DURING business-awards season, which fills the lull between the warm-prosecco receptions of late summer and the rubber-turkey lunches of Christmas, a chancer in a dinner jacket could stroll around London attending four or five prize ceremonies a night, confides one regular on the circuit. Security is lax, so getting in is not difficult. Once there, the opportunist would be treated to celebrity entertainment, decent food and plenty of booze.
Industry awards have long varied from glamorous bashes, like the British Academy’s film and television gongs, to more niche events, such as the British Parking Awards (“The greatest show in parking!”). But the choice available to a besuited chancer is growing. There are now at least 2,000 such ceremonies in a year in Britain, according to a database maintained by Boost Marketing, which bills itself as the world’s first awards-ceremony consultancy. That means tens of thousands of titles being presented each year to clutter corporate letterheads. From the West Midlands Financial Training Body of the Year to Scotland’s Best Cosmetic Dentist, prizes are proliferating as the number of ceremonies rises by about 5% annually, estimates Chris Robinson of Boost.
Perhaps surprisingly, companies really got into self-congratulation after the recession of 2008-09. As advertising revenues plummeted, trade publications discovered that firms were more willing to splash out on a fun evening, some networking and the chance of glory than they were to buy an ad in a magazine. Whereas an advertisement might provoke fleeting interest in a firm, an award can be used to attract business and employees for years to come.
Now the fastest growth is in the number of internal company events. In some industries, awards are often a way to boost self-esteem. There seem to be lots for human-resources workers, notes Mr Robinson. “They get beaten up a bit within business, so they like to prove they are outstanding.”
Self-promotion does not come cheap. Some firms pay agencies to write their entries in order to maximise their chances of winning. Those arranging a do must solicit nominations, find judges, attract sponsors and select a venue and a suitable host. An inexpensive lunchtime event, perhaps with a buffet, can be arranged for less than £10,000 ($13,500), but a glitzy evening affair can cost more than £300,000, says Angela Jones of Reed Business Information, a data firm which also puts on events. Tickets typically cost £100-300. A high price to pay for those who still lack a trophy for their mantelpiece. But ever fewer do.