CORPORATE HOSPITALITY: Made to measure - Corporate hospitality clients will only return if they get what they want. Philip Chadwick looks at ways of evaluating if an event was up to scratch

That just about every sporting venue has room for corporate

hospitality suggests it is a runaway success. There is plenty of demand

for business people to watch sporting action from hospitality boxes or

marquees. But the test for corporate hospitality organisers and venues

is whether the occasion has been a success. Has the client got what it

wanted in terms of getting business done or just giving people a good

time?



'We tend to find it's a 50/50 split between business and pleasure,' says

Firstplace4 account manager Martin Bromley. 'It's often a chance to

meet, greet and get to know clients' true needs. The surroundings relax

people and sometimes clients who have dealt with each other over several

years have not seen each other face to face before.'



Firstplace4 organises corporate hospitality at sporting events from

Premiership football to racing at Ascot. The company works closely with

clients to ensure they understand what they want to achieve. It will

suggest ideas to 'get clients to explore different avenues'. And

de-brief meetings find out what the client thought of the event. Bromley

likens these to a 'counselling service'.



'We cover total event management,' he adds. 'It's very much a personal

service. I will always go to the venue to make sure everything is right,

from the menu to researching the wines and making sure they are at the

right temperature.'



Bolton Wanderers FC commercial director Gareth Moores says: 'We send out

a questionnaire at the end of the year, but really you get most of your

feedback by talking to people face-to-face.'



Bolton's Reebok Stadium offers a wealth of corporate hospitality

including packages for clients, whether it's for those who want to do

business or those who are just Bolton supporters.



'It's a combination of business and pleasure,' explains Moores. 'A

number of companies take hospitality because they are big Bolton fans

and they enjoy the service. Others come here because they see

hospitality gives them a great return on their investment. Many

businesses have a significant hospitality budget.'



Woodland Business and Action marketing manager Steve Prosser has found

that clients tend to pay for corporate hospitality for business

reasons.



His company organises days at Formula One Grand Prix events around the

world and they are proving popular with companies keen to do

business.



'Clients are always keen to do business and it's no longer about just

having a jolly,' he says. 'It's about building relationships and

networking. It's also a captive environment to talk all day long.'



The company opts for a hands-on approach on the day of the Grand Prix to

make sure everything runs smoothly. Prosser says the market is highly

competitive and offering a higher level of service is the key to holding

on to clients and attracting new ones.



'The sport is dynamic, up-market and sexy,' he says. 'If clients want to

watch testing, then it's very affordable as well.'



Having an interest in the sport can help clients attract the right

people, especially if the business is relevant to it.



'We use the hospitality facilities at Donington Park to say thank-you to

the 200 dealers and 90 suppliers we do business with across the UK,'

says Aprilia UK managing director Steve Reynolds. 'Access to a central

venue is vital to ensure we look after all our business partners and

Donington fits that bill.



'As a manufacturer of motorbikes and scooters it's a natural extension

for our business to offer corporate hospitality at a race circuit,' he

adds.



Bolton believes it is important to measure how successful hospitality

has been as responding to feedback can improve service and the

experience.



'From our perspective it's about getting to know our clients,' says

Moores. 'We talk to them on a regular basis so that we can understand

what they want and respond to what they want. Occasionally, we get

things wrong and we accept that. But we learn from our mistakes and

every season that we've been at the Reebok Stadium, we've improved.'



Brands Hatch group press and PR manager Maria Bellanca says: 'We measure

our success on whether the boxes are full. For large meetings, such as

the World Superbikes, we have to use temporary buildings because the

demand is so high. We can cater for any number of guests in these

modular buildings whether as a mixed facility or exclusive.'



Success is often measured by the amount of repeat business. 'We measure

the success of our corporate boxes by the number of renewals and revenue

generated,' says Donington Park corporate sales manager Julia Bates. 'We

have 150 permanent hospitality suites catering for 3,000 people, the

majority of which are let on an annual basis.'



At Doncaster Racecourse much of the hospitality is booked for its

four-day St Leger festival in September. The operator says the event

attracts a lot of business as there aren't many other major sporting

events in the UK in that month.



'The Leger represents 70% of our annual turnover,' says Doncaster

Racecourse hospitality manager John Walker. 'By the following January we

find that around 50% of our hospitality facilities have been booked up

for the next one. From our point of view we judge success by the levels

of repeat business.'



As the St Leger is Doncaster's biggest event, the racecourse has to work

harder to attract clients to other meetings during the rest of the year.

And it faces stiff competition from other tracks.



'We are competing against racecourses such as York which means we have

to work twice as hard with that level of competition,' adds Walker.



Ensuring clients can do business is an essential aspect of corporate

hospitality. It's also vital to make life easy on the day.



'It's all about the entire experience and if we deliver on all aspects

of our promises then our customers will come back to us,' says

Moores.



AVAILABLE FOR HIRE



Bolton Wanderers' Reebok Stadium offers private executive boxes in the

main West Stand and the Nat Lofthouse East stand. The club, which is

hoping to win promotion to the Premiership, has also gone into

partnership with De Vere Hotels. The four-star hotel is integrated into

the stadium with some rooms offering a view of the pitch.



- Tel: 01204 673750



Donington Park facilities include the Paddock Suite, which can cater for

up to 400. It can also build temporary accommodation to take on

'thousands' more guests. It has teamed up with FMC Caterers to offer

buffets or sit-down dinners. The track says a flexible approach is the

key to providing successful entertainment.



- Tel: 01332 810048



The John Foulston Centre at Brands Hatch holds up to 400 who can all

watch the event from a roof-top balcony. The circuit lies in a natural

bowl so guests can watch nearly all the action. A designated lunch break

and drinking time after the races gives plenty of opportunities for

business to be discussed.



- Tel: 01474 872331



A winning post double-decker marquee was a huge success at last year's

St Leger festival and was sold out for three of the four days. Doncaster

Racecourse can accommodate any size of private party from 20 upwards.

Rooms at the venue include the Banqueting, Classic, Ormonde and

Yorkshire suites.



- Tel: 01302 365699.




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