By Barry Janoff
January 9, 2013: The start of a new year is also a time when people renew efforts to fulfill their hopes, dreams and goals.
Goviva and its president, Robert Tuchman, want to help make those efforts more of a reality.
And these are not just your average get-a-better job/meet my ideal mate/stop my dog from chewing up the couch visions. We're talking a VIP trip to Maui to attend a celebrity-filled film festival. A meal served in the home of and cooked by world-renowned chef Rick Bayless. A one-on-one gymnastics clinic with Olympic gold medal winner Kerri Strug. And top-shelf experiences at the Super Bowl, The Masters, the Final Four, the World Cup and other sports events.
The plethora of adventures offered by the company range in price from hundreds to thousands, depending on the package. Among the adventures currently being offered: The ESPY Awards (July 11-14) in Los Angeles, the Macy's Day Parade (Nov. 27-Dec. 1) in New York, a Masters and Final Four combo (April 5-9) in Atlanta, the FIFA World Cup (June-July 2014) in Brazil and the Maui Film Festival (June 12-16) in Hawaii.
Goviva also provides an on-site concierge or Goviva team members to ensure maximum satisfaction and minimum stress.
Formerly known as Elite Experiences, Goviva.com relaunched in October under the auspices of Tuchman, who has nearly 20 years of experience in sports marketing and business, hospitality and event sponsorships.
His resume includes president and co-founder of TSE Sports & Entertainment, which he began in 1997 (and was sold to private equity firm Pfingsten Partners in 2006 and renamed Premiere Global Sports); and author of 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live (Benbella Books, 2009) and Young Guns: The Fearless Entrepreneur's Guide to Chasing Your Dreams and Breaking Out on Your Own (AMACOM Publishing, 2009).
NYSportsJournalism spoke with Tuchman about the challenges and rewards of being the king of dreams and the outlook for sports marketing in 2013.
NYSportsJournalism.com: How and why did Goviva come to be?
Robert Tuchman: Back when we had TSE Sports & Entertainment, we were working with a lot of these companies, mainly on a B-2-B situation. When I started doing this 15 years ago, it was a new and exciting category, where people and companies could actually purchase trips to go to events such as the Super Bowl, The Masters, the Final Four. People are still excited about doing these things. The packages and perks you can purchase now are a far cry from what was available 15 years ago. We also realized that not only were corporations interested but there are more individuals who want to purchase these packages.
NYSJ: Was there a specific time when this became more of an individual acquisition rather than one in which corporations would use it mainly to meet with clients in a casual setting?
RT: I think after 9-11, a lot of people began to rethink what was important in life and began to act on their passions and desires rather than just thinking about doing them and not acting. We saw we could cater to this, and not just in sports with the Super Bowl or traveling to see the FIFA World Cup, but in fashion, lifestyles, with culinary experiences. Ten years ago, no one would think it was cool to hang out with a chef. Now, with the expansion of that category on TV and elsewhere, it has become a great adventure for more people. So with Goviva, you can have a unique experience with great chefs such as Rick Bayless, Ray Lampe, Tre Wilcox or Maria Liberati. Or have an artistic experience with Peter Max. Or go to the Maui Film Festival.
"After 9-11, a lot of people began to rethink what was important in life and began to act on their passions rather than just thinking about doing them and not acting."
NYSJ: How would you differentiate Goviva from what people can get through a travel agent?
RT: We are really an experiential event company. It is a whole new area of selling experiential packages. We have a terrific team of people at Goviva who over the past two decades [at Elite Experiences] worked to create and execute experiences for people. We decided to take the very best experiences in the world and offer them on Goviva.com. Rather than just getting someone to Miami to see the BSC National Game, for example, our package included a private car from the airport to the [Bentley South Beach] hotel, a personal Goviva concierge team to enhance the experience, first-class meals and, of course, a ticket to Sun Life Stadium. For Super Bowl XLVII, it is not just a trip to New Orleans and a ticket to [Mercedes-Benz Superdome], but an up-close experience that includes the private Maxim party, great accommodations [at The Quarter House] in the French Quarter, other personal amenities that make it unique.
NYSJ: Have you considered a reality TV show about people who get to live out their ultimate dreams?
RT: [Laughs.] It's funny you should say that. We actually were approached by a production company to put a show together, something along the lines of 'Dream Kings,' where we would help people to experience dreams they thought they could not fulfill. But we are doing that. We are helping people cross items off of their bucket list.
NYSJ: Can you adapt experiential adventures depending on how much someone want to spend?
