Purpose – The purpose of this study is threefold. The first is to discuss the practice of corporate hospitality (CH) at special events used by Australian businesses as a relationship marketing technique to engage with their customers. The second aim is to investigate how marketing practitioners judge their CH programmes in a business‐to‐business (B2B) context. A third aim is to determine the key benefits and uncover contemporary issues faced by marketing practitioners in the operation of CH programmes. Design methodology/approach – A qualitative method was employed in this the first phase of a broader research programme. The research design sought to attain exploratory insights from marketing executives that employed CH at sports and cultural events as part of existing B2B marketing programmes. The intention of this qualitative study was to investigate and uncover key issues and establish themes that could be tested in future research. Fifteen in depth interviews including a pilot of two interviews were conducted with marketing practitioners who held managerial responsibility for CH programmes in four states of Australia. These interviews were electronically recorded and subsequently transcribed for coding purposes. Findings – An analysis identified several key issues regarding the role and deployment of CH within marketing programmes. Key benefits of programmes included gaining market intelligence, improving channel communication and creating a competitive advantage through building existing relationships with a firm's customers. The research found that there were specific differences within both the application and management of CH among practitioners and highlighted several pressing issues regarding the practice. Events offering mass appeal to both genders such as tennis and horse racing were considered more appealing to a corporate audience and spectacular, big‐ticket events were favoured. The research identified that no two organisations operate their programmes identically, some use the programmes to reward past loyalty and others leverage special events for face‐to‐face time with new clients. The lack of consistency in measurement included an inability to disengage CH programmes from other marketing elements operating simultaneously. It was evident that the lack of objective setting by many organisations coupled with often a short‐term view of CH programmes impeded effective measurement of expected outcomes. Originality/value – This exploratory study provides greater insights into the little researched topic of CH in the special events sector. Implications stemming from the study include the implementation of recommended changes to CH design and delivery including optimising special event selection to match intended guests and their preferences, setting micro and macro objectives for CH programmes and ensuring they are measurable. In addition, such objectives need to be made explicit to internal stakeholders in order to maximise return on investment for marketing practitioners. For CH to continue to grow as a major revenue stream for special event organisers, more certainty with regards to the outcomes of these programmes are required, along with ensuring the CH special event products offer corporate appeal.
International Journal of Event and Festival Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 4, 2013
Keywords: B2B marketing; Corporate hospitality; Relationship marketing; Special events; Hospitality services; Australia