HMS EVENT ARCHITECT EMILY KOZEL – HOSPITALITY MANAGER 4.0
When your small company is producing four events in one weekend, it’s hard not to have a little bit of anxiety over hoping everything goes off without a hitch. Especially when your position in the company is managing the corporate hospitality events. During our weekend at the Ford EcoBoost 500 Championship at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, I gained a whole new perspective on what it means to have a successful hospitality event…or four.
Of the four events we produced that weekend, two in particular were the most time-consuming for myself, REV Group’s two-day hospitality and Stewart Haas Racing’s Sunday hospitality.
There’s a strong sense of pride you feel when an event you have been planning for months — from the banners to the florals, to the catering menus and entertainment, all comes together and finally comes to life. Having done two other events with them this season, REV Group has continually been a client I feel great pride in producing events with. They have a beautiful vision of the way they want their brand to be represented at the race track and it truly is one of a kind.
When an event is that multidimensional however, it requires a lot of upkeep. We strongly attempted to structure every aspect of this event that we could, from the set-up schedules to the event day schedules, everything was planned minute by minute. When the event came to life, a lot of that changed. It is extremely important to have the ability to be flexible and know how to accommodate those necessary schedule changes. Having the SHR Tony Stewart Retirement Hospitality that we were also producing having their set-up taking place during day one of the REV Group event and simultaneously activating during day two certainly also made for unexpected changes to the anticipated plan.
For us at HMS, it’s not business, it’s personal. So I admittedly struggled with having two events I spent so much time planning taking place at one time. Never so much did I wish I could be two places at once. I had to be extremely flexible maintaining my presence at the REV Group event while also staying actively involved in SHR’s. However, I could not have been more impressed and appreciative of my teammates for not only picking-up where I left off, but going above and beyond to produce beautiful events for our clients whether I was actively involved or not. I knew I could count on my team prior to that weekend, but they proved more so than ever over those days in Miami that we are more than a company, we truly are a team.
Were there small “fires” that needed to be put out over the weekend? Absolutely. And that’s what makes this team so fantastic, nothing was too big of an obstacle for them. In event production, those moments are often inevitable. It’s how they are handled that defines the quality of the production team. Our team clearly exemplified their quality that weekend. Even driver of the No. 2 Miler Lite Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske took the time to acknowledge the efforts of our team on the REV Group event. I hope our clients would agree, but I can confidently say that I was thrilled by each one of the events our HMS team produced this weekend and I am greatly looking forward to many more in the 2017 season.
HMS EVENT ARCHITECT ETHAN WAKEMAN – MONSTER ENERGY
The final week of the season has come and gone for Nascar. For 36 weeks I, through HMS, has had the privilege to represent the Monster Energy brand at each and every track on the circuit. This final event activation, apart from being the last, had a few special components that set it apart from others. The setting for this activation was unlike anything we had to date. Monster Energy debuted their newest VIP Hospitality set-up that played host to this event. Nestled just inside of Turn 1, it’s full length roof deck took a commanding view of the track as a whole. For the first time at any track, over 100 guests were able to stand on the roof, 20 feet in the air, and view the entirety of the racing action happening just in front of them. Supplementing this mobile venue were the scrumptious creations of Rick and Nina Ivey of the Virginia BBQ Company. Catering to the palettes of 250 guests is no small feat, but their menus do it with ease. HMS has truly found a winning formula this year, and the success of Monster Energy’s capstone Nascar event just further solidifies that in my mind. It is the satisfaction I feel from an ecstatic client that keeps my creativity flowing. Now to turn my attention to imagineering next year’s activations!
EVENT ARCHITECT NATHAN WILLIAMS – 1ST RACE OF THE YEAR
For my first trip to a NASCAR event this year, I definitely saved the best for last. Not only was it the final race of the season, but Homestead is a track that I had never been to previously, so I was a little excited to check it out. The experience definitely didn’t disappoint. The weather was picture perfect for all 3 days and the views from certain parts of the track were pretty amazing.
We had 4 pretty major hospitality activations going on, but my main focus was working with Rev Group. They are a new partner to NASCAR and have teamed with Team Penske in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series. The Xfinity Series is their bread and butter, so Saturday was a big day for them. Throughout the day, there were Rev Group Sales team members coming and going, enjoying good food, good fun, and good drinks. For some who had never been to a NASCAR event before, getting to walk through the pits and interact with the drivers and their teams was definitely an eye opener and a unique experience. Unfortunately, the 22 in the Xfinity Race did not pull off the win, but our Rev Group partners were extremely pleased with how the day went for their sales team.
There was also large excitement coming into the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday because the 22 for Team Penske was in the running for the Championship. Similar to day 1, everyone that stopped by the activation got to experience hospitality at its finest. They were served 2 full meals with snacks in between and were given the opportunity to experience the race from the rooftop of the activation unit. The views were unbeatable! At the end of the race, the 22 walked away in 6th and came up JUST short of a Championship. Although bummed, once again, everyone was extremely pleased and couldn’t wait to start of talks about how to build on this for 2017.
