SBJ/Sept. 30-Oct. 7, 2013/Colleges

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  • College space gets posh new hospitality

    IMG College couldn’t think of a better place to launch its new premium hospitality than the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party.

    The PlayMaker’s Club, a portable hospitality unit, will debut Nov. 2 at the Florida-Georgia football game in Jacksonville, providing the kind of high-end experience that typically is missing at college events.

    IMG College will roll out the PlayMaker’s Club, shown in renderings, at the Florida-Georgia football game in Jacksonville on Nov. 2.
    Renderings: IMG
    Tailgating has long been a tradition prior to college football games, while the suites and club seats, now more common inside the stadium, provide a premium setting during the game. But IMG College is trying to bridge the gap with high-end hospitality before and after the game in a three-level, climate-controlled structure made from decommissioned shipping containers.

    A pass to the PlayMaker’s Club will run $500 for the Florida-Georgia game. Packages that include a ticket to the game along with a PlayMaker’s Club pass range from $850 to
    $1,500 apiece. IMG will sell the packages and will market the product via email and through PlayMakersClub.com for corporate clients. Florida and Georgia will assist with social media mentions of the club to their fans and alumni for their game.

    IMG College also is selling packages for the Rose Bowl and the BCS championship game
    in Pasadena, Calif., which will have slightly higher price points. Club passes will be $600 for the Rose Bowl and $800 for the BCS title game. A club pass for the Rose Bowl with a game ticket runs $1,100. A BCS title game ticket and club pass goes for $1,800 to $3,400.

    In all, the three games will serve as a pilot program for this year with a more robust schedule planned for next season.

    “It’s much more than upscale hospitality,” said Kelli Hilliard, senior vice president of a new IMG College division called events, entertainment and development that’s introducing the new hospitality offering. “It’s unique to what’s out there, especially in the college space. It’s completely experiential for the client that’s looking for music, entertainment, celebrities and a ticket to the game.”

    The PlayMakers Club structure can be assembled in 30 hours and it sits on a footprint that’s 68 feet by 80 feet, which is expandable. Capacity is 250 in the climate-controlled section and 350 including the courtyard areas and upper deck.

    Pricing was largely influenced by comparable offerings at golf majors, Wimbledon and other pro sports events.

    “We looked at a lot of factors on pricing,” Hilliard said. “You look at the value of what we provide, which is seven to nine hours of unlimited hospitality, our location, tickets, all of that. We also looked at a competitive analysis of not just college, but also offerings across a lot of sports. That helped tremendously to price our packages.”

    The club’s location in Jacksonville will be just under 200 yards away from EverBank Field, in a space near the fan fest.

    “We picked this game because it really is an untapped market for a big event,” Hilliard said. “There really isn’t any kind of structured corporate hospitality down there. You’ve got a lot of RVs and a lot of tailgating, but nothing like what we’ll have.”

    IMG College bought around 300 tickets for the game, some from the city and others from secondary market vendors like StubHub and PrimeSport. IMG College will package those tickets with club passes. Tickets range from lower-level club seats to upper-deck seats.

    A package to the PlayMaker’s Club includes food and beverage, bar, a pregame concert, parking, shuttles, appearances from school cheerleaders and mascots, and celebrity ex-athletes who played at Florida and Georgia. Singer Todd Sansom will perform at the Florida-Georgia game, while the band Yacht Rock Revue will play both games in Pasadena.

    PrimeSport is the official hospitality provider for the Rose Bowl and the BCS championship game this year. IMG College is leasing a footprint in PrimeSport’s space near the Rose Bowl for the PlayMaker’s Club. IMG will sell passes to the club, while PrimeSport will sell its own hospitality. There will not be any cross promotion or selling as part of the arrangement.

    “This made sense because they had assets like security, catering and real estate that we could benefit from,” Hilliard said. “We can still customize the PlayMaker’s Club to be what we need it to be.”

    IMG College has been planning a move into corporate hospitality for more than a year. Hilliard leads a three-person team, including herself, Carol Tarver and Emily Pettorini, that reports to Roger VanDerSnick, IMG College chief sales and marketing officer. They began surveying potential corporate clients last fall to find out what kind of pregame and postgame hospitality would interest them at a college event.

    The concept for the design came from a similar structure at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012. Tarver, who ran her own interior design firm for 10 years in Atlanta, joined IMG College in November to create the look and feel for the PlayMaker’s Club. She’s the one who first envisioned the structure from the DNC as a potential hospitality unit for college football.

    Such a mobile hospitality unit could approach $1 million to construct and maintain, between capital expenses and personnel. IMG College intends to take the PlayMaker’s Club to campus sites next season when it expands its program. Charlotte-based Boxman Studios will handle transportation, assembly and storage of the structure.

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