SBJ/September 17-23, 2012/In Depth

Bay Area setup allows fans to see from shore

For the first time at an America’s Cup, spectators will be able to watch the sailing action from the shore, and that opportunity has allowed organizers to reinvent the hospitality offered at the 2013 event.

At the last America’s Cup, which was held off the coast of Spain in 2010, VIP guests were put on yachts and taken nearly an hour offshore to watch the action. The setup limited the type of hospitality packages offered at the event.

This time, corporations and individuals can choose from an array of options ranging from private viewing chalets near the Golden Gate Bridge, to a club viewing area at Pier 29 near the start-finish line, to private boats that take people closer to the action offshore.

“We’re going to be able to offer a little of everything,” said Keith Bruce, president of SportsMark, the San Francisco area agency that is the official corporate hospitality management partner of America’s Cup. “We’ve never had this type of opportunity before. That’s what makes this program really exciting.”

America’s Cup organizers have said they expect a total of 7 million to 15 million spectators for the four events in San Francisco. Two of those events last five days. The other two competitions, which will take place next year, will last three months.

Hospitality for America’s Cup sponsors is included in their deals and provided by event organizers. Sponsors will get access to Club 72, which will cater to 600 people and be located at the finish line. The packages include the opportunity for some partners to go out on the boats being raced in the events.

SportsMark will sell hospitality packages to non-event sponsors. Bruce said that current hospitality plans call for up to 20 private hospitality chalets that accommodate 40 to 50 people apiece. It is expected to be 100 percent corporate. The club viewing area at the start-finish line will accommodate 1,000 people. It is expected to be a mix of corporate clients and individual buyers. People who buy into the club can add on an offshore trip on a boat if they want.

Final pricing for the packages hasn’t been determined. SportsMark is selling club VIP packages for the Oct. 4-7 America’s Cup Series race in San Francisco for $2,700 per person.

SportsMark is in the process of stitching together a collection of support agencies in various regions of the world to help it with 2013 sales. It plans to hire one to two agencies in Europe and will work with Cartan International on sales in Australia and New Zealand.

Bruce said he expects most of the sales to be done in the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter of next year. Spot sales will take place all the way up until the events are held.

SportsMark ran hospitality during the America’s Cup Series races in San Francisco in August. It also is selling hospitality packages for the race in October. Bruce said that’s allowed them to demonstrate what the agency will be offering in 2013.

“We’re not starting from scratch,” he said. “They can get a sneak peek or trial run for the next event. It’s a nice advantage we have.”

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