Bocce may be more than 5,000 years old, but itâ€™s getting new life as meeting activity. Most people think about bocce ball as a game for family picnics (if they think about it at all), but itâ€™s being introduced to the event market by a new company called Bocce Nation, Palm Beach Garden, Fla. Bocce Nation has only been around since August 2010, but founder John Lehmann has already organized about a dozen bocce events for corporate and association groups and is excited about the future.
Why bocce? â€śIt has a unique mixture of competition and camaraderie, and itâ€™s an interesting shared experience,â€ť says Lehmann, a tennis professional turned event planner who has run golf and sports events for groups for 20 years. (Heâ€™s also founder of Network Sports Marketing.) Plus, itâ€™s simple and doesnâ€™t require athletic ability or experience. Itâ€™s like horseshoes played with 2.2-pound balls. â€śIâ€™ve never seen anything in all my years of sports that accepts so many different types of people so easily.â€ť
â€śWe did trivia contests, treasure huntsâ€”we even tried horseshoes,â€ť says Lehmann of his efforts to create group activities for event attendees who donâ€™t want to play golf or do something more physical. â€śThen, a few years ago, we stumbled on bocce and noticed that, even as a relatively unorganized event, everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.â€ť
After doing some research, he decided there was an opportunity to take bocce to a wider audience. He developed a Bocce-in-a-Bag productâ€”complete with balls, a portable court, a measuring device, and a scoreboardâ€”and began marketing the sport to groups.
Bocce can be set up almost anywhereâ€”on the beach, indoors, or on turf. For a corporate event at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center in December, the company set up 40 of the 36-foot-by-7-foot courts. With four players to a court, planners can roll out as many courts as they need. Rounds take about 20 minutes to play, with players rotating each round. Typically, each player (or team) amasses a score based on how many matches he or she won that day. â€śRather than golf where you network with three other people for five hours, in bocce you might play 10 different matches and network with 30 people.â€ť
Planners can run their own bocce events or hire Bocce Nation to do it. With the self-service option, groups purchase the bocce sets ($139 each, with discounts for multiple sets). If Bocce Nation runs the event, the cost is about $75 per attendee.