A meeting with Laurent Charbonnier, Sporting Events Development Manager
Laurent Charbonnier is just as passionate about events as he is about his favourite sports of running and surfing. An avid sportsman, he has run two marathons and taken part in many runDisney events in the US. So it was only natural that he was chosen to oversee the hosting and organisation of Disney Business Solution's sports-related events. Interview.
Can you describe what it is you do? How did you start out?
Laurent Charbonnier: Since my student days I have always been involved in the corporate events industry (I have been working for Business Solutions by Disneyland® Paris for 10 years). I have a real appetite for sport. When I was studying I got the chance to go to Australia to run my first half-marathon. A career in sporting events was always a dream of mine. After several years pursuing my career I was finally able to fulfil a childhood dream: I already knew about the runDisney concept that had existed in the US for 25 years, so I suggested bringing it over to Disneyland® Paris and was asked to head up the project. It was not only a great challenge but a dream that had finally come true!
You have taken part in these events yourself. What makes them unique?
L. C.: Yes I was able to take part in these events over in the US. The runs are ideal for fostering a great collective atmosphere, as well as encouraging sporting performance. I've also run the New York and London marathons, and I felt the same emotions then: I often say that, for me, marathons are the best way to visit a city, the crowds really make the event their own and the runners feel a great connection with the spectators. The same is true of the runDisney events. The runners are happy to get the chance to associate themselves with the Disney name and emotions always run high!
What challenges did you have to face when tailoring this major sporting event to Disneyland Paris?
L. C.: Our parks weren't originally designed to host sporting events but they do provide an exceptional setting. Hosting such an event therefore requires lots of production, technical and safety groundwork. Around 60 different departments were involved in developing the runDisney courses. The main challenge was to make a running event work in a location designed for fun and entertainment. But our resort – the first of its kind in Europe – actually has all of the advantages of a major tourist site, including the ability to host, accommodate and manage considerable logistics.
What's behind your strategic decision to host sporting events?
L. C.: We have been developing our position on the sports events market since 2016, when we hosted sporadic events including the Disneyland Paris Leaders Cup LNB and the World Weightlifting Championships. This initial approach has now developed into a full-fledged strategy and we want to host more sporting events to promote Disneyland Paris and secure our market position. Associating the Disneyland Paris image with events such as the Table Tennis World Cup and the Junior Ryder Cup – which we will be hosting this Autumn – helps improve their visibility. And every time we organise an event we gain new expertise that we can offer to our professional clients.
How do you manage to combine these events with the rest of the parks' activities?
L. C.: Well Walt Disney was himself a passionate sportsman, and sport features in many of his first animated shorts. The Walt Disney Company has also set up the "Magic of Healthy Living" programme dedicated to promoting kids sport. This is always in the back of our minds when we put our sporting events together. We take advantage of existing ties between Disney licences and certain sporting brands, drawing on all of Disneyland Paris' attributes – from our parks and events spaces to our golf course – while adapting with the seasons to ensure our events bring in new audiences who come to enjoy not only the sport, but our usual attractions as well.
Can you explain how these events benefit companies?
L. C.: As I said, our destination has all the attributes needed to make it the ideal place for welcoming companies. Our professional clients can benefit from the expertise around sporting events organisation that we've developed over the years: we have already organised a fun run for a private event, for example. In terms of sponsor partnerships, we are working carefully to promote the unique experiences we can offer, such as the cocktail reception in the castle after a sporting event. One company also asked us to organise a multisports event for its employees from around the world. We're currently working on this concept, which will bring together no less than 12 different sports!
What kind of projects would you be looking to pursue over the next few months?
L. C.: Our current strategy involves developing events focused on well-being – yoga and fitness, for example – and we're also looking at family-oriented triathlons.