Your company’s best clients and top performers have likely seen the winning goal at the Stanley Cup finals, or they’ve sat in the by-invitation-only President’s Box at the U.S Open while sipping imported champagne. They’re a tough crowd to impress.

So how do you create an exclusive, customized sports-related program that surpasses expectations? By layering in bucket list elements, says Duane Penner, vice-president of sales at Roadtrips, a Winnipeg-based company that arranges high-end sports travel experiences for groups.

“It’s harder but more important than ever to find a place where you can have face-time with the clients that are key to your business success,” says Penner. “For some people, just getting to a sold-out event is a big deal, but then there are those looking for a lot more. These people are busy; they travel a lot for work. You have to give them a compelling reason to show up, because if you invite them to a golf weekend in Myrtle Beach, that C-suite guy with the private golf club membership doesn’t care. But offer him two days at the Masters, and you’ll have his attention.”

Throw in a private lesson with a golf celebrity and you have a memorable event for your VIPs, Penner adds. Making your wish list as specific as possible helps ensure a top-notch experience.

No limits to luxury 

Want to kick the excitement up a few notches? Penner has arranged for VIP clients to be guests of a Formula One team at the Grand Prix in Monaco. “You’re in their paddock where their drivers do Q&A for you. You get Ferrari gifting. These programs are very exclusive, fully catered with open bar, plus a no-photography-allowed tour of their garage down in the pit.”

Tighter purse strings? Penner suggests bringing in a F1 simulator and a former driver to talk to your group. Or, instead of bringing guests onto the field to kick a soccer ball around with Cristiano Ronaldo, create an event that includes watching him practice.

Onsite extras add lots of value, says Marco Masciotra, president of Montreal-based Tigris Corporate Sports Group, which focuses on VIP concierge services. One client recently took group photos after a Montreal Impact game with their corporate banner hanging in nets, while another photographed their guests on the court before the Rogers Cup championship final.

Better-than-good goody bags 

Everyone loves a great swag bag. Penner suggests selecting items that offer trophy value and bragging rights. “People want that little emblem and flag on their golf shirt that says, ‘I was at the Masters.’”

Know your audience 

Masciotra says millennial executives are not easily wowed, and prefer Instagram-worthy experiences that can be shared online. “They tend to not want to travel too far for these events,” Masciotra explains. “The older crowd is more than willing to hop on a plane for the Super Bowl, but younger CEOs want to entertain their clients from their location.”

Bang for your buck 

As with most things, you get what you pay for, says Masciotra. A day of golf with Fred Couples can cost six figures, whereas a retired athlete is more affordable. Fancy an event featuring Olympic gold medal winners? Pick dates when athletes aren’t competing, and plan a year to 18 months out, he says.

The bottom line? With or without deep pockets, VIP sports experiences are a great face-to-face opportunity.

“When you tie a business meeting into a luxury sports experience, like a Blue Jays game in a suite, you’ll have VIPs at your disposal for three hours while they’re watching the game,” Masciotra explains. “You’re in a very unique setting, talking business while enjoying a great event.”

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