Is your office a bit deserted, but no one seems to be sick? It’s that time of the year again in corporate land: the Australian Open is on. Two weeks of a yellow ball popping back and forth and volleying spectator necks, and even more importantly more marketers, two weeks of taking clients, customers and journalists out in the name of ‘relationship building’.

Marketing magazine asked our resident PR warrior Trevor Young on why the Australian Open corporate pass is so popular. 

Marketing Magazine: What kind of people should companies be handing out corporate passes to? Journalists? Investors? 

Trevor Young: You take a whole range of people that are important to your business. It’s not just a PR trick. If it’s a big company, it’ll come through corporate or public affairs. Sales and marketing do it often as well. If you’re a sponsor of a grand prix, you’ll invite all sorts of people. Suppliers, customers, key accounts, staff or whatever, and probably journalists you get on well with, and it’s part of the relationship building process. A lot of people see it as a junket, I don’t think people in PR see it as that.

MM: Why are events like the Australian Open so popular with business people?

TY: You might deal with media a lot during the year, but not very often do you have that chance to get a bit more social. Everyone does it differently. Sometimes you take people you’ve got existing relationships with, it’s a start of the year thing. You say thanks for last year, talk about the next year. But it’s all based on building mutual relationships and trust with people. When you go to the tennis, often you really don’t talk much about work. It’s sometimes better than doing a lunch, it’s just a little more laid back. It’s really about getting to know people. Journalists need contacts, they need to know people in certain companies. So PR matches clients with journalists that will be important to them over the year.

MM: Is inviting someone to the Australian Open ever a reward?

TY: The corporate hospitality is really the reward, if you’ve had a really good customer over a long period of time, taking them to the tennis is often as a thank you. It’s less about buttering up, more about this is a great opportunity, let’s have a chat, it’s personal.

MM: Are there any real business outcomes from the corporate pass?

TY: Contacts in our business are absolutely extremely important. I think you’ll find the bulk of work, though, is not done of events, the real communication is over a coffee. The tennis and other events are more of a getting-to-know-you process.