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April 16, 2008

Software giant wins sustainable incentive event award

Oracle, the world’s largest enterprise software company, recently won the award for Most Outstanding Sustainable Incentive Event at the Society of Incentive & Executives (SITE) Crystal Awards for an event held as part of its EMEA Club Excellence programme.
The software giant rewarded its top sales personnel and their partners from more than 20 countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa by including them in the Oracle Club Excellence programme and inviting them on an elite group travel event. Carlson Marketing was given the task of planning the travel event, and stipulated that an essential requirement was to incorporate elements that would give back to the host destination’s community.

Planning for up to 250 couples, Carlson and Oracle considered a number of destinations and ultimately decided on Cape Town, South Africa for a number of reasons, including “its supply of large hotels, cultural background, stunning scenery, large variety of tours and activities, ample options for trip extensions, reasonable flight connections from Europe, convenient time zone and pleasant weather”. The Table Bay at the V&A Waterfront, a Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure award winner, met the quality, location and facilities criteria that Oracle was seeking.

However, when Oracle acquired an additional company and added 200 participants to the programme, the total number of travellers increased from 500 to 700. To accommodate the larger group, Carlson added the award-winning Mount Nelson Hotel, which matched the quality of Table Bay and is a member of the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme because of its continued efforts to benefit the environment.

The 20-24 September 2007 programme began with an African Marimba band that greeted participants at the hotels. Welcome kits included a name badge with zebra print lanyard, pull-out itinerary, Oracle-branded key card holder, welcome letter from the vice president, city map and pre-booked excursion vouchers. On the first evening, guests attended a welcome reception that featured an extensive buffet and drinks, and entertainment from a local band. During the reception, welcome gifts were delivered to guest rooms. Ladies received colourful beaded necklaces – part of a community fundraising programme – with an explanation of each colour’s meaning. Men received metal boxes containing zebra print corkscrews and zebra bottle stoppers.

The next day, Oracle employees took part in a teambuilding event dubbed the Amazing Race. Divided into 27 teams of 14 people, participants received instructions and clues that took them to some of Cape Town’s famous locales. When a team arrived at a specified location, they faced a series of challenges such as dancing with a local dance group, playing football with local children and finding the ‘egg man’ in a busy marketplace. During the activities, outfits for the following night’s gala dinner were delivered to guest rooms – sarongs for ladies and Madiba shirts for men – all created by local township communities. Along with the gifts, participants received an invitation to dinner and a ‘thank you’ letter from the community project that Oracle supported.

The next evening kicked off with an awards presentation where the top 20 achievers and winners of the teambuilding exercise received honours. An African band led guests along a lantern-strewn pathway to the dinner site, which was lit with marquees decorated in a rustic, African style with lanterns, bonfires and candles. Dinner was an African buffet featuring foods from across Africa. The last days were filled with relaxing and sightseeing around Cape Town.

By sourcing local goods and supplies, the program not only helped provide employment opportunities in the host destination, but also saved on transport fees, packaging, import duties, insurance and other miscellaneous costs. A tiny garment-manufacturing project run by a local church offered temporary employment for 27 women, who worked around the clock for three months to produce the 326 African-print sarongs and 391 Madiba shirts that participants received. The ministry earned $29,000 for the order, and nine months later – thanks in part to that income – the group had built a sustainable business and provided full-time employment for 39 people.

In full, the four community organisations that helped source Oracle’s Club Excellence programme yielded more than $73,000 in returned revenue, but much more in long-term dividends – a reality that also held true for the 700 Oracle employees and partners who shared in this programme.

SITE established the Crystal Awards in 1980 to recognise the best incentive campaigns, special/motivational events and promotion campaigns. This year’s ceremony was held during the organisation’s International Conference in Monterey, California.
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