Many areas have developed grand plans to become sports travel destinations. Few have succeeded as much as Monaco, the small city-state on the Riviera, located near the border of Italy and France. A doctoral candidate at the sports savvy University of Southern California, Mark Braude, has been chronicling the ideas and personalities that have helped Monaco stand out. He presented his findings at an illustrated talk on the University of Southern California March 12.
A century ago, Monaco was a distant voyage from many European metropoles, like London, Paris and St. Petersburg. The publicly listed stock company which promoted Monaco as a tourist destination, Societe des Bains de Mer, turned that into a positive. Racing to Monaco as the ultimate destination became the goal of the International Automobile Rally when the race launched in 1911. The event became one of many that was designed to radiate an atmosphere of prestige and exclusivity, but was supported by a transport and viewing infrastructure that welcomes large, mass market audiences.
The small country of Monaco put its geography to work. The country is a natural amphitheater, affording excellent views of road races and yacht races. Monaco also launched one of the world’s first aviation races in 1910, benefiting form the same panoramic views. These programs also incorporated a time tested attraction that had made Monaco’s gambling casino a popular destination -- prize money. The concept can be taken for granted today, but when Monaco began awarding large prizes to race winners -- typically fifty times an average annual salary -- the large prizes attracted international attention. The Monaco Grand Prix auto race, founded in 1929, remains the premiere race of its kind.
Monaco also innovated much of sports travel public relations as we know it today. In the late nineteenth Century, Monaco began inviting journalists to cover sporting events and attractions such as the golf course, and later the tennis resort. This marketing communications frequently employed advertorial programs for which Monaco added the appeal of paid advertising. Much of this advertising strategy employed vibrant imagery of speed and racing, appealing to the competitor in all of us.