Gazing across downtown Auckland
from stylish hotel suite towards the glistening waters of the harbour with glass of Moet in one hand and delicate canape in the other, became almost the norm for many during the America’s Cup.
For that to be followed by an across-city drive in stretch limousine, more champagne, attendance by uniformed staff, world class gourmet dinner, stunning entertainment, stimulating company and even more champagne – was no rarity either. On this particular occasion, even the most savvy corporate official would have to have been impressed. The event was the America’s Cup Ball, the host in this case – the giant computer company Compaq, and on the receiving end? – very useful contact, wooed by switched on PR consultant, resulting in the forging of an enduring business relationship.
Not an unusual scenario in the dazzling days of America’s Cup Auckland, but how much corporate entertaining goes on in general day-to-day business in New Zealand?
Corporate entertaining is undoubtedly big business in New Zealand – America’s Cup or no America’s Cup. An increasingly large chunk of the corporate budget is assigned to entertaining existing clients and enticing new ones.
When economists talk about the benefits of an event like the America’s Cup and what it meant for the New Zealand coffers, they’re not just basing it on the obvious spin off from syndicate spend and servicing luxury yachts. Many back street business boomed during the summer of ’99/00 and at corporate level many deal was struck out on the ocean waves.
Ian Fraser, managing director of Corporate Host, which is New Zealand’s largest hospitality company and had the contract for the America’s Cup Village, says it was surprising that the bulk of the corporate spend during the event was from the New Zealand market. During the event Corporate Host employed 35 full-time chefs, 250 casual staff at any one time and through the defender series produced more than 3000 corporate meals day out of seven kitchens. “It was huge logistical exercise and the New Zealand corporate market got behind it and supported it well. We thought the overseas spend would have been bigger but maybe next time that will change once the syndicates get little more professional and corporate driven,” says Fraser.
Lynette White, general manager of travel for Carlson Marketing Group, says the America’s Cup was hugely successful as relationship marketing event and created unique hospitality opportunity which paid big dividends. One group of top global customers who were invited here for wrap-around sponsorship opportunity, said the sailing event enabled them to build relationships in relaxed, informal situation while still being part of high-touch programme. Everything here was top quality and they had access to something that the general public didn’t – like being on the key boats and having access to someone like Sir Peter Blake at an intimate level.
What other treats are likely to impress in day-to-day corporate entertaining? The lure of overseas travel still holds favour with flit across the Tasman to take in sports match or show, still popular choice. And with some attractive packages being tied up around the Olympics, organisers can be assured of full corporate boxes and high powered personnel in priority seating at all the major events.
Such is the pull of the gastronomic experience one company has based business around entertaining the corporate palate. Scott Wilson, of Vinotica in Auckland, has managed to turn gourmet supply and retail company into cultural experience that is capturing the corporate entertainment market. It developed during the America’s Cup when Vinotica set up classes and cooking demonstrations to show visitors where to find the best New Zealand produce and what to do with it. “We had top New Zealand chef showcasing whole range of local produce and top class wines to people who had no idea what New Zealand was about or what we produced here. The skippers, syndicate members’ wives and chefs from the super yachts were blown away with what we had to offer,” says Wilson.
Segmented hosting to cater for different genders or tastes is something of priority for Susan Gibson, group communications manager for the Dynasty Hotel Group, which incorporates The Heritage Hotels and Resorts, and CityLife. She likes to move hosting around different groups at differing levels and with range of events like the New Zealand Opera, selected sporting events and the TV2 International Laugh Festival under her sponsorship umbrella, the treat package is diverse.
Gibson’s ethic is classic example of what is seen as more imaginative participation hospitality brought about by an increased number of women in top management positions. In Britain the rise of women bosses means that heavy drinking male-oriented sports events are less acceptable as corporate entertainment experiences.
And the added female input is placing more emphasis on something more imaginative than an old-fashioned night at the opera where as one expert points out – “companies spend an awful lot of money to have their clients sitting in rows in the dark unable to talk to each other”.
Experts here are quick to point out that the key to successful corporate entertaining is not necessarily the event or programme you choose, but how you package it. And some of the less obvious arrangements can be the most effective.
Susan Gibson: “For example, we took group of top accountants to the TV2 International Laugh Festival – looked after them well, spoiled them with champagne and canapes, gave them front row seats and they became participants in the show. It may not have been an obvious choice but we had an amazing response from that group. We’ve found some of our most hard bitten clients have been the most complimentary.”
Imaginative packaging beyond the obvious is also working for the Auckland Philharmonia which has introduced concert + to provide the corporate community with convenient, one-stop solution for client entertainment. The package includes premier seating, dining at selected restaurants, interval drinks and transport arrangements. Christine Young, marketing manager for the Auckland Philharmonia says the package idea works well as cooperative deal with sponsors and makes life easy for company since they need only make one phone call to arrange their client entertainment.
Another popular way to treat clients is by giving special presents, and corporate gift companies in New Zealand report good sales as people realise the impact of the gesture. It’s reflection, not only of how we do business but who we do it with according to Carol Hamilton of the Compendium Gallery in Auckland. “We are doing lot of trade around the Pacific and with Asia and gift-giving is very much part of their culture. There is whole mantle that surrounds the giving of gifts and an entire culture in the etiquette that is required,” says Hamilton.
Saying “thank you for your kindness” or attempting to weld an important business relationship has seen businesses like Compendium bring together exclusive hand-made New Zealand works of art in way that has benefited all parties. Customers can order from catalogue, choose from retail outlet, commission work and benefit from the experience of owner Pamela Elliott who has learned the appropriateness of gifts for different occasions and cultures outside New Zealand.
Bronwen Nelmes, sales and promotions manager for Stag Concepts, an Auckland based promotional products and marketing company, says the value of personal gift is high and the trend today is to provide added value with hand-written, personalised card. “Often company will give gift as an extension of goodwill to participation in an event, which makes the whole experience last longer. Our research shows that t