Creating that 'Wish You Were Here' experience

The biggest corporate hospitality events on the planet are working hard to attract a new audience, particularly the younger “Instagram” generation who share their experiences immediately on social media. It helps create the “bet you wish you were here” engagement message that every corporate hospitality opportunity seeks to maximise and promote.

Besides generating a demographic change in those attending events, the UK corporate hospitality market has seen an increasing number of international clients accepting invitations to prestigious occasions, requiring the market to cater for different demands and expectations.

Wimbledon remains one of the most popular “bucket list” names on the corporate hospitality circuit and they have seen a change in clientele as Mick Desmond,  commercial and media director All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said: “There is an increasing international aspect to our corporate hospitality and also some shift in terms of companies not taking the same number of hospitality packages and being replaced by individuals and small groups.”

As a response to the requirements of the next generation of corporate guests, Wimbledon has turned its attention to other popular events from music to American Football to see if there are ideas that can be incorporated into the “English garden” feel they work so hard to achieve at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Desmond added: “We go to other events to see what they are offering, and we do think how can we do that in a “Wimbledon way” and that includes going to see the NFL in America. They had a complete Wi-Fi capability around the entire stadium we visited. Another example is Glyndebourne and we learnt from some of the special aspects of what they do. We are always looking to raise the bar and are never complacent. We strive for greatness and perfection.”

For those in charge of the new East Stand hospitality complex at Twickenham – the home of English rugby – moving away from the image of large tables of 50-something business types in suits enjoying a day at the “rugger” has been a natural evolution. Unlike Wimbledon, the Twickenham Stadium doesn’t have the sliding roof facilities that make Centre Court and No1 Court a haven of tranquillity while the summer rain falls. As a result, the clothes you wear to rugby have to be more practical and this helps create a relaxed day for guests.

Hospitality at Twickenham is now all on-site which is a new selling point for clients who expect to be able to access the action quickly which also happens at Wembley Stadium. Ansell Henry, Sales Director, England Rugby Hospitality for the Rugby Football Union, believes there has been a significant shift in attitude to corporate hospitality with the profile of those attending matches at Twickenham changing. He explained: “We are going to continue to see more business to consumer rather than b2b growth and people are really looking for an experience rather than just a meal and a glass of wine. Technology is a way of making the process simpler for clients and every venue needs to look at this aspect of their operation to make sure the experience is easier for the customer.

“We felt we could lead in terms of creating a more restaurant feel moving forward. In the past it was largely corporate guests being invited but it is no longer a case of everyone needing to be suited and booted to get in and we believe clients are looking for that different vibe. It is market place out there.”

Another key selling point for rugby and all the major sports is the ability to show profits generated from corporate hospitality go back into the game, another nod to a more demanding and younger clientele. Henry added: “All of the profits made from hospitality at Twickenham goes back into the game which is a significant change for the RFU. Most of the people attending are rugby fans and the hospitality serves their purpose and they know the money is going into the sport.”

The worth of investing in corporate hospitality should not be under estimated even in the current economic climate and this is a theme Nigel Currie, former Joint Chairman, European Sponsorship Association, is keen to highlight. He said:

“If you have access to tickets to 'must see' events then it is a huge asset. Take golf, horse racing or cricket for example where you are with your guests for the whole day and it is a brilliant way of cementing relationships. You are spending eight hours at Lord’s watching cricket with clients and that is quality time you wouldn’t normally get.

At one point the corporate opportunities became very samey with average food and bog-standard wines. The hospitality providers are desperate to get it right and recognise there is an opportunity to make it a unique experience."

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