People Behind the Events: the Aegon Championships

You’ve been to one of our hospitality experiences. You’ve walked into a beautifully decorated room, had a lovely hostess take you to your seats. You’ve eaten a meal so delicious it makes your mouth water just thinking about it. You might have noticed a few special details that have made you stop and smile. You’ve watched an incredible sporting event and thoroughly enjoyed your day.

At some points during the day, you might have stopped to consider how it all works – who comes up with the ideas? How exactly do you bring a hospitality package to life?

At Keith Prowse, we’re hugely passionate about giving our guests the best experience possible. In innovating and taking your experience to the next level. And part of that is having an incredible team behind the events.

And we want to introduce them to you.

***

Josh BensonMeet Josh.

Josh is the Head of the Aegon Championships  Sales. Josh  sat down with us to talk about the hospitality packages we offer at this exclusive London-based event.

Tell me a little bit about the hospitality experience at the Aegon Championships?

At the Aegon Championships, there are two very different areas of hospitality. One of them is in the Club House, which is the permanent structure at Queen’s. It’s very traditional, exclusive – they take great pride in what they offer and rightly so.

img-20160614-wa0004The other experience we offer is the temporary/permanent structure, though if you see it on an event day it looks like it’s something that’s there all the time. It’s built on top of the practice courts and offers a range of hospitality to cater for all budgets. It has an outdoor terrace, which is probably the most popular package we offer, as it’s a June tennis tournament. It overlooks the practice courts, so again it has the exclusive, intimate nature of the Club House packages. Whilst it’s modern, it’s in keeping with the whole experience that you get when you turn up at what is historically a private members club in the centre of London

So you said there’s something for everyone – is it just the different budgets that you cater for?

dsc_0988There’s a range of options we cater for. Yes there a package to cater for all budgets. However, the main thing that our events team have tried to do is create different packages for different preferences. One has an intimate, restaurant feel with the food being the main focus. Another facility caters for groups of all sizes, who want access to the terrace but also have an informal dining experience so it’s a bit more flexible. Also, the seating locations in the packages are different. So there’s lots of different things that are taken into account.

So we understand what the priority is for the clients, whether it’s their budget, experience or seating preferences. There isn’t just one differentiating factor and that’s what makes the hospitality so great at the Aegon Championships. We work very closely with the LTA and they trust us; we get a blank canvas to achieve the best of all worlds.

And how does that ‘blank canvas’ get filled?

We try to do something new each year. It’s more on an operational and design side of things; there’s constant feedback going from the LTA to Keith Prowse. We do a big assessment on the day to look at what’s working, what’s not, and what needs improving.bjc_16-5-15_queens-1004

But we’re also always coming up with stuff that we think could be added; it’s a constantly moving image in the sense that, because we can build the structure, all these ideas can be taken into account. We’re not trying to push things into a facility that’s fixed so we have a lot more freedom to be innovative.

It sounds like innovation is quite important. Would you say that the Aegon Championships is a good demonstration of Keith Prowse’s ability to innovate?

Yes, though I don’t think it’s just within the hospitality experience either. The event itself is growing year on year. The LTA have appointed us to do the hospitality, but have also looked at ways they can increase the capacity and develop the seating themselves.

dsc_0571It means that there’s a constant list of things that are changed on their end that we have to adapt to and vice versa. It’s a constant evolution.

The LTA are great in the sense that they trust what we do and back all of the ideas that we have, and each year there’s something new. That relationship is what makes the experience so streamlined.

You keep talking about your relationship with the LTA, it sounds like the partnership is quite close. How important do you think that is when you’re building this kind of experience?

I think the LTA and Keith Prowse work very well together. Each team has its own point of contact, whether it’s sales, marketing or events. We all come together regularly to share ideas and make sure everything is aligned.

It’s been a great success so far and we’re going strong into our fourth year. The event wouldn’t be such a success if we didn’t have such a close relationship.

Going back to the event itself, what do you think sets the Aegon Championships apart from other events?

The event itself is so unique, in that it’s a central London based tennis tournament that appears out of nowhere. It’s so exclusive, it’s so intimate – the fact that it’s now an ATP 500 event is drawing in even more of the world’s top men’s players, which is amazing.

The Aegon Championships also doesn’t have that big stadium feel, you’re not one of tens of thousands, you’re one of a few hundred. It really is exclusive and the hospitality is completely unique. Where else do you get to enjoy a glass of Champagne in the morning and watch Andy Murray warm up. That’s something that’s completely different to the Aegon Championships.

Normally hospitality is seen as a corporate thing to do – would you agree? Or do you think that more and more people are coming for personal enjoyment?

aegon_atp_kp-169I think that there is a mix. There is a significant corporate appearance, especially during the week. But there is also a notable move towards people going on a personal basis. It’s a way to get access to the best seats – sometimes to get access to a sold out event. The packages themselves don’t necessarily have a corporate feel; with the way demand for a mix of corporate and personal packages is developing, the events team make sure that both types of guests are catered for.

Moving on to hospitality as a business tool – how important do you think it is for business to use hospitality in the modern world?

Very. There’s two sides to it, really. If you look it from the event’s side of things, and using the LTA as an example, the money that is generated from hospitality is so important to what they do at grassroots level. The LTA run projects to get more kids to play tennis and I think people don’t realise how significant the hospitality revenue is to funding these projects and initiatives. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to do as much as they can.

From a corporate point of view, nowadays people are always so busy. Their time is so stretched, most of what people do is on the phone or email or in short face-to-face meetings. Having eight hours with a client, where you actually get to know them on a personal level, as well as a business level, helps develop and maintain relationships that can actually make sure business is done effectively and with trust. You could never achieve that from just a phone call

Where do you stand on the cost of hospitality and where do you think it sits in a company’s strategy?

dsc_1006

Sometimes people see the price of a hospitality package and the price of a ticket and wonder why is there so much difference. Other than the obvious differences, such as the quality seat locations, first-class dining experience, there’s also the charitable work the events do at a grassroots level.

Corporate hospitality doesn’t have to be purchased just to complete a business deal. I think that if companies understood what they were contributing to, they would look at it differently. If people realised that, when they buy a package from Keith Prowse, their money is going into these grassroots schemes, then they’ll see that it’s not just a standard corporate package.

Keith Prowse calls itself the market leader in official hospitality, would you agree?

dsc_0001Yes, mainly because we are constantly innovating to make sure that we give people what they want. I think that what makes us leaders comes through the work we do with the events themselves.

We have the contracts. We’re appointed by the events, but it doesn’t stop there. We’re constantly working with the venues to understand how they see their events developing and create packages that aren’t just providing you with food and drinks, but a complete experience.

There’s a constant review of what we can do better. Trust me, the team here are never satisfied with something that’s happened – it can always be made better. When you’ve got people like that behind the scenes the event is always pushed to the next level. And when you have the support of the venues like we do, you have the opportunity to really make changes

Finally in three words how would you describe the Aegon Championships?

Intimate, Exclusive, Growing

find out

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