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Volume 20 No. 42
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Hospitality sales brisk despite logistical hurdles

For executives and fans planning to partake in high-end hospitality at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the easy part will be getting to the host country. Flights are plentiful from most major North American cities to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and it’s a much shorter trip than the one in 2010 to South Africa.

After that, well, you may need a lot of patience.

The private suites being sold are illustrated in this rendering. All of those at the stadium in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have already sold out.
Photo by: Match
“To get around the 12 World Cup stadiums in Brazil, you have to fly to each of them,” said Keith Bruce, president of SportsMark, the exclusive sales agent in the U.S. for FIFA World Cup hospitality. “That wasn’t the case in South Africa or in Germany [in 2006].”

As a result, among SportsMark’s offerings are all-inclusive packages where fans can base camp in one Brazilian city and fly to see their favorite national team on game day, returning to their hotels after the match that same day.
Ground transportation and parking will be a challenge, too.

“It doesn’t matter if you build beautiful new stadiums, as they have in Brazil,” Bruce said. “If the roadways, parking and logistics around those stadiums are not up to standards, you’re going to have gridlock and people missing matches if they don’t leave early enough. We saw that with the opening match in 2010 in Johannesburg. Some of the stadiums in Brazil have very little real estate around them and almost no parking.”

Of course, the good news is, if you’re fortunate enough to have access to the hospitality options at the World Cup, leaving your hotel early for the match is not a hardship. Hospitality tents, featuring snacks and drinks, will open 2 1/2 hours before matches and stay open for two hours after matches. Bruce said SportsMark is working to “manage clients’ expectations about the hurdles” they will face.

Logistical challenges are not hurting sales. While Bruce would not disclose specific figures, he said SportsMark’s sales at this stage for the 2014 World Cup are four times what they were at the same point for the South Africa World Cup. Bruce attributed the uptick to the shorter flights to Brazil and an improved economy.

Match, the Zurich-based hospitality company that has the global rights to the World Cup, reports that all 200 private

suites at the stadium in São Paulo — which is hosting one semifinal and five other matches — and Rio de Janeiro — the site of the final, one quarterfinal and four other matches — have been sold out since January.

“Demand from the international market has been massive, better than any previous World Cup,” said Match Chief Operating Officer Pascal Portes. “Soccer is a religion in Brazil and the country’s economy is strong, so we’re also doing very well domestically.”

Private suites in the various stadiums range in price from as low as $100,000 for a smaller unit in one stadium to watch four matches to more than $2 million to have a suite for every match in the tournament.

Match also has the Bossa Nova Studio, a luxurious lounge overlooking midfield. Only one studio is available for each venue. Match also has three categories of hospitality products, labeled as business seat, pavilion and premier, the high-end equivalents of an airline industry’s first class, business class and coach, respectfully. Those five packages are the same as what SportsMark is pitching to U.S.-based companies.

Portes is well aware of the concerns about hotel space and transportation, but pointed out that asking hospitality patrons for patience at mega-events such as the World Cup, Olympics and Super Bowl has become standard procedure.

“These problems are not specific to Brazil and this World Cup,” he said. “We expect to have in excess of 250,000 hospitality customers alone in Brazil, and navigating the venues across the country is not a simple task. But our company and our partners are experienced and prepared, so I’m very confident that we are going to deliver.”