EVENT ARCHITECT REBECCA MOORE – CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
My experience at Homestead-Miami was a riveting one! There were a lot of firsts for me. It was my first race outside of Charlotte, it was my first time working an event for one of our clients, it was my first time in the pits, and my first time being so into the outcome of both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup NASCAR races. I’m not what you would call an avid race fan – but, I grew up around it my whole life. My step dad would watch countless hours of racing every weekend, from qualifying to finishes, from truck races to NASCAR (although NASCAR was his favorite). I followed the sport very loosely because of him and just my natural liking of sports. I had drivers that I “liked” but in the end the outcome never really seemed to matter much to me. But, having one of our clients, and someone I know personally, race for the Championship in the Xfinity Cup Series, being at the final Sprint Cup race of the season where the Championship was on the line for 4 drivers (one of which who our client sponsored), which was also the final race of a career for Tony Stewart (who again was in the listing of our clients for the day) made all the different in the world. Seeing the pits first hand and the technique that is involved in the pit stops – and doing a “pit stop challenge” with my co-worker, Kyle – really made things fun and exciting and really peaked my interest.
Not only did the whole sport of racing change in my eyes that day, but so did my respect, appreciation and empathy for our team members who go out there and give it their all every weekend to ensure our events go off without a hitch. The minor details and last minute changes to client events and their wants/needs are so very crucial to the overall success of the event. Also, working a 20-hour day takes it to a whole other level. It was hard work – but, from the beginning to the end we had fun and were the best of teams that day!
Seeing the sun rise and set over the track with silhouettes of palm trees surrounding me made it a picturesque setting. And even more of an energetic setting when our drivers had a shot to win the championship in the final laps on both days. On Sunday, it had everyone at our hospitality on the edge of the seats really into the race to the end. I couldn’t help but to think of my step dad all throughout the day – if only he could’ve seen me in that setting, cheering so fanatically. He’d be so proud!
EVENT ARCHITECT CHRIS GORDON – A LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP
Since the beginning, I have always had a love-hate relationship with Homestead-Miami Speedway. Literally since the beginning. I was one of the very first to ever drive a Sprint Cup Series car around that track when I was a Research and Development driver back in 2003. I even spent some time after the initial test session giving media members rides in a 2-seater Richard Petty Driving Experience racecar, which led to a sit down interview with Cammy Clark and the Miami Herald. A great experience that I will never forget and who doesn’t love spending a few days in sunny south Florida? What most didn’t know was that myself and two of the other test drivers Kevin Conway and Steve Grissom, had received the worst case of food poisoning the night before at a local restaurant. We should have been hospitalized. I was literally doubled over, hugging a trashcan in the garage area throughout the entire interview. Like I said, love-hate. It’s no fault of the track itself, it just seems that a lot of the things I love about this sport come to an end in Miami, all the while a lot of new and exciting things for our sport seem to grow out of Miami each year. This year was no exception!
As with every year you head to Homestead-Miami with the plan of enjoying as much of South Florida and your proximity to the Keys as possible. Who doesn’t love a nice well deserved reward at the end of the long season? But just like with every other year, the final race has a lot of moving pieces that require a lot of hours to see through. No matter how well you plan, no one usually gets to enjoy all that the area has to offer. So close, yet so far away LOL! This year, one of my all-time Hero’s and someone I have had the honor of working very closely with over the years, Tony Stewart hung up his helmet after the Homestead-Miami race. I was honored and very thankful to be there and to be a part of the celebration. That said we saw history made with Jimmie Johnson winning his 7th and final Sprint Cup! Speaking of the Sprint Cup, this year marked their final event in what was an exceptional 13 year run as the title sponsor. What they did for this sport and the doors they opened for us that work in this industry will not be forgotten. As the door closes on that chapter, in true fashion, Monster energy bursts onto the scene to lead us into the next chapter of our sport. I have also had the privilege to work with the great people at Monster over the past two years, and I truly cannot wait to see how they put their twist on this sport that is a huge part of my life! I’m sure at the conclusion of the 2017 Homestead-Miami race I will have a whole new list of things I love and hate! Oh yeah, here is the link to that Miami-Herald Article:
Just try not to visualize me hugging that trash can while your reading it! 😉
EVENT ARCHITECT KYLE BRIEGEL – READY FOR NEXT YEAR
Working with a company that has such deep roots in a particular industry truly gives our clients a lot of perks, but working FOR a company that has such deep roots gives employees, like me, certain advantages that make for some unforgettable memories. My experience at this year’s Ford EcoBoost 500 Championship in Homestead was nothing short of awesome. Working with 4 of our clients at one track “forced” me to visit all corners of the speedway when typically I would be restricted to one area. Getting to see the track in the way I have is one of NASCARS greatest marketing tools. It is always bittersweet when something comes to an end, even when it returns quicker than we are sometimes ready for. Looking forward to next year, I am most excited for the new brands HMS will introduce to NASCAR and the NASCAR market. There are few things more rewarding than seeing your project come to life, all with while racecars circle you at 200 MPH.