FOCUS: CORPORATE HOSPITALITY; Mixing pleasure with business

BRANDING: Companies must look to the unusual to be sure of getting their message across to customers TRAVEL: Tailor-made trips are becoming the latest way to get the most from staff and to reward client loyalty ACTION: Outdoor pursuits with real consequences increase motivation and can aid the bonding process

BRANDING: Companies must look to the unusual to be sure of getting their

message across to customers TRAVEL: Tailor-made trips are becoming the

latest way to get the most from staff and to reward client loyalty

ACTION: Outdoor pursuits with real consequences increase motivation and

can aid the bonding process

In the 1990s traditional events are being squeezed out as corporate

entertaining becomes more aligned with other marketing elements. Jeremy Slater reports

Corporate hospitality is not what it used to. Various changes in the tax

system and a more nervous approach to business has done away with the

opulence and largesse which characterised the market in the late 1980s.

Mid-way through the 1990s the ‘fun’ elements of marketing - entertaining

and sponsorship - have hardened up. It is no longer the case that a

chairman decides which local team the company is going to back this year

and his wife who chooses whether they will be at Henley or Ascot. Now

these elements have to work the marketing pound as much as sales


The market for corporate hospitality is estimated to be worth around

pounds 600 million in the UK. A major event is expected to cost at least

pounds 60,000 to the company which picks up the bill. So just as public

relations has had to move away from the gin and tonic brigade, so

hospitality has had to become a bit harder edged than champagne and

canapes on a sunny afternoon.

‘We don’t do much corporate hospitality in the classic sense of Ascot or

Henley,’ says Abel Hadden, managing director of Top 150 agency Daniel J

Edelman. ‘It has its place, but in the urgent 1990s the relationship

with the client is about how well you’re servicing their needs. In that

case dinner between companies is fine, but if you’re expecting to butter

them up with a beano then I think you can forget it.’

A point agreed with by Christopher Palmer-Jeffery managing director of

European Hospitality and Events. ‘One has to look at what is happening

in the marketplace. In the late 1980s people were spending huge amounts

on PR through hospitality because so much business was underwritten by

such events. Corporate hospitality was a merry-go-round on which so much

many deals where being made. But when the recession hit people were

embarrassed by the number of events they’d booked in advance because

they were still attending them while laying people off at the same

time,’ he says.

Corporate hospitality is becoming much more aligned with other marketing

elements such as sponsorship, PR or sales promotion and events like

Wimbledon are starting to be put out to grass.

‘Ascot and Henley are being replaced by more products to do with the

arts. I think people want to seem to be more thoughtful nowadays and

like their companies to be associated with a cultural image,’ says

Palmer-Jeffery. ‘The hosts are also becoming more adept at getting their

message across with, for instance, corporate videos being shown to their

clients before they get to the event.’

If you are a sponsor the possibilities for hospitality open up for you

as you immediately receive preferential treatment.

‘At Guinness we don’t tend to buy in much corporate hospitality,’ says

Roy Mantle, PR and sponsorship controller at Guinness. ‘A small number

use it, but on the whole we tend to entertain around the events Guinness

is involved in. We also join forces with the company in Dublin as a

route for our clients to the whole of Ireland.

‘Over there it seems that they have an event nearly every week with the

Cork Jazz Festival, the Galway Races and Galway Oyster Festival being

big pullers,’ added Mantle. ‘Also at the big social events such as

Henley you have much less chance of getting your message across. If you

bring clients to your own event it becomes like inviting them to your

home. It is much more direct and means people will be writing the name

Guinness in their diaries.’

Another way of ensuring your message and name goes home with people is

to hold a dinner or celebration in a more enclosed, but stunning

environment. Events at museums and country houses are also a measure of

branding. One such is the Imperial War Museum in Kennington, London.

Companies which have recently used the museum include Shell, DHL and BP

and it was the backdrop for the premiere party of the James Bond film


‘The place where we hold the events is a dramatic space dominated by the

atrium from which aircraft are suspended,’ says Fiona Eastwood,

corporate hospitality organiser at the Imperial War Museum. ‘Companies

find people at dinners will bond, because the museum is part of

everyone’s history.’

For the more adventurous, Thorpe Park in Chertsey, Surrey is offering

previews of its latest ride No Way Out before the official public

opening on 1 July. The entertainment park has been open for 17 years and

offers a range of venues.

