Guest Blog: Serving tennis fans to Wimbledon Village – Michael Hamilton-Brown, StreetPR

Surprisingly not all towns benefit economically from nearby major events, says StreetPR Client Manager Michael Hamilton-Brown, who suggests a great way adjacent locations can help maximise the attention of visiting crowds.

Major sporting, music and cultural events have got so big and so corporate these days that pretty much every element is totally controlled.

From one point of view (that of the organisers and the big corporate sponsors who have paid a fortune to be there) it’s understandable – it’s this kind of sponsorship that supports these events.

But spare a thought for the local businesses that surround mega-venues like Wembley, other big football stadiums, the O2 Arena and Wimbledon.

Often, local shops, bars and restaurants suffer all the negatives of having a massive event on their doorstep (like traffic, litter and people throwing up after overdosing on strawberries and cream) but very few of the positives. All the organisers’ and sponsors’ efforts tend to be focused on keeping event-goers’ cash and credit cards in their pockets until they get through the doors, and then relieving them of it as quickly as they can.

So Wimbledon Village, which is a beautiful area full of quirky shops and great places to eat and drink, hasn’t traditionally seen much economic benefit from having the world’s best-known tennis tournament on its doorstep. Yet it has just been ranked sixth in a list of Britain’s Top 10 Retail Locations!

According to Daniela Horton, whose job it is to promote Wimbledon Village on behalf of the Wimbledon Village Business Association, the reason tennis fans don’t make it into town is partly down to an accident of geography.

Tennis lovers heading for the Wimbledon Championships get off the District Line tube at Southfields, because it’s closer to the All England Lawn Tennis Club grounds where the event is held. They then walk up the hill to the venue. When they leave, they usually just retrace their steps. As Wimbledon Village is located on the opposite side of the tennis club to the station, they don’t tend to pay a visit.

And that’s why, if you’d attended this year’s Championships, you would have found people strategically located on the route between Southfields and the club with big sandwich boards extolling the virtues of the shopping and leisure facilities of Wimbledon Village closeby.

Horton explained they had to be very careful where they stood and what they said, as there are very strict rules on what non-sponsors are allowed to do close to the tennis club. However, she reported they were successful in convincing a number of tennis lovers to sample the delights of Wimbledon Village, increasing footfall in the evenings.

Seeing thousands of people streaming out of the tube and following the signs for the tennis and then going back again is understandably frustrating for local businesses. So using brand ambassadors to try to generate some interest in the areas around a big event is an idea that other locations ‘blessed’ with major venues on their doorsteps might want to explore.

Well-trained, motivated and professional brand ambassadors are surprisingly cost effective and easy to deploy – plus you can bring in as many or as few as you need.

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