coming for a contemporary Scottish evening because they want a better understanding of the Scottish culture behind the brand. You need to get under the skin of your audience – and even consider things like whether it will work in English.
For every event we do there has to be a business objective and need. We are also continually looking for cost efficiencies.
Marketing Week (MW): Why and how do you use corporate hospitality?
Javier Diez-Aguirre (JD-A): Corporate hospitality is an important component of our sponsorship activation model. It enables us to engage with customers by providing exclusive experiences, connecting the events to the Ricoh brand through business forums and seminars held at the hospitality suites. We can also create associations and shared values with our pan-European sports events, which include tennis and golf. They allow us to raise brand awareness in the region and present a consistent brand identity to the market but with a local flavour.
MW: What kind of budget to you allocate to this type of activity?
JD-A: Our sponsorships are part of the company’s strategy to raise overall brand awareness in Europe, and one of the three main pillars of our brand marketing strategy to drive a change in perceptions towards services and engagement with the market, customers and employees.
Our sponsorship budget is aligned with our desire to grow our brand and includes rights holders fees, event activation, return on investment and return on objective measurement.
MW: Do you measure the effectiveness of the events?
JD-A: Yes. The measurement of the effectiveness and optimisation of our sponsorship assets are a priority for us.
All in all, we measure broadcast and press coverage, gross media value, cumulative audience (year on year), branding exposure, satisfaction with hospitality, lead generation, online engagement – the number of visits to Ricoh Europe website and participation on social media platforms, relationship with organisers and levels of employee engagement.
Corporate hospitality top tips
Group marketing manager
Don’t do the hard sell
If your guests are senior executives, they will either do research before doing business or leave that to the sales team. Use the event to showcase what you stand for as an organisation, not necessarily what you are selling. The event has to leave people with a good feeling about you as an organisation.
Plan the budget
Splash out where the maximum effect will be achieved. If you can’t produce an event to the standard you feel best represents your organisation, then ask yourself if it is really worth holding. It is better to walk away and save money than produce something that won’t deliver or could harm your reputation.
I AM Enterprises
Social media is a great way to get the word out about your event. We use Eventbrite to ticket and promote our events. The platform enables us to create a dedicated events page that we link to our Facebook page and Twitter feeds. It also allows guests to share information with their Facebook and Twitter friends. Having this open channel of promotion is important to pulling off a well-attended event.
Head of venues
Royal Institute of British Architects
Involve the in-house team at the venue. Pick their brains for their best ideas and their solutions to your problems because they already know how to get the best out of their venue in terms of value and look.
Area development manager
Federation of Small Businesses
Pre and post-event communications
Make sure your guests feel they have all the information they need before the event, that it’s easy to find, registration isn’t a chore and they feel able to contact the organisers with any queries. It’s also important to think about how you are going to keep in touch with them after the event.