Under the covers: Lancs' new cricket hotel

23 Jul 2018

By: Sport Industry Group

Justin Hopwood, sales and marketing director at Lancashire Cricket Club talks to the Sport Industry Group about his role at the Club and Emirates Old Trafford, ideas around The Hilton Garden Inn Manchester Old Trafford and being shortlisted for the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018

Tell us about your role at the club?

I’m responsible for all revenue generation, marketing and branding across all parts of Lancashire Cricket Club and Emirates Old Trafford. That includes cricket sales, sponsorships, partnerships and premium ticketing, as well as hospitality, retail, memberships and our events business. This also includes the premium ticketing for our music concerts, which we have from time to time, and the integration across the wider venue of our new Hilton Garden inn Manchester Old Trafford  Hotel, which opened at the end of last year.

I am also on the Board for the newly formed Lancashire Cricket Foundation, which looks at developing cricket across the whole of the North West, via a variety of different projects.

Could you give us a rundown of what you expect on match days?

A good example of a matchday would be the recent England vs Australia ODI match in June, which was a huge opportunity for us.

It’s all about the finer details and making sure that every eventuality is tested and prepared for. Personally, I’ll do a final informal check of the venue in terms of hospitality for partners and guests, to make sure everything is perfect. It’s important for our teams to be happy and ready, ensuring that everyone can get the most out of their experience with us.

In addition to clients attending, we also host key people who can include our partners, stakeholders from the game and region and prospective clients, as it’s a superb opportunity to present the Club, the venue and our people at our best.

How does Hilton fit into your wider sponsorship strategy and how has the strategy developed in recent years?

First and foremost, we are so proud of the organisations and brands that we work with at Emirates Old Trafford - Hilton is alongside the likes of our key partners including Emirates, Heineken, UA92, Thomas Cook Sport and others.

The hotel and the £15m development was progressed to present an integrated venue that provided us with further opportunity to grow revenues. We operate the hotel as a franchise, and run the entire venue in-house. We have a vision to be the best cricket club in the world, and to achieve this we need to have a growing and sustainable business model, that provides the revenues and income required to allow the game of cricket, whether it be at grassroots or at elite level, to flourish.

In the past few years, cricket hasn’t been a business which generated as high a level of revenue like some other sports, such as Premier League football. What we have to do is create a combined business model that sees us generate our own revenue to reinvest in the game – whether that be on the pitch from an elite and academy perspective, or from a participation and growth perspective across the entire region.

The overall partnership strategy has seen us work more closely with fewer organisations, and ensure that those we partner with align with our vision and core values, and us with theirs, to ensure more inclusion activations that have more impact. This has seen partnership revenue grow alongside more measured and impactful sponsorships and campaigns. It’s hugely important that we combine both the international and domestic cricket offering at the venue, with the data, social media and reach opportunity, as well as our desire and responsibility to grow the game in the region, through our 330-strong affiliated club network and the tens of thousands of households who play cricket.

We had an integrated approach with Hilton for the opening of the hotel last year, and we felt it was hugely important that we continue that relationship longer term as well. They have been very supportive and have invested in additional partnership activity that supports their wider sponsorship strategy and commercial approach to the hotel and venue as a whole.

The Hilton Garden Inn Emirates Old Trafford represents a fairly unique opportunity for hospitality at cricket matches [being in the stadium] – how do you best go about utilising that most effectively?

The hotel now completes Emirates Old Trafford in terms of becoming an integrated venue for both sporting and cricket events, as well as non-cricket events.

Outside of cricket, the main commercial area is conferences and events, with us now offering a market-leading residential conference opportunity. This is supported by the traditional corporate hotel market, and then the wider leisure market at weekends and during holidays. Manchester is a superb city with so much to do, we’re next to the metro stop, we have more than 800 car parking spaces and we have Manchester United opposite us, which all provide opportunities for us.

The show-case events that provide so much interest and colour are clearly our cricket fixtures, when guests can wake up on the morning of the game and see the wicket and outfield ahead of the first ball being bowled, and then enjoy the entire game, whether it be from their balcony, or as a group in one of our rooms that become executive suites on matchdays.

Our live TV games put so many eyes on Emirates Old Trafford, whether it is from the TV or people actually being in the sold-out stadium, commentating or recording and telling our story, all of which puts us on the map and at the forefront of people’s minds.

Hilton Garden Inn’s Best Beds in the House was shortlisted for Event or Competition Sponsorship of the Year in association with CSM Live at the BT Sport Industry Awards 2018 – what advice would you offer to rights holders to effectively activate with your sponsors?

We discussed the vision, the venue and the specific activation opportunities, which included an area of the ground that a partner could build and deliver a very unique and bespoke activation, which would gather interest and content across the cricket season. Both of us wanted to be as creative and engaging as possible, and we spoke about each other’s objectives.

Those objectives would create a talking point and an experience that’s very different. The position of the Hilton Garden Hotel is unique and creates an experience that fans can enjoy talking about afterwards - whether it be through social media, marketing, or sponsorship.  

We listened to each other to see what both parties wanted to achieve and Hilton very much led the creative, resulting in quite a unique offering - four double beds raised on a terrace, with fans enjoying room-service to their beds, whilst watching top-level cricket.  This was supported by social media, customer-loyalty and other initiatives. What we got was a very special activation, which allowed our major events to come to life massively on TV and through social media, depicting how to get the best view of the game.

We want to meet partner’s objectives and deliver what they want, whilst being flexible, creative and unrestricted in what we can all achieve together. We wanted to be open to how we could activate something different, and our aim is to work with organisations who are similar to us and have a shared vision of the Club and similar core values.