Last December, Bacardi invited 1,800 of its brand ambassadors to Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park for a year-end thank you. Guests were greeted by Santa in one of two ways — either in the form of Bacardi girls dressed in red suits or the plump version alongside his elves. (Pictures were encouraged with both.) The favor was, fittingly, a personally engraved cocktail shaker. The spirits were, of course, Bacardi.
The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York has hosted greats like Dave Matthews Band and Jay-Z, and it is also where MTV Networks threw their 2007 holiday party — the party that is rumored to have cost about $1 million and had employees talking all year. Because nothing exudes the yuletide spirit like models playing Twister in snow globes, they had those on hand. But while the décor was over the top, the food was nonexistent, reported BizBash.com, and an excess of clear liquids left many a guest overly tipsy. Also on hand was DJ Cassidy spinning '80s tunes. Apparently, no one at the company had pull with any current pop stars.
In 2007, banking giant UBS outdid itself, holding its holiday event under the massive whale in the Hall of Ocean Life at the Museum of Natural History. According to someone who worked on the event, 5,000 people attended the soirée, which had a budget of $1.5 million. That means $300 per person! Hope the liquor was top shelf, and that the guests went back for seconds, because the following year the company passed on a party and instead donated $100,000 to charity.
Other corporate holiday parties might be bigger and more expensive, but none are covered as a rite of winter passage like the lunch Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse used to hold for his top editors and deputies at the Four Seasons. The seating chart alone was analyzed from every angle to see who wielded the most power in the room (Anna Wintour always sat next to Newhouse.) In 2008, Condé Nast chose to cancel the midday meal in the midst of company-wide budget cuts. By 2009, it was resurrected at a far less glitzy destination — Aureole. And there was no seating chart, since it was just cocktails at the “bar” next door.
Media conglomerate IAC has offices designed by Frank Gehry and that’s exactly where they held their 2007 party. According to The New York Observer, a dance floor and lounge banquettes were installed in the lobby to make it not feel like an entryway, and food was served on real plates, rather than napkins or plastic. Those who always dreamed of dipping skewered strawberries into a chocolate fountain while still in the office finally got their wish, too.
Sometimes it’s the little things that people remember. Of the many effects during PricewaterhouseCoopers’s 2008 fire-and-ice themed soirée, from parka-clad models to the sound of howling wind, it was the bar of ice that most impressed the 3,800 in attendance at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. It was a repeat performance for the consulting firm, which also featured an ice bar at their last large corporate get-together in 2003. However, don’t mistake ice for simplicity — the production schedule counted 28 pages.
In 2006, Google hosted upwards of 10,000 of its employees and good friends at Pier 48 in San Francisco. Dubbed "Googlympus," thanks to a Greek theme, it took five days to decorate the tents. The space was divided into rooms — each named for a Greek god. Activities included airbrushed tattoos, oversized croquet, and a wine-cork shooting range. According to an employee who attended and blogged about it, there were different tents with themes like Jazz Club, Street Party, and Hip Hop Dance Club. The psychic in attendance predicted Google’s inevitable profitability will continue until the year 2999.
It’s been called one of the best parties on the planet, according to EON Business Wire. In 2009, the domain registry company spent more than $3 million on the swanky soirée, the largest ever thrown at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. 2010’s was even bigger. “It’s going to rock,” CEO Bob Parson was quoted as saying, “We’re going to put last year’s to shame.” And they did, with $1 million in tax-free cash giveaways to employees; performances by Jewel, George Thorogood, and ZZ Top; and even bumper cars. Need we say more about their 2010 December spectacular? Yes, actually. They flew in and put up out-of-state employees and their guests, and capped off the night with a massive fireworks display over the field.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, this 144-person technology consulting firm based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., reinstated its annual holiday party after two years, in 2010. They flew all of their employees and spouses to the headquarters for a dinner with an open bar and a $250 gift card as a party treat. Sounds great and everything until you realize you have to travel to Minneapolis in December. What kind of present is that?
Dealbreaker.com reported Southwest Securities Group’s Dallas office held its party at the Dallas World Aquarium Zoo in 2007. The evening’s bill of fare included performances by flamingos, sharks, and a mariachi band. Sadly, the elephant riders had far too many demands and so they were replaced with the mariachi band.