Published: 02 Feb 2015

Venue contracts

In the fifth of a new series of blogs for Exhibition News, Sophie Lilly, NEC Account Director, puts forward the case for long term event agreements

Every organiser we work with has an agenda that’s directly linked to the success of their event. For some, that’s a long term commitment to a venue, for others, it may be a one year contract.

Our NEC exhibitions portfolio will exceed 150 shows in 2014/15, and a significant percentage of those events have made long term commitments.

While there is no right or wrong, long term agreements offer an organiser security around their hall space and date line - critical elements which are often fiercely protected.

Crufts, which is one of the NEC’s flagship shows and takes place annually in March, is a good example of this. The event has been at the NEC since 1991 and uses in excess of 90,000m2, attracting around 160,000 human visitors and 21,000 canine competitors for ‘Best in Show’. The booking security they have benefits their forward planning and organisation, in addition to maximising pre-show promotional opportunities which contribute to the fact that over the years, the show has become synonymous with the venue. Reinforcing its perfect-fit, 2014 saw near-record visitor numbers, up significantly on 2013.

Similarly, Motorcycle Live, which takes place annually at the NEC in November, welcomed 117,018 visitors in 2014, a 10% increase on the previous year.

Arguably, for certain shows like Crufts and Motorcycle Live, they have a natural home at the NEC, whether it’s due to visitor demographics and audience profile, exhibitor perception or accessibility. The same can be said for other shows, at other venues across the country.

Taking a longer term view also gives organisers clarity around their show budget. For some events this is more important than others due to the financial make-up for their event. Skills Show for example - which recently announced that it would take place at the NEC through to 2016 - operates an alternative commercial model to many shows due to its Government funding, so a longer term commitment works well as the organiser knows exactly what they have to work with.

There’s also an element of reassurance when signing off on a contract, and signing up to the venue’s support offering, be it marketing or operational expertise, or exhibitor support. Many shows, while fully capable of outstanding event delivery, depend heavily on the venue team’s expertise in making the most of the promotional opportunities available to them in the lead up to their show.

The growth factor is also crucial. Advanced Engineering moved to the NEC’s largest hall, hall 5, in 2013 and continued to build on its success with a record-breaking 2014 show.

Similarly, the Care Show enjoyed 28% growth in 2014 versus 2013, and October’s National Wedding Show welcomed over 19,000 visitors over three days, a 20% increase on the previous year.

Ultimately, a long term commitment demonstrates an organiser’s confidence in a venue and the future potential for their show, crucial factors which are represented by the fact that 95% of shows stay and grow at the NEC.

Sophie Lilly, Account Director, the NEC