Last time Event saw Nick Becker he was ducking about at one of the year's hottest gigs - Coldplay and The Killers opening the rebranded O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire. He looked completely in his element at the west London venue. Today, in sunny Slough, he seems a little less comfortable, leaning on a large O2 rugby prop that has a picture of England's Paul Sackey on it. As a Kiwi, he probably objects a little, but you'd never know. Becker is affable, engaging and seems ideally suited to what must be one of the most exciting roles in UK events.
How many events do you organise each year?
Our team of six is involved in around 100 events throughout the year, ranging from work with the England rugby team, events at O2 -branded venues and internal events such as board away-days. Including the events our logistics team helps with, we do up to 300 a year.
What type of events work for O2?
Sport and music take up a lot of what we do. The Millennium Dome deal was a huge success, everyone calls it The O2 now. But we don't sit back in the way other companies that sponsor venues might; events are a core part of our marketing. For example, The Enemy have been playing at O2 venues, and we bluetoothed exclusive content to everyone that went, whether they were O2 customers or not. 'O2 Angels' look after people outside and act as advocates for the brand, but we leave them alone when the gigs start; we understand that people are there for the music and not O2.
Have budgets been cut as a result of the credit crunch?
You have to be conscious of the current climate. There hasn't necessarily been budget slashing, but you have to spend wisely, you don't want to be seen as a showy or flashy brand. We have around 20 million customers from every sort of background, and nice touches such as getting you into our lounge at The O2 work well, but we're not a flash car brand - I don't think we have ever done ostentatious.
What is the most successful event you've been involved in at O2?
As a result of our Arsenal sponsorship we get access to the pitch, and we used that for a community event for local kids, working with the club's community guys. Demand for tickets at Arsenal is massive so young fans don't always get to go, and some had never been inside the stadium. The five-a-side day we ran for nine to 13 year-olds, with the chance to meet Arsenal players both past and present, put a huge smile on their faces. It was genuinely rewarding.
What has been your biggest challenge?
At our CEO's leadership conference they wanted to re-create the experience of the O2 Academy venues, but the top 100 executives in the company are a very different audience to the people that we usually produce events for. Academy venues can be a bit spit and sawdust, but we had two local acts from Bristol - where the conference was staged - plus an up-and-coming singer, so guests were soon dancing. It was a great way for them to see what the academies are actually like.
Are you being persuaded to create more sustainable events?
We are committed to making events more sustainable, and in some cases we are finding that it's actually saving us money. For example, backing one conference onto another allows us to leave the kit in place. Also, merchandise can sometimes cost more when bought from sustainable suppliers, yet I hate the idea of cheap stuff that is just chucked away; better to get lower volume, but things that will actually be kept. There's nothing I dislike more than stuff being discarded.
NICK BECKER - IN BRIEF
1998: Promoter at Lightspeed
2004: Account manager for Frukt
2006: Senior event manager at O2