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Case 5.1

The Vodafone Ball by Euro RSCG Skybridge

An Event with History

Vodafone’s continued programme of global acquisition had seen it become the world’s largest mobile phone company, incorporating previously independent businesses in local markets under one brand. The company has historically thanked their employees and partners for their hard work and support on an annual basis. The vehicle for this has traditionally manifested itself in the form of a grand-scaled celebratory ball. Vodafone wanted to find a refreshing way to invigorate the Vodafone Ball concept, whilst maintaining the employee excitement, expectation and enthusiasm that surround the annual ball. Euro RSCG Skybridge utilized their in depth knowledge of Vodafone as a global company and its employees as individuals, to conceive, create, plan and produce a celebratory ball, designed to be the largest silver-service dinner party in the world and surpassing the previous years event and the expectations of a global audience.

Initial aims and objectives

Euro RSCG Skybridge looked to create a spectacular event to turn attitudes within Vodafone’s newly created global corporation on their heads. Where there had been a belief that the business was stuffy and impersonal and big was bad, the event awakened employees to the personal dynamics, reconciling scale with intimacy and demonstrated that anything is possible when you are the biggest. It was deemed important to understand exactly what fears the new business held for Vodafone employees to ensure any solution clearly targeted them, transforming negative beliefs into positives.

The brief

When considering the most impressive non-corporate benefit of being the biggest, a World Record and a place in The Guinness Book of Records, combined with the highly interactive and personal nature of a dinner party was seen as an exciting event at which to participate. It was also important to move away from the traditional black tie event since we were trying to create a relaxed and casual environment, which shattered the myth Vodafone’s size made them bureaucratic and unapproachable. The remit of the brief was therefore to innovatively create, produce and manage a celebratory ball for Vodafone employees and their guests, on a scale a calibre befitting the growing stature of the organization and its corporate values and beliefs. The required venue had to safely accommodate the required numbers of attendees, expected to be between 8000 and 12 000 people. The brief covered pre-event planning, guest management and invitation process, total creative treatment including theming and entertainment, production and all logistical considerations relating to the proposed event. For the ball to be a success, it had to exceed the expectations of those guests who had attended in previous years.


The creative response leads with the main theme and event identity of a relaxed Beach Party. This was executed across all aspects of the event from the management approach to its tangible assets. The response included all pre-event guest management, overall creative theming and entertainment, production and all logistical considerations relating to the event. London’s Earls Court, was selected as the venue of choice due to its size, location, flexibility and reputation as an excellent entertainment venue. Earls Court provided the additional benefit and security of having staged the event previously

Pre-event planning: logistics and production

The event requirements were assessed, based on the experiences of the previous year’s event, the post-event evaluation, de-brief reports and the additional requirements derived from the increase in total guest numbers. A Project Team was created to manage the complex Logistical and Production elements of the event. The necessity to have defined roles and responsibilities across the required key elements of the project would provide clear channels of communication and allow for areas of specialty to operate for the common stability of the event. The Project Team developed a project plan complete with a critical path for each functional dynamic. The main functional responsibilities included: .

·       Overall project, venue and budgetary management

·       Entertainment selection and management

·       Main stage show production and direction

·       Technical production

·       Catering

·       Health and Safety; including crowd control and security

·       Creative execution; including theming, print and communications

·       Transportation management

·       Database and administrative management.

A series of status meetings were established with all stakeholders to continuously monitor and evaluate progress based on SMART principles, both internally within the agency and directly with the client’s project coordinators, providing regular budgetary updates, status and contact reports.

The physicality and health and safety aspects of the event were examined in strict Risk Assessments, performed by the Project Team and specially commissioned professional Risk Assessors. All findings were documented and presented to the client and formed part of the essential event paperwork.

With the physical infrastructure in place, the other tangible elements were planned and executed to plan. The event was creatively teased to employees through a programme of internal communications, including posters, e-mails and a website, heightening awareness and expectation 6 months prior to the actual event.

The Beach Party theme was creatively incorporated into all aspects of the event from printed collateral, a specially designed website with online booking, the hotline, the invitation process through to the theming of the venue and the entertainment.

The logistics management of the event was a huge undertaking involving an invitation process where 6000 employees around the world were selected at random and invited to apply for two tickets to the event. Guests who accepted were directed to the dedicated website where they inputted all their required personal details including transport, dietary and medical requirements. A bespoke software tool created in house, provided the power behind every step of the party, including allowing guests to choose their place on the world’s largest table plan for 11 500 people. Using a personal login, guests were also able to access all event details including detailed itinerary, up-to-date transport arrangements and even a friendly letter from the Chief Executive, emphasizing the personal nature of the initiative.

In total 136 coaches were sourced to transport 8500 guests. In addition 1420 car parking spaces were sourced, 300 VIP guests were chauffeured to and from the venue and approximately 700 domestic and international flight movements were booked.

