Brian Learst of QuintEvents on creating a hospitality experience

QuintEvents creates official VIP hospitality packages for some of the most prestigious events in the US and beyond. Chief executive Brian Learst talks about putting together some unique experiences.

QuintEvents creates official VIP hospitality packages for some of the most prestigious events in the US and beyond. Chief executive Brian Learst talks about putting together some unique experiences.

Could you introduce us to QuintEvents and what it is that you do?

QuintEvents is a company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we’re in the event business. Basically, what we do is that we provide official travel package programming, including tickets hospitality, for various major sporting events and cultural events. With the key word being official: the difference between us and most other event companies is that we have direct relationships with the event organiser that we work with so that all of our assets are coming directly from the event, not from the secondary market. So it’s things like, we’re official with the NFL [National Football League], so we do the Super Bowl, the three International Series games over in London, the Pro Bowl, the draft, all the league-wide events. We’re official with the NBA [National Basketball Association], so we do the All-Star Game and the draft, and Summer League with them. Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby; the Ultimate Fighting Championship – UFC – pay-per-view events; the College Football Playoff National Championship game here in the US; and a number of others.

 

How do you go about putting those partnerships together?

Well, what we do is we work with the organising body to figure out what tickets are available from them. We typically have pre-event or post-event parties, right in the stadium or the arena where the event is taking place, that all of our guests have access to, so we work with the organising body to secure that space. Then typically in the States most events have official caterers, and we work with those caterers to provide the menu and the food and beverage, and so forth. Then we bring in celebrity athletes and other celebrities to the event as well. And then we package that with hotels, ground transportation, the air transportation into the event, and coordinate everything from beginning to end for the client so they only have to worry about showing up.

 

When you’re organising events like the Breeders' Cup on the one hand, and NFL and UFC events on the other, is there a range of experience in terms of putting these packages together or what you can offer your clients?

There are differences in the events and in what experiences we can provide. To give you an example of some of the differences, at the Kentucky Derby we have the ability to take people into the paddock when the horses are being walked around before the race, so that’s an experience that they can already get through our programme; or for example, with the NFL at the Super Bowl, we can actually get the people on the field immediately after the game for the trophy celebration, which is something that nobody else can do either. So those types of behind the scenes access, obviously with each event it’s different. There are other things like at the Derby being able to get people back into the stable areas to see the horses more close up than they would otherwise. There are all sorts of benefits that we can do.

What’s your target customer if you’re talking about these kind of experiences?

It’s typically a corporate group, that would probably be the primary one. But we sell a lot to individuals. There are a lot of either small company owners who want to take clients, or their top sales people or top performers, or we deal with a lot of wealthy individuals who want an upgrade or an enhanced experience that they can’t get elsewhere.

Is there any difference for you operationally between running that kind of experience and a typical matchday or even VIP package?

Every client is different; every client has different needs. So our goal is to customise and tailor the experience to what the client wants so they walk away with that ‘wow’ factor and really feel like they got something special. Different clients have different needs. Some clients might want to sit on the 50-yard at the Super Bowl but aren’t as concerned about the quality of the hotel. Others may want just the opposite: they’re not as concerned about where they’re seated but they want the best hotels. Certain clients may want to meet certain athletes or have certain experiences where they get introduced to people, that type of thing. So we try to customise it to meet what their expectations and their goals are for the event, and that’s what sets us apart, I think – that we’re able to do that because of the official licences that we hold with different properties.

 

How much do you work with the event organisers in each case to make these things happen?

Constantly. We spend a great deal of time with the event organiser to make sure that everything’s delivered as planned for each client, so it’s ongoing. We talk to the organisers that we’re working with on a regular basis – generally on a weekly basis but in many cases, many times a day as we get closer to the event.

 

You’ve got a partnership in place with this year’s Formula One Grand Prix in Mexico City, which is the first one there since 1992. How do you work on an event like that where there isn’t a recent precedent?

We’ve been working with the track promoter for quite a long time – well over a year – and have been to Mexico numerous times to work with them as the construction continues and the different seating areas are defined, and so forth, to add more products throughout the course of the year as we know what we’re able to do as the track develops. Obviously, with the track being totally redone, and new grandstands being added, and the brand new paddock being built, there’s a lot to consider as you go through it. It’s a day-by-day assessment. As soon as we’re ready with a certain product, we’ll release it and go off to the market with it.

 

What are some of your targets for the next few years? What are some of the things you’d like to do in the future?

Well, we’re continuing to grow the properties that we have. All of the programmes are doing very well from that standpoint, so we continue to add new products in each one of the various events. And I don’t want to give any secrets away, so to speak, but we continue to look at new events that are interested in providing an upgraded VIP experience. Last year we added the Barrett-Jackson auto auction, which is very high-end – the premier auto auction in the United States. We added a VIP experience for them and this year we’ll not only do the Scotsdale event but we’ll be doing the same thing at the Las Vegas event that they hold. That’s an example of a new product, a new series that we’re working on. We’re also working on just finishing up an agreement right now with the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, which is the largest boat show in the world for high-end yachts, and we’re working on a VIP experience for them right now.

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