‘At Thorpe Park we have dealt with groups as small as 20 up to 7,000.

There are seven different facilities and many of them can be customised

to our clients needs,’ says Alan Randall, head of marketing at Thorpe

Park. He claims many customers from the white or brown consumer

electronic sector and says they come partly because of the technology

involved in the park.

However, not all in the events business think passive activities such as

client dinners or even being thrown about on a hi-tech ride are going to

really appeal in the present business climate.

‘Highly-tailored events are what’s needed,’ says Jerry Starling,

managing director of events company KPEE. ‘Corporate hospitality implies

tickets for things. That is like buying someone else’s advertisement and

putting your name at the bottom of it.

‘There is now a huge emphasis on customer loyalty. If you are going to

take someone away from their office it should be for something that is

very specific, highly branded and an excellent platform on which you can

communicate,’ he adds.

Starling uses as an example a top five video games company, which

decided to launch a new product in an old country house. Journalists

were invited to stay the night and see what happened. The game was

called Haunted House.

‘Actors and special effects were used to mimic what happened in the

game. The whole point was to make the event incredibly immersing and

make sure that people remembered it,’ says Starling.

If you think lolling round in a morning suit waiting for your horse to

come in is rather tame, there are plenty of companies which offer what

have generically become known as Outward Bound courses. It is at this

end of the corporate hospitality that team-building is a key concern.

For action adventure types there are also plenty of chances to be an

aviator. Acorne Air Sports is one company which offers flying with an

instructor and activities that can have a team-building purpose.

Acorne’s owner Richard Gyselynck has recently joined the Corporate

Hospitality Association.

‘The CHA has ignored the action side of the business, but it is becoming

much more marketing-driven and realises this is as much the future as

tickets for Wimbledon,’ says Gyselynck.

And it is in tennis that you can find one of the most sumptuous

hospitality events of the year. The Hurlingham Seniors, at the

Hurlingham Club west London, pits amateurs against some Wimbledon greats

including Ilie Nastase, Roscoe Tanner, Stan Smith and Fred Stolle.

‘The difference with the Hurlingham scene is it is exclusive and

limited. It is not a bun fight and it appeals to senior managers who

have had enough of queuing for ages to get away from a Grand Prix or big

horse race,’ says Patrick Carr, managing director of events organiser

Bailey Carr.

At the other end of the scale Granada Entertainment has recently opened

an indoor centre called The World of Coronation Street, which offers a

real Rovers Return experience. It is, it would seem, a case of you pays

your money, you takes your choice.

Case study: Outdoor adventure that is no playground

Eclipse, an outdoor events specialist, recently subjected five business

journalists to the rigours of their Lake District-based adventure

package. Among the willing victims was freelance journalist and PR

Week contributor Jeremy Slater.

‘To be honest I had some apprehensions when PR Week’s features editor

phoned me and asked whether I was reasonably fit. The feeling of

unreality was heightened when I was told I would have to jump off a 130

foot high bridge in the cause of good journalism,’ says Slater who

nevertheless agreed to participate on behalf of PR Week.

The five journalists participated in an activities package quaintly

dubbed ‘Apocalypse Wow’ which included kayaking on the distinctly chilly

Lake Windemere, Quad biking at Greystoke Castle, Land Rover driving, and

finally a jump from a disused railway bridge. The participants were

ferried between the various activities by helicopter.

Over the past year blue chip clients including BUPA, BT, Norweb and

Reebok have signed up for a combination of such activities, plus

abseiling, rock climbing, gorge scrambling and raft building. The

average corporate hospitality package includes one day of outdoor events

and two nights accommodation.

Increasingly the company is being asked to put together team-building

packages such as a simulated mountain rescue in which participants are

expected to rope themselves together and lower themselves and a

stretcher over a cliff edge. By comparison the journalists got off


‘The clients who come to us are people who have been everywhere else and

they are all finding race days and paint balling a bit passe’ says Simon

Wheatley head of marketing at Eclipse who says that while all the

activities are perfectly safe, many companies are attracted to the

thrill of perceived danger.

‘We give them the opportunity to try something they haven’t done before,

which they will remember rather more than their previous Henley

Regattas,’ he says.

