How to incorporate celebrities into sporting events.
Let’s face it - having an athlete or celebrity at your event adds a touch of sizzle that can go a long way in making your function remembered. All ideas start out sounding fabulous, but there are plenty of things to consider when discussing the pros and cons of reaching out to the ‘sports gods’ or even Hollywood for some participation in your one-of-a-kind event. Here are just a few thoughts to ponder on this topic:
• Don’t approach an athlete during their playing season: Don’t even think about it. That’s when they make their money and also when their fate, good or bad, is determined for another season.
• Do some homework: Find out what your target athlete does when their season is over. Where’s home? Where are they traveling? Are they connected to any charity that your organization might be able to team up with and support during your event? If you offer to make a donation to their charity or foundation you might have a match. And remember their image will reflect on you, so if at all possible get some references from groups that have used the athlete before.
• Sometimes it’s all in the timing: Watch the papers for information about what celebrity may already be in town for another upcoming event (book signing, charity golf, ribbon cutting, etc.) and make it easy for them to participate in your event before or after. “Making it easy” can involve such things as offering a car service for pick up and return, buying a copy of their book for your attendees, solidifying positive publicity or including their elderly grandmother in the festivities. The downside to this is that trying to tag on to another event means that your offer may come at the last minute, but if you can still pull it together, then why not go for it?
• Autographs and photo opportunities: Most celebrities have some restrictions so proceed with caution. For instance, you might get a football player to join in your golf tournament but he won’t allow any photography while on the golf course. There are many reasons behind limitations such as sponsor endorsements and of course the obvious, maybe the guy can’t hit a golf ball past the first tree and doesn’t want the world to know it!
“If you’re doing a charity auction in conjunction with your golf tournament and your celebrity has donated autographed memorabilia for this fundraiser, you would be diminishing the value of the auction items if you allowed unlimited autograph signing during the tournament,” says Kevin Davis, a former catcher with the Houston Astros.
Kevin also offers this helpful insight, “People forget that celebrities are just human beings like the rest of us. They’ve all been affected in some way by life’s challenges, and have been helped along their journey to stardom by coaches, mentors, friends and family. Because of their popularity, they cannot help everyone, so often times, they tend to say no to a lot of events, which in turn makes people think they’re not good people. At the end of the day if the person asking for their participation is a referred friend and they can fit it into their schedule they will most likely do it.”
As meeting pros you have to treat these celebrity opportunities like the business functions they are regardless of whether it’s for a charity event, your company’s own good will, or perhaps just for your attendees to rub shoulders with high level athletes. It’s all in a day’s work when you plan meetings and events for a living.