SBJ/January 15 - 21, 2007/This Weeks News

Teams use All-Star Game to reward loyalty

With the NHL All-Star Game returning next week after a three-year absence, a handful of teams are gearing up hospitality efforts to reward partners, season-ticket holders and employees for their commitment and support.

More than seven teams have plans to bring dozens of partners and season-ticket holders to the event, with festivities beginning Jan. 20 and culminating with the game Jan. 24. The return of the All-Star Game after a three-year absence due to the lockout and the 2006 Winter Olympics has given the teams’ efforts added significance, team marketing executives said.

“This one is really for people who have stood the test of time,” said Bob Wagner, chief marketing officer for the Anaheim Ducks. “They hung with us coming out of a lockout, and it’s our responsibility to show them our appreciation.”

The Ducks will take three groups of suite holders as well as guests from three corporate partners.

Other teams, including the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins, are taking a similar approach. The Bruins have reserved a suite at American Airlines Center for four corporate partners and four suite holders who are all up for renewal. Though the Bruins have taken clients on hospitality trips in the past, it’s the first time they’ve done one for an all-star week.

The Nashville Predators are hosting one of the more elaborate hospitality trips. The team collaborated with partner Dex Imaging, a Nashville-based office equipment company, to design a two-day, business-to-business trip with four of the team’s other partners.

The group will depart on Tuesday in a private jet owned by Dex and head to Tampa for a round of golf at Old Memorial Golf Club. The next day they’ll travel to Dallas for a late lunch and wine tasting at a steakhouse before heading over to the arena for the game.

“The Preds have done a great job of selling it,” said Mark Blaze, the general manager at Dex who helped design the trip. “They’ve said this is a group that could go and have a memorable trip, but they know the odds are someone will wind up doing business out of it as well.”

Rather than use the event to treat sponsors, the Florida Panthers offered an all-expense-paid trip to the team’s top sales executives.

“Our young sales reps have never been,” said Michael Yormark, the team’s chief operating officer. “This really motivated them during the holiday time period.”

The employees, partners and suite holders traveling to Dallas will find an event different than any that preceded it. The celebration has expanded from two days with a fan festival to five days with no festival.

Because the All-Star Game location was not announced until January 2006, the league was unable to secure the civic center or another space in Dallas large enough to hold a fan festival. In its place, the league created several trips into the community, a night recognizing NHL stars from the past and three different concerts featuring Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Trisha Yearwood and Big & Rich.

The league has no plans to reintroduce a fan festival in the future, said Ken Yaffe, NHL senior vice president of business affairs.

“We feel this really frees us up to model according to the market we’re in, and offer more events for our partners and our teams,” he said. “We’re hoping it makes for a bigger, better event.”

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