The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) this year is adding a VIP experience, aiming to bring new high-networth clients to the scene on the docks. Show Management has announced a partnership with QuintEvents, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based company with 13 years of experience creating exclusive VIP packages. The idea is to look at the kinds of experiences high-networth individuals now expect everywhere from The Masters golf tournament to racing’s Formula 1 Paddock Club and create a similar program at FLIBs, dubbed “VIP Boat Show Experiences”; starting small this year and building on that base in the years to come. Tickets for this year’s VIP Boat Show
Experiences cost $399 for one day or $1,099 for three days. In addition to being available to regular FLIBS showgoers, QuintEvents will market the event to its database of existing clients who have enjoyed similar VIP experiences at other events worldwide, but who may never have thought of attending a boat show at all, let alone the biggest boat show in the United States. “We have hundreds of thousands of clients who do these kinds of things at major events,” said QuintEvents CEO BY KIM KAVIN Brian Learst. “We’re the largest provider of these types of experiences in the country. So we’ll be spreading the word about the boat show to all of them, to get them interested in coming to the show and seeing what it is.” The concept is part of a global shift in the expectations of VIPs, who, until now, primarily have been able to find these types of packages only at high-end sporting events like baseball’s World Series or The Breeders’ Cup horse races. Over the past few years, the idea of VIP access and experiences has begun spreading to events like the boat show—events that may not attract the same level of highprofile media coverage, but that definitely attract the same level of high-net-worth clients.
“QuintEvents started about 13 years ago, and we do about 70 events around the world with these kinds of experiences, including at the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the NBA AllStar Game, and so forth,” Learst said. “Typically, it has been with major sporting events, until last year, when we took our first foray out of the sporting world and did a program with the Barrett Jackson auto auction. It’s huge, about 250,000 people attend it, and last year, about $140 million in cars were auctioned off.” That successful VIP experience caught the attention of Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns FLIBS. Purcell saw a parallel between the auto auction and the boat show, given that both attract such a high-end audience and are—unlike sporting events—based on the sale of high-end products. The connection led to QuintEvents working with Brett Keating, vice president of consumer marketing at Show Management,
which produces the boat show annually. Keating, previously vice president of marketing in the Americas for The Ferretti Group, had seen the success of similar partnerships between Ferretti and Ferrarri, with the carmaker introducing its client base to the Italian-built yachts. “Just knowing they’re going to use those databases is huge,” Keating said of QuintEvents’ plans to reach out to existing clients. The partnership works well in the other direction too, because as VIP clients find exclusive experiences at a growing number of events worldwide, they are becoming open to the idea of choosing VIP packages at events they previously had not even considered attending. The clients are learning to trust the VIP packagers, who then introduce them to events like the boat show, according to Learst. “It’s new for these types of shows,” he said, “But it has become much more popular in the sporting event world over the last couple of years. Everybody wants to feel like they’re getting a unique experience.” There are plans to expand it in the future, but this first year, FLIBS’ VIP Boat Show Experiences will be a scaled-down version of packages that VIPs receive at other events. The passes will include access to on-site valet parking at the Swimming Hall of Fame entrance as well as to a new lounge being set up inside the Swimming Hall of Fame, branded The Windward Club. “What’s inside the club in terms of the food and drink and everything will be unique and different,” said Keating. “There are no sponsors inside. You’re not bombarded by people trying to sell you things. Relax, enjoy some food and some music, and not be bothered by anyone.” The Windward Club will have an open bar, flat-screen televisions, high-end catering and access to Jo-Aynne Von Born, former associate publisher of Yachts International magazine, who will act as a concierge. She will arrange yacht tours as well as help newcomers to the show with the general logistics of getting around the various venues. “A lot of these people have never been to a boat show before, and she can help set up appointments, get them on boats, help them with the big boats and the captains; to have the captain himself walk them through,” said Keating. “It’s a completely different experience when the captain takes you through the boat. That’s when you get the real backstory.” Sales and charter brokers are welcome to buy tickets and relax in the lounge, as well as purchase VIP tickets on behalf of their clients. The tickets remain under the name of whoever purchases them, so if a broker buys two tickets, he or she can use one and leave the other for a client. Learst and Keating now are working on developing future VIP experiences at the boat show that will be on par with what high-net-worth clients already can enjoy elsewhere. At the Super Bowl, for instance, QuintEvents hosts the only pre- and post-game parties inside the NFL stadium, including right on the field after the trophy celebration, with the confetti still blanketing the turf. There’s also private security access for celebrities, which Learst said makes people with well-known faces feel more comfortable attending. “A lot of VIPs want to feel better taken care of than everybody else, and in some cases there are security concerns,” he says. “It can be hard for a well-known celebrity to go to an event. The crowds maul them.” Regarding future boat show VIP packages, Learst said, “They’ll have a complete service that takes them end-to-end. We’re also going to be doing some parties, probably on Wednesday and Saturday nights of the show. We’re open to anybody that wants to come in and buy the packages or talk with us.” Other ideas for future VIP packages might center around access to boating-industry celebrities, similar to the way QuintEvents gives VIPs access to players at the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony each year. Or perhaps future packages could include access to interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent yacht captains, similar to the way QuintEvents gets VIPs in the same room for media interviews with Formula 1 drivers during those race events. Additional concepts might build on what QuintEvents does at the Barrett Jackson auto auctions, including pre-auction tours of the vehicles. For fans of Ultimate Fighting, the VIP packages let clients watch competitor weigh-ins and hold the championship belt inside The Octagon where athletes compete. At the Kentucky Derby, VIPs who buy a package receive, among other things, a luxury gift bag. The possibilities are virtually limitless, considering the more than three million square feet of space the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show occupies across seven venues. Ultimately, both Learst and Keating said, the goal is to take everything the boat show already offers and rebrand it in a way that makes attending a more exclusive experience. The VIP clients may not think such a thing exists at a boat show, but the more that Show Management and QuintEvents can offer, the more high-net-worth individuals—even those who have never considered buying a boat—will realize the boat show is an exhilarating event unto itself. “Even if the VIPs don’t expect it, the show wants to treat them in that way, because the show wants to attract more of them,” Learst said. “It’s all about buying and selling yachts. By providing a higher level of service, they will be more likely to come.”