Football Fever

Since the ‘Summer Fairy-tale’ and the Football World Cup in Germany six years have gone by.  2006 was the year the Germans rediscovered their passion and pride of their own nation. Although the black, red and golden flags were taken out very cautiously in the beginning something changed that summer. We became a little more confident showing were we come from and were very proud of our great team.

KIA Fan Fest 2012

It was also that summer when public broadcasts became very popular and we had events in every major city. We actually call it a public viewing when we watch a game on a large screen outside with many other people, but I was told that a public viewing is supposed to be the display of a corpse. So, there’s a little fun fact, but back to business.

Our company organised its first public broadcast in 2006 and it was a huge success, as the atmosphere during the WC was amazing. The heart of the event was the large LED screen hanging inside a stage. Opposite the stage was the business lounge with a large marquee and seats for paying guests. In addition to the VIP seats we had seats for families with children and other visitors, who preferred to sit down. However, the real action went down in the ‘stadium’, the space in between where tens of thousands of fans watched the games. Around the stadium we rented out space to vendors, who offered food, beverages, merchandise, beer, cocktails and so on. In order to add some additional incentives we offered a range of activities such as goal wall shooting, a bouncy castle and some other football and sports related stalls. It was an incredible party with an energy that I have never experienced before in my life.

The first event I worked at was the HYUNDAI Fan Park for the WC 2010 in South Africa. I was in charge of the business lounge, which sounds a lot fancier than it was, as my duties were more hands on rather than running around in a shirt and tie smiling all day. The business area consisted of the main seating area and the two-story marquee with the catering and VIP-reception. We had an additional stand for families sponsored by a health insurance company and a local newspaper. In addition to that our beer sponsor Carlsberg had a separate VIP-area, which was very nicely done and I once caught two mid rank police officers watching the games from there, hiding behind inflatable bottles whenever any of their colleagues would walk by. Finally, we had a beautiful two-story circular media marquee with a spiral staircase to the first floor and a viewing terrace.  My job was to make sure everything would run smoothly in that area. I had to organise drinks for the press, show media people around, fix water hoses and trouble shoot wherever necessary. It was an extremely hot summer and we had to put up water tabs that were freely accessible for everyone.

2012 my job was a lot more complex, I had many more responsibilities and I helped planning the event months in advance. Actually, we did not start as early as usual, as we had troubles finding a main sponsor. Finally, KIA gave us the approval and we could go through after we had already written the whole thing off. My father, who happens to own the company, hired an external project manager, Sandra Mill, who is a freelance event manager. She had a good reputation, as she had been managing another major event in Hamburg for a number of years. My dad later told me that one of the reasons he chose her, was that when he interviewed her, he gave her the worst possible job description and told her how stressful, horrible and hard her job would be, but as she kept calm not letting him scare her, my dad knew that she was the right one for the job.

We became the core team, myself being site manager, although we obviously had a very flat hierarchy being such a small team. Later a former apprentice of the company, Paul, who had finished his bachelor in business administration by that time, joined us. Furthermore, we got help from an intern, who joined in more intensely when the event started.

All in all we were a very good team pulling off such a large event in less than five weeks. I am actually having difficulties believing it myself right now. We had to meet with Police, Fire Fighters, Paramedics, the security firm, the local council etc. As site manager I was in charge of the logistics and all related things such as fences, barriers, containers, marquees, the stage, waste management, security, electricity, water supply and so on. We started setting up a week in advance with the stage, which was the largest element. For that entire week my phone literally rang every five minutes and for most of the time I was alone on site, as my colleagues were still in the office giving it the finishing touch.

It was a great relief, when the first kick-off of the tournament finally came. Of course we still had to get through the whole thing, but that is very different work from planning and building the whole thing up. I had learned in 2010, when I joined the team just for the event, that it is a lot more fun to be involved from the beginning, because you know more about the details and can enjoy watching everything working out.

This year I learned a lot more about sponsorship negotiations, client handling and careful logistical planning. We, the company that was official organiser of the event, financed the event with sponsorship money, vendor fees and beer sales. As the organiser we could simply keep the exclusive right to sell beer at the event, which we pass on to our affiliated company.

Part of our deal with KIA was that we would not be allowed to tell any third party about the content of the contract, so I cannot say much, but the negotiations were very tough and I learned how to represent my/the company’s interests and that even a written contract can sometimes be interpreted in two different ways.

Fan Fest Press Conference

Time will tell whether there is going to be a public broadcast of the WC 2014, as the time difference in Brazil could cause the games to be in the middle of the night, but lets hope for the best.

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