Earls Court itself, was to be metamorphosized into a giant beach party occupying the whole of Halls 1 and 2, with the main hall being transformed into a huge dining and entertainment production arena split across levels one and two. A full sized funfair with side stalls and a 136 vehicle coach park occupied Earls Court 2, whilst most of the complex’s satellite rooms were used for such activities as a comedy club, blues club, piano bar, karaoke, a huge gaming and amusement arcade.

The event: on-site operation

In the night the guests arrived by coach, car, public transport and foot. Strict marshalling and foot flow was managed around the perimeter of the building as well as dedicated movement channels within the buildings. This movement of people was formulated as part of the Standard Operating Plan derived from the Risk Assessment. Prior to guests’ arrival onsite, all personnel were fully briefed on the Standard Operating Plan and the Emergency Operating Plan by Heads of Departments. The 120 event crew, 150 production crew, 400 security staff, 2500 catering staff and 150 chefs were all made aware of their responsibilities during these briefings. With the doors to Earls Court open for arrival, 11 500 guests made their way into the halls to be astounded by scale of their event. The format for the evening event included pre-dinner drinks, a sit down silver-service dinner and entertainment, pre- during and post-dinner.

Once seated, after a short introductory welcome and vote of thanks from the CEO, 2500 catering staff served a hot silver-service dinner to guests whilst they watched a full show of entertainment. The stage set was built like a beach bar and the ensuing stage show also included loud, upbeat music of song and dance specifically conceived, choreographed and uniquely performed for the event by a cast of over 100. During ‘commercial breaks’, a specially produced video montage highlighted the different international operating companies within the Vodafone extended family through a series of brand and product commercials.

Post-dinner guests were invited to explore all the entertainment areas within Earls Court, prior to a main stage concert. The main and sub-stages showcased numerous live bands and artistes such as the Corrs, Ronan Keating, Bjorn Again, Right Said Fred, Hear’say, Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet and an Ibiza meets Handbag disco.

Control of the event was managed via a two-way radio system, with all communications and decisions being run through Event Control – this room contained 4 radio control personnel and the Event Director. The Event Director maintained control by reaching out through all the Functional Section Heads running Catering, Transport, Production, Entertainment and Security & Crowd Control.

Event challenges and statistics

The event required a continuous party atmosphere and seamless itinerary with heavy information technology (IT) and logistics support to provide one entertainment act after another whilst including motivational key messages, faultless hot catering and coping with the various health and safety issues as they arose. Interesting facts from the event include:

·       11 500 people

·       136 coaches all arrived and dropped off guests in a 45 minute window in addition to local shuttle buses

·       Created specialist software to build a table plan for 11 500 guests

·       Transportation organized for 8500 guests

·       1420 car spaces

·       300 VIP chauffeured guests

·       700 domestic and international flights

·       400 security staff

·       2500 catering staff

·       150 chefs

·       120 event crew

·       150 production crew

·       10 months of planning

·       2 tonnes of chicken 

·       3 tonnes of vegetables

·       5700 bottles of wine .

·       2400 litres of water

·       2000 litres of coffee

·       3 kilometres of tablecloth

·       65 000 pieces of crockery

·       78 000 pieces of cutlery.

Managing such a large number of guests provided an interesting challenge from the point of view of logistics management, crowd control, security, health and safety and subtle ‘on-brand’ messages. The Ball became a reason for working at Vodafone and was so popular that it generated a 92 per cent response rate to invitations. Euro RSCG Skybridge, Vodafone and its employees were awarded the Guinness World Record for the ‘World’s largest silver service dinner party’ and the ‘World’s largest table plan’, with the Financial Times and Daily Mail giving extensive, positive coverage and a delighted Chief Executive claiming it was ‘the best party ever’.

Post-event evaluation and wrap up

Post-event evaluation highlighted the absolute appreciation and value by staff. In staff surveys, the event was cited as one of the reasons staff liked to work at Vodafone. Detailed de-brief reports were written, along with de-brief meetings with the venue, key suppliers and importantly, the client during the post-event period. Great value is gained from the post event processes, which supports increased knowledge, understanding and identifies key action points for future events. For further details about Euro RSCG Skybridge, please visit; By Randle Stonier, former Chairman, Euro RSCG Skybridge.


1. Identify the many stakeholders in the Vodafone ball, and list the likely benefits to each.

2. From the event description in the case study, what do you think was the likely process of conceptualizing the event?

3. Events of this size and complexity present many challenges for future years, including how to develop the event, while keeping it aspirational and tightly budgeted. Imagine that you are planning the above event again for next year.

(a) If the numbers increase above the current level, the existing venue may not accommodate the large audience and the creative interpretation of the brief. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current venue. Suggest an alternative venue that could accommodate this event and list the benefits that your choice of venue would bring.

(b) In order to keep the event aspirational in future, what vision or idea would you develop for this event? How would you conceptualize it? What are the unique elements in your event concept and how would this be expressed in the event?

4. Can you think of any other companies or organizations where a similar event model could be applied? List the potential stakeholders, and describe the steps that you would take in conceptualizing the event.

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