Competitive Alliances for Event Planners: Lessons from the Hockey Arena

Hockey HandshakesIn 2003, in response to the economic downturn, I launched a new team-building program called Visexecutaries: Seizing Opportunities in Our Shifting Corporate Landscape. It gleaned key lessons from world events and gave executives tools and strategies to become more visionary and proactive in a turbulent economy. (Clearly lessons have not been learned as the 2008 economic meltdown blindsided corporations around the globe.)

A key Visexecutaries concept is the need for companies to consider forging alliances with competitors. It is usually met with resistance but we are starting to see examples of competitive alliances in business. For example, Microsoft, Google and Cisco have all had competitors team up to strengthen their position against them.

Last week, an alliance strategy was brilliantly displayed when Canada's largest competitors in the wireless communications/media industries teamed up in the sporting events arena. This splendid play was so significant that it's worth re-playing.

Rogers and Bell team up for the biggest play in hockey
How two of Canada’s fiercest business rivals, came together to buy the Leafs

"Chances to buy into the crown jewel of Canadian sports and broadcasting don’t come around very often. For 16 years, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan had watched the value of its interest in MLSE skyrocket, and was in no mood to sell.

Few could have predicted the chain of events that followed: not only did Rogers balk at Teachers’ $1.32-billion asking price, but so did Bell. Then, faced with the spectre of U.S. interests snapping up a gold mine of broadcast content, the two corporate foes agreed to share the company, culminating in last week’s eye-rubber of a news conference at the Air Canada Centre. Seated elbow to elbow, needling each other like rival siblings, Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed and Bell CEO George Cope announced that the two companies would each take a 37.5 per cent stake in MLSE, while Tanenbaum would raise his 20 per cent share to 25."

Competitive alliances are relevant in other areas of the events industry.

  • Event Planners
    By teaming up, event planning firms (including corporate event planners and conference planners) can meet the specialized needs of large clients, particularly when events are booked on short notice.
  • Hotels and Restaurants
    Competitors can present service bundles to more effectively handle large conferences and business meetings.
  • Transportation
    Two competitors in the Middle East came together to serve the needs of one of my clients that required limousines. Airlines can use the same model to manage risk and effectively transport passengers for large corporate events. Airlines already form alliances through code sharing and loyalty programs.
  • DMCs
    If it will help clients meet their budget, it may pay off for one DMC to handle the hotels and meeting venues and a more cost effective DMC to arrange transportation and tours.
  • Conferences, Trade Shows and Associations
    This year, co-location work beautifully at IMEX America in Las Vegas. (You may have read my live blog reports.) It was refreshing to see MPI, PCMA, Siteglobal, and other event industry organizations deliver a blockbuster event of high value. In the process, associations saved on marketing and promotional costs. Delegates saved on airfare and hotel expenses. At a time when some event and meeting planners are cutting association memberships to trim their budgets, it may make sense for associations to offer favorable rates for multiple memberships.
  • Seminar and Learning Events Companies
    There is a tendency to seek exclusive arrangements with keynote speakers and workshop facilitators and a lot of resistance to consultants working for the competition. When the global economy went into a tailspin, companies cut back on training. Numbers dwindling and small group sizes have become the order of the day. It makes sense for competitors to come together, use the same speaker for different topics and share airfare, promotional and hotel costs. This will result in healthier profits for each seminar company.
  • Team Building
    Instead of attempting to be "one size fits all", it sometimes pays to bring a competitor into the mix to meet specialized requirements. It reminds me of Miracle on 34th Street. (The Macy's/Coles Santa Claus from referred shoppers to competitors, this generated customer goodwill.)

Competitive alliances are worth exploring as a strategy to meet client needs and boost bottom lines.

Photo Credit: slidingsideways

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