As the tournament director of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers (NBO) in Montréal, Valérie Tétreault spent the summer in the media spotlight, especially in the weeks leading up to the event and as the competition unfolded.
And in the months since the champion was crowned, she’s taken part in various activities, seminars and conferences, including one organized by UQAM’s School of Management, ESG UQAM, on September 27.
Along with Prof. André Richelieu, sports marketing expert at ESG UQAM, Sébastien Arsenault, CEO of the Grands Prix cycliste events in Québec and Montréal and of the Marathon Beneva de Montréal, and moderator and sports commentator Meeker Guerrier, she sat down to discuss territorial marketing through major sporting events.
The focal point was the booming sportainment industry and its many facets, as well as the challenges local competitions face considering the virtually endless offer for fans who no longer have to travel to access a myriad of international sporting events.
The customer experience above all
Read also: A Day in the Life of Valérie Tétreault
Valérie Tétreault and Sébastien Arsenault both lead annual competitions hosted by non-profit organizations. Theirs are events with added value, since all the profits are reinvested in efforts to promote physical activity (tennis, running, cycling) and, by the same token, healthy habits and all the collateral economic and societal benefits.
Even so, the key is to keep enhancing the customer experience so fans keep getting more for their money.
“One thing about tennis is that it isn’t like hockey, soccer or basketball, which have a set playing time. Tennis is different. Our data show that people spend an average of five to six hours on our site. That’s why it’s so important for us to be able to offer something other than tennis but without taking away from the tournament or getting lost in all sorts of initiatives. We’re increasingly focused on festivalization, especially as we move towards the expansion of our event starting in 2025. So the main draw that currently plays out over seven days will be extended to twelve days,” she explained.
Valérie also highlighted a feature that may seem trivial on the face of it but which is actually a critical part of the customer experience: F&B. “Above and beyond the tennis itself, food and beverages of all sorts are at the core of the strategy to wow spectators so they spend more time on site. So we decided to keep two full-time people on year-round to manage the offer, in addition to the many others we hire for the duration of the tournament. And that includes the families who aren’t seated on the courts and the guests of the many business partners in the corporate suites.”
Tapping into a new clientele
At the seminar, the word families came up again and again, since the Family Weekend that ushers in the main draw is such a huge hit.
“The Family Weekend created under my predecessor Eugène Lapierre is indeed a tremendous success. We hosted 25,000 spectators on Saturday and 26,000 on Sunday,” Valérie proudly explains, pointing out how the entire two-day program is designed with families in mind.
“Another thing that’s never really been done internationally is opening our site on Friday, even before the qualifying rounds get underway, to provide access to the players’ training sessions. During those first few days of the tournament, the crowds are pretty different from those we see on the last weekend for the semifinals and final. But that’s the goal: to generate fresh interest among a new and young client base and help them want to be active and take an interest in the sport. And there’s no better way to do that than by bringing them within just a few feet of the world’s top players.”
Attendance records and constant challenges
Last summer’s NBO was a success in terms of organization and attendance since the tournament broke its own record yet again, even despite the weather.
“This year, there were about 220,000 people who attended the women’s edition. At last year’s ATP tournament, there were just over 235,000. When we look at last year’s economic report, we realize that 43% came from outside the greater Montréal area, which is huge! That means most of them came to Montréal to attend our tournament,” she explained.
But beyond the wins, losses and ticket sales is the team that makes the event the success it is. Especially in a world where there’s no shortage of sportainment options for all types of viewers.
Attracting people to the site at great cost is a daily grind.
In addition to her day-to-day, weekly and monthly routines, Valérie Tétreault is often called upon for media updates and appearances, which she makes a point of doing to promote the NBO and ensure its visibility.
It goes without saying that the same duties and responsibilities also fall on Karl Hale, her counterpart in Toronto.
And so the enduring success in both cities is communicated year-round, and events like the one last week, as well as opportunities in specialized and mass media outlets, at academic conferences and in front of audiences made up of the employees and leaders of tomorrow, are all part of an approach meant to cement the NBO’s reputation at home and position the tournament as a must-see tennis happening year after year.
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