The whole endeavour is apparently a highly-effective team-building

exercise, and standing around in wet suits in the freezing cold is

conducive to cementing client/company relationships.

‘It is a challenging, memorable and powerful experience,’ says Wheatley.

‘The participative nature of the activity we find leads to increased

motivation and commitment to get to know the person standing next to

you. You are all on a level playing field. It breaks down barriers and

people do bond more and see each other differently.’

As well as offering outdoor activities, Eclipse’s two country houses

include fully comprehensive, if informal, conference facilities and many

companies use the adventure packages as part of an overall conference


‘There is no artificiality about the exercises. The issues faced are

dynamic and the consequences are real, they know that if they mess up

someone will end up in the water, so they tend to apply themselves more

seriously to problem solving than they would sitting around a board room


When the activities were over, the adventurers followed the standard

Eclipse routine with drinks around a roaring log fire - an activity

which undoubtedly contributes to the client/company bonding process.

Travel: The latest incentive to get the most out of staff and clients

Few would contest the importance of motivation and recognition as a

valid part of a company’s marketing and communications strategy. With

the appealof vouchers and merchandise fading but with top performers

demanding some sort of incentive programme - along with the pension or

company car - companies are now prepared to make the statement that

travel is working for them.

Historically motivation is performance-driven, and performance is

directed towards the top rung of the sales ladder where competition is

aggressive and the fittest demand rewards. ‘The value of an incentive is

diluted with a large number of participants. You’re no longer taking the

creme de la creme,’ says Paul Ratcliffe, director of incentive house

Talking Point.

Little wonder then that for those who are financially secure and can

take their sales skills elsewhere, the lure of a tailor-made trip is

more instrumental in sparking peer recognition than cash.

For employers, running an incentive programme can also be more

economical, both in the lead up to peak selling periods and in the

traditional lulls in the calendar. Generating enthusiasm among car

dealers to work towards a trip to New York or New Orleans can be far

more cost-effective than discounting or adding extras to a car, as can

encouraging self-employed insurance and pharmaceutical salespeople to

hit a sales target instead of offering financial benefits to the

clients. In the IT industry incentive trips are used to network and

reward loyal customers in the distribution channel. Technical Index

clients have river rafted the Rio Grande and explored Rio de Janeiro.

During the recession overseas trips were less visible but according to

David Hackett, chairman of the Travel Organisation: ‘Clients are moving

back into creative and exciting destinations. The purchasing department

is demanding value for money but the marketing department is getting


Tried and tested destinations in the US and European cities such as

Paris, Barcelona and Vienna will always be constants, but companies are

now looking for novelty, hence the increased interest in South Africa,

Zimbabwe, and Eastern Europe. Vietnam and Latin America are cited as the

next big sellers.

However, for pan-European businesses the need to identify a location

with good transport links with European centres outweighs novelty.

Although various European outfits are brought together for promotions to

discuss common issues, most incentives follow their own timescale and

run independently. If different nationalities are involved, an incentive

is generally run back-to-back with various groups over a number of


Since incentives have always been triggered by sales performances, the

move to reward non-sales staff for service excellence has been a slow

one and many PR companies eschew such schemes. Staniforth PR feels that

incentives against results is too difficult to quantify. Hill &

Knowlton, Sheldon Communications, Charles Barker and Shandwick follow

suit. Although Text 100 does not go as far as group travel it does run a

yearly chairman’s award - the employee who shows the highest level of

customer service receives pounds 2,000 to spend on travelling to any sub

office worldwide. ICAS has been operating an annual incentive trip to a

European destination for six years now. This year it has set three

financial targets, the highest resulting in a trip to Prague.


Breakdown: The cost of courting clients


Venue/activity                Cost                           Telephone

                              (pounds)                         number

Eclipse Outdoor Discovery     65-115 per head per           01539 444033

Apocalypse Wow package        day minus accomodation

The Imperial War Museum       From 1,850 for 350 at dinner  0171 4165394

                              From 1,600 for 500 reception

Thorpe Park                   From 30 per head including    01932 569393

Family theme park             admisson and venue/catering

Acorne Air Sports             169-251 per person            01494 451703

Aviation participation days

The Hurlingham Seniors        229 per person                0171 9246400

ATP tennis championships

The World of Coronation       Rovers Return Experience      01253 299555

Street Centre, tailored       starts from 9.25 per head



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in