One of the more exciting parts of working in the sports industry is the opportunity to send clients on a road trip. I’ve done these trips with almost every franchise in our market as both a host and as a guest. They are without a doubt one of the most effective ways to build relationships with clients as well as a great opportunity to showcase your team both on and off the playing field. For teams, they are an important investment … for clients, they can be a great experience that helps to validate their sponsorship investment.
Just as an aside, I am writing this on the plane as I return from Dallas where I was hosted by the Arizona Coyotes on a road trip game against the Dallas Stars. Whereas the team didn’t win, I do think the franchise did, as well as everyone who was on the trip. It was a great time.
From the team perspective, client road trips can be contracted or simply offered as part of a sponsorship arrangement. Regardless, as a professional sports team, you need to strategize to accomplish important business goals. The time you put into planning your trip(s) inevitably impacts the results that you are looking to achieve.
Here are some things for you to consider:
A well-devised client trip should take your very best clients to your most desirable locations. Desirable and most expensive are two different things … sometimes.
There’s also some balance required on how far away or difficult it may be to travel to a market back east vs. the convenience of a quick trip to closer to Arizona. I always found that laying out the trips and then allowing your most important clients (don’t forget renewals) to pick first is a great way to align important clients with the most desirable games.
Each team that I’ve traveled with is different in how they execute their trips. Some teams prefer to keep distractions like sponsors away from their players. I think it’s always beneficial to give sponsors a memorable and unique experience by allowing them at least some access to the players and coaches. If possible, make that time happen well before the game so that preparations and other responsibilities are not impacted. After the game is always risky in the case of a difficult loss.
It’s always extra special to fly with the team on their charter. That doesn’t always happen but when it does your clients tend to walk away extra impressed by your hospitality.
Everyone loves a big game. That being said, there is some merit in not creating any kind of distraction or additional burden for a team going to play in a big game. Ultimately, the goal is to win. Taking clients on a highly charged road trip is great but potentially challenging too, especially if they are flying on the same plane.
My thought is that big games require a different plane and sometimes a different hotel.
Know too, that if you are traveling with a college team, they don’t get the pleasure of staying overnight after a game. They shower (sometimes) and travel right after the game and if you are with them, so do you.
You would think that this is relatively simple but it’s not. You want to strike the right balance between freedom to do your own thing and quality time with a partner. Most teams host a happy hour that’s followed by a nice dinner somewhere. This allows the attendees to get to know each other better and affords your sponsorship team time to visit as well.
I don’t like dictating events beyond the dinner and the game. Give people time to enjoy where they are. I do like providing access to things like walkthroughs or shootarounds as long as they are optional, and transportation/access is easy.
If You’re Invited
Being invited to a team road trip is a thrilling experience. Should you ever get the opportunity to go on a trip like this there are a few things you should keep in mind so that you can make the most of your trip:
- Commit the itinerary to memory and keep a copy on your phone
- Don’t be late for anything
- Don’t drink too much, talk too much or be brash in any way … you are representing the team when you travel
- Dress nicely, look professional at all times
- Keep your cell phone in your pocket. Pictures can be taken, but be polite and judicious about it and please don’t ask for autographs from the players or the coaches
I’ve had some memorable moments both as a host and as a guest on these kinds of trips. I walked into a game in Missouri with legendary football coach Frank Kush (just the two of us). In Washington D.C. I had Kirk Gibson chime in on a debate I was having regarding the greatest home run in World Series history. My (ex) wife bounced Jason Kidd’s son on her lap during the flight to Salt Lake City. To top it off, this past week in Dallas, Oliver Ekman Larsson came over and had beers with us at the bar (and subsequently hit on my current wife).
Big thanks to Mike Muraco and the Arizona Coyotes for a great time in Dallas as well as the inspiration to write this blog.
About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is an adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.