The perfect pitch

Pitching for new business is a fine art. For the last six years, as CEO of the Victorian Major Events Company – which has won such iconic events as the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2010 Cycling World Championships and the Formula 1 Grand Prix – Brendan McClements knows how to get it right.

By

Pitching for new business is a fine art. For the last six years, as Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Major Events Company – which has won such iconic events as the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2010 Cycling World Championships and the Formula 1 Grand Prix – Brendan McClements talks about how to get it right.

What makes a successful pitch?

For us, having great support through our minister and through Cabinet is critical. From there, you need absolute clarity on why the host city and the event organisers are interested in pursuing a particular event.

You need enough awareness and humility to understand the perspectives of the people you’re looking to work with and how you can deliver the right outcomes for both. For example, Liverpool Football Club recently visited Australia and played in Melbourne. Liverpool really understood what Victoria needed out of the experience, and we tried to reciprocate and understand what they were looking to achieve. That enabled us to get the event confirmed much more quickly than anticipated.

Ultimately though, collaboration is the key to success. Ours is a government-owned business, so we join forces with the state government, the tourism board, the venue and rights holders to inform the pitch. We need to operate together to make sure the risk is spread properly, that we’re all doing what we’re supposed to and that the lines don’t get blurred.

What sort of investment is required?

The highest profile event pitch in Australia was for the FIFA World Cup, which was a Federal Government-run process costing about $40 to $50 million, so it can be very expensive.

You need to be very aware of the cost. These days, international sports federations tend to model themselves on the Olympic cycle, looking to achieve major partnerships every four years. That means there’s a lot of competitive tension in those parts of the cycle.

You need to invest in travel, materials and relationships. We try to balance out these types of bids with a range of other events, like the Liverpool match, where we’re dealing with a different type of process.

How do you identify what events to pitch for?

A key principle is don’t pitch for everything! We need to be careful about what we choose to pitch for, due to both cost and politics of where Australia and Melbourne are placed in the bidding cycle.

But it’s important to make sure you have a healthy pipeline of events. We need to work at least six years ahead to get ready for these types of events, so it’s important to choose the right years to pitch.

What are the key challenges involved in putting a pitch together?

For us, it’s about thinking ahead and being innovative and thoughtful in our approach. This is a very competitive business – there are 70 to 80 city states now doing what we are. When we started out 10 years ago there were only a handful.

This highlights the need to be very connected to the right people.

We need to be focused and precise, and make sure we’re not doing work that’s not important. For example, we work hard not to be operational because that’s not our job.

How do you measure return on investment?

Before you go into a pitch you need to understand the numbers and make the right judgments about value. While we want to do things that the people of Victoria love, we’re a government-owned business and we have to make sure that any event we win does bring new money into the state through visitation and spending.

We have a lot of expertise available to us to make accurate forecasts about the economics of events and a lot of discipline about making sure we don’t gild the lily when it comes to the numbers.

 

This article was first published in Business View magazine (November 2013). For more articles and interactivity about the Business of Sport download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our new app NAB Think.