Networking UnLtd @ F1: Tag Heuer, Mercedes, UB, etc book corporate boxes

18 Oct,2011

By Meenakshi Verma Ambwani & Ravi Teja Sharma


The jury may be out on whether it will be the biggest international sporting event ever to come to India, but not many dispute that the upcoming Formula One race will offer the best corporate schmoozing platform the country has ever seen.

India’s first ever Grand Prix race may be some days away, but the race among corporate groups, celebrities and other assorted moneybags for vantage spots has begun.

“Only a few sports – golf and the tennis grand slams – give a business networking opportunity to companies at this scale,” says Mr Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at Kwan, a sports and talent management firm.

Others say that the very nature of the sport – a heady cocktail of speed, technology and human skill spread over three days – makes it best suited for networking.

“It is a three-day thing unlike a four-hour cricket game, which gives corporate executives a unique opportunity to network,” says Mr Ashish Hemrajani, chief of Bigtree Entertainment, which runs the official ticketing partner Bookmyshow.

Executives at the Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer have booked corporate boxes to host top clients and to showcase their best ware. Tag is not alone. Top global banks and a raft of companies, including Mercedes Benz, Gulf Oil, NIIT, UB Group, Airtel, JK Group, Venky’s, Essar and Punj Lloyd, are some of the others to have booked boxes, each of which can seat 30 people, to host their top executives and business guests.

“We have been associated with motor sports for a long time globally. Now that it is coming to India, we have booked corporate boxes to entertain our customers and associates from India and abroad as part of our brand building as well as relationship building exercise,” says Mr Ravi Chawla, president-lubes at Gulf Oil.

Jaypee Sports International, the company behind the Indian circuit taking place at Greater Noida from October 28-30, says all the 55 corporate boxes, each with a price tag ranging between 75 lakh and 1 crore, have been sold. The corporate boxes come with the choicest hospitality, catered by the country’s top five-star hotels.

While for corporates, there are these special boxes, for the wealthy and the cognoscenti, there’s the luxury Formula One Paddock Club, which has been described as the “inner sanctum” of the F1, patronised by some of the world’s top businessmen, bankers and celebrities, indulging in the best gourmet food, wine and luxury money can buy.

This description is not without reason. Entry into Paddock Club does not come cheap. At $5,460 ( 2.68 lakh) per person, it’s easily the heftiest price tag for watching a sport, at least in India. Pitched as a super premium experience, Paddock Club patrons will get a real close view of the race pits, walk into the pit lanes and be privy to the strategy meetings of the teams and engage in conversation with the teams’ drivers and management.

“It is the kind of hospitality experience that India has never seen before,” promises Mr Suvrangsu Mukherjee, managing director Indian subcontinent at Total Sports Asia, one of the two firms authorised to sell Paddock Club tickets for the Indian F1 race.

Executives at Total Sports Asia and SOTC Sports, the other company authorised to sell tickets for the Paddock Club, say they are getting bookings from local and international companies. For a price, companies can even set up branded suites with privilege viewing and dining enclosures at the Club.

The Paddock Club’s ticketing and hospitality arrangements is controlled by F1’s in-house company Allsport Management and all its revenues go to Bernie Ecclestone, the founder and top boss of F1. Visitors to the Club in other races have included Hollywood stars such as Michael Douglas, Brad Pitt and Nicholas Cage, music legends Eric Clapton and Sir Cliff Richard, filmmakers George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino, model Liz Hurley and singer Danni Minogue. This time around, international singing sensation Lady Gaga, who is performing at the FI and stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan are expected to be present at the race.

Big Corporate honchos like Airtel chief Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal and Vodafone global CEO Mr Vittorio Colao will be attending the race.

At the after-race parties being organised by Mr Arjun Rampal, corporates are booking tables that start from 4 lakh up to 10 lakh. These parties will feature stars Messrs Shah Rukh Khan, Farhan Akhtar and Hritik Roshan and a host of other celebrities.

Says Mr Tikka Shatrujit Singh, chief Asia representative for French luxury house LVMH: “It (F1) will be a big opportunity for the global elite to network with the young tycoons of India and policymakers.”

“For companies, it will be an opportunity to showcase what they do and to entertain their big clients and guests,” said Mr Singh, who plans to be at the race.


Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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