Whether you want to stage a show-stopping product launch or be creative with a budget-sized campaign, there are plenty of options to make the most of London’s big year
It’s now or never. The media frenzy about to hit London for the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, means there’s arguably never been a better time to put your company on the map with a product launch, gala or corporate event.
According to director of business and major events at London & Partners, Tracy Halliwell says: “Every bit of land available will have been considered for brand or hospitality activity, from pop-up pavilions to private members’ clubs that rarely open their doors to non-members.”
The grim reality, of course, is that while it’s an unmissable opportunity to get your product or company brand out there, times are tough. Therefore, it’s imperative to get maximum benefit from your venue in terms of publicity and building business. Johnny Roxburgh, founder of events company the Admirable Crichton whose clients range from Bank of America to Jimmy Choo, advises: “If you want kudos internationally, you can get it. But events need to be held in iconic or historic venues. You can pitch a tent along the Serpentine, but it’s got to be instantly recognisable.”
One of the most unusual and versatile locations he’s working with at the moment is Horse Guards Parade, which can accommodate 1,300 people for dinner. “It’s iconic, you can put up a glass tent and you have an amazing historic backdrop behind you. There’s even a link to the Olympics as it’s the venue for volleyball,” says Roxburgh.
For something more off-the-grid, he suggests the Old Vic Tunnels under Waterloo Station, which offer 25,000 sq ft of raw, urban space for uber-trendy entertainment or exhibitions.
Quirky certainly suits the London mood. “A year ago I would have said corporate events were dead, but companies now want creativity and fun ideas,” says Roxburgh. To that end he rates the Boiler House at Battersea Power Station in gritty south London, where appropriate lighting and dressing can create any mood.
Laura Bayford, managing director of venue co-ordinator Industri Management agrees that Battersea Power Station’s versatility is on-trend. The seven-acre site has hosted such diverse events as space-age film preview parties and green motoring festival, EcoVelocity.
“It’s a powerful London landmark that’s not open to the public, so it is a novel experience for people,” says Bayford.
For experiential, look no further than the increasingly arty, regenerated East End of London, home of the Olympic Park. The £7.5m official hospitality venue will comprise a state-of-the-art, three-storey glass atrium catering for 3,000 covers across six restaurants. There will be an emphasis on providing the best of British dishes, with corporate packages offered by Prestige Ticketing from £450 to £4,500 a head.
One venue that is dining out on having the best views of the stadium is Forman’s Fish Island, the hospitality venue attached to salmon-curing factory H Forman & Son. Two existing hospitality spaces seating 100 guests and 480 respectively are already hosting fashion shows and launches, but owner Lance Forman has earmarked 5,500 sq metres of spare land for a temporary hospitality facility that could host up to 8,000 guests. One off-the-wall idea being mooted is to construct a giant sofa-shaped building in front of a massive screen as a nod to the way most people around the world will be watching the Olympics. The temporary “sofa” will offer 7,000 sq metres of hospitality suites and concert space in the run-up to July. Forman speculates that it could also attract a single multinational wanting to take the whole site during the Games.
“Before the Olympic Park started to take shape, this area was a wasteland and people were looking at West End venues. Now they want to be here,” says Forman.
Back in town, organisers on a tighter budget can create a splash by using a historic London site in a famous setting. Almost every tourist hotspot is up for grabs, from the Science Museum, which can host 2,000 people, to the Royal Albert Hall which holds 500, to a private capsule for 25 guests on board the London Eye.
“Stunning events can be hosted without the need for excessive venue dressing, significantly reducing the cost,” says Moya Maxwell, head of commercial programming at the Royal Opera House and acting chairman of Unique Venues of London.
Envisage, for instance, the great PR opportunities that Kensington Palace, which seats up to 2,000, provides as a regal backdrop for international product launches. Or the British Museum, where there are eight rooms for hire the largest of which is the sleek BP Lecture Theatre, seating up to 323 people and including four translation booths.
Many venues insist that to stay competitive, they won’t be putting prices up for 2012. At Lord’s cricket ground, which is hosting the Olympic archery fixture, marketing manager Elly Ford says: “We’ll add value in terms of better service and being flexible about how the client wants to design an event.”
The USP of holding an event at Lord’s is that it opens the door to the prestigious members-only facilities. Its venues include the eighteenth century Pavilion which houses the Long Room, famous in world cricket as every great player has walked through it to get onto the pitch.
One fresh face on the events circuit is luxury store Harrods. The newly created bespoke events department is now hosting quintessentially British events including breakfast packages and behind-the-scenes tours. It’s also hosting wine tastings for up to 250 people in the wine shop and opening up the world- famous tiled food halls after hours.
Roxburgh at the Admirable Crichton sums it up: “It’s time to reassess what’s British and make it seem different and new.”
By Rosalind Mullen