RT: Yes. We can customize each package, but there would be no package that wouldn't be unique and more exciting than anything else out there.
NYSJ: Was this bucket list of adventures based on your book, 100 Sports Events You Must See Live?
RT: The book is filled with great sports events. But, as I mentioned, we also have culinary events, fashion, lifestyle. One of our packages is training with [marathon runner] Meb Keflezighi, and another is having a personal clinic with [Olympic gold medal gymnast] Kerri Strug, which are not events but more personal challenges. So this is much more than going to a great event, but also fulfilling personal goals.
NYSJ: Are you finding destinations, athletes and other celebrities are contacting you to be part of Goviva?
RT: We are, especially former athletes who have expertise that they want to share and teach. We have a lot of contacts in that area. But we are finding more athletes, chefs, musicians and others who have experience in one-on-one sessions who can and want to really share their knowledge. We want these experiential experiences to be memorable, and I would have to say that we have a special group of athletes, chefs, musicians and other celebrities who are really good at making that happen.
NYSJ: Have you attracted a specific demographic, say baby boomers with time and disposable cash, or is it more cross-generational?
RT: There are a lot of baby boomers, but I would say we are getting people from all demographics. Baby boomers are looking for ageless experiences, they have the cash, they are living longer. But the younger generations, say people in their late 20s or in their 30s, want to take these ultimate experiential adventures before they have the responsibility of kids, owning a home, those sorts of things. We actually are still learning about our demographics.
NYSJ: Has the recent economic situation affected Goviva?
RT: It certainly is not like it was in 2006, but it is a better time for the country and the economy than it has been. But we are seeing that more people and more companies are able to do this now as opposed to recent years because the economy is rebounding and getting stronger.
"We are seeing that more people and more companies are able to do this now because the economy is rebounding and getting stronger."
NYSJ: In your book, you list as the top events to see live (in order) The Masters, FIFA World Cup, Super Bowl and the Summer Olympics. Are those still holding strong?
RT: Yes. Those will always be at the top, perhaps in a different order. Super Bowl XLVIII will be in the New York area [at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ) in 2014, so we see that probably becoming one of the hottest sports destinations of the year. Maybe the most-requested Super Bowl [package] ever. The Final Four (NCAA Division I men's basketball) is always very popular. But we are seeing some new events that weren't in the book: the Circuit of the America Race in Austin in November has become very popular. The NHL Winter Classic was very popular the past couple of years but, of course, wasn't held [Jan. 1] due to the lockout. So we'll have to see how popular that is next season. On the other hand, something such as the UFC hasn't become a popular destination, at least in the corporate world, certainly not to the level that we had anticipated.
NYSJ: Where do you see growth coming for experiential adventures?
RT: The new format for the BCS will make the Bowl games that are part of the system even more popular. And the culinary category has become extremely popular but still has a lot of potential for growth. There are so many types of cooking and more people who are becoming interested in specific types of food, be it for health or because of the uniqueness of international cooking. We can get people not just to restaurants in their own city or elsewhere in the U.S., but many places around the world. They can have the greatest French food adventure right in Paris. The best Thai food right in Thailand.
NYSJ: Looking a little bit ahead, are you getting a lot of interest in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil, where the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held?
RT: Definitely. Brazil could be our biggest destination in the coming years. We sold a lot of packages and sent a lot of people to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. But Brazil is already on so many bucket lists with its beaches, food, great location from the U.S. So adding the World Cup and Olympics to that mix should see a lot of people asking us for packages.
NYSJ: Based on your knowledge and experience, is sports marketing still a strong category? And where do you see growth coming?
RT: If you want to get out a message, and it's done properly and through the various outlets available, it is a very strong category. When you look at events such as the Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, companies still target those TV broadcasts as great places to launch messages and commercials. The Super Bowl TV audience this past February averaged 111 million. That is tremendous. But the companies that do it best use everything to their advantage, especially as we have seen more and more in the area of social media. You can go for a mass audience on TV, but you can reach a strong, targeted audience, even though it may be smaller, through Facebook or Twitter and other social media outlets.
NYSJ: Are you seeing Goviva as a long-term, growing operation, sort of an experiential adventure for you?
RT: [Laughs.] Certainly. I'm thinking big and global on this. Quality. High-value. We see this as having the potential to become a global brand. It really is exciting for me and I want to enjoy this for a long time. I believe we are at the forefront of it. It certainly is expanding and we certainly are not only paving new ground but continually raising the standard of what these experiential packages should include.
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