When Ralph Findlay hops onto his motorbike and heads down to Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club it is very much a case of mixing business with pleasure.
Because Ralph is the CEO of the UK’s leading independent and pub retailing business in Wolverhampton-based Marston’s PLC, also one of the valued and long-standing sponsors of the club.
Well strictly speaking it is not mixing business with pleasure, as when Ralph is at WLTSC it is not so much about work but more enjoying his ‘down time’ be it by going through a workout in the gym or taking part in one of the Energize classes.
“It is a place where I can put other things aside and concentrate on nothing else apart from what I actually doing when I am here,” Ralph explains.
“And when you look at the environment, when you come to the club and see the setting it is in, it is just fantastic.”
That isn’t to say Ralph is not extremely pleased and proud with the long-standing commercial partnership between WLTSC and Marston’s, or Banks’s as it was previously known.
It is an alliance that has been in place for some two decades, a similar time to which Ralph has been a member of the club, joining as he did around the time of starting at Marston’s back in 1996.
“I have been a member at WLTSC for the best part of 20 years,” he explains.
“It all stems back to when we first moved to Tettenhall with two young children – for them it was the perfect place to come and learn how to play tennis.
“It also enabled us to play tennis and use the gym and whereas it is my wife who plays more tennis than me now, I am still a regular in the gym.
“Our children are now in their 20s but when they were younger it was fantastic for them to come and have some freedom and take advantage of some excellent coaching.
“The coaching programme offers the opportunity for people to play to a really high level, or just be highly enthusiastic amateurs enjoying playing sport.
“When we had a family membership our children both really enjoyed it, and we still do.”
Now it is Marston’s who have taken up the offer of a Corporate Membership, an initiative run by WLTSC offering a discount to workers from companies with five or more members.
And the relationship also goes one stage further with the Gold sponsorship agreement in place.
“The sponsorship link-up has been going a good few years which we are very happy with,” Ralph adds.
“We like being able to showcase our brand in premium locations and this is a place, and a club, which is a great place to do that.
“It makes a lot of sense from a commercial point of view for both brand representations, and it is nice that we are both local businesses, based in Wolverhampton.
“The club sell our beers here, and the local people know the brands even if they are from a national beer portfolio, and it is a really good fit.
“It is important for us when a club like this one sees value in teaming up with another local business.
“Of course it needs to work for the club on a commercial basis but if we get the terms right and the engagement right, there is a lot to be said for it.
“With the corporate membership those who work at Marston’s can enjoy a discount with their fees, and there is a lot of competition on this market these days, particularly with gym memberships.
“We have a good few employees who are members here now, and it is something which works well.”
On top of that commercial relationship, Marston’s are also keen to engage with WLTSC members on the community side, and Ralph, himself a keen cyclist, was a member of the sizeable team which rode to Aberdovey last month raising funds for Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“One of the aspects that we enjoy from a local engagement point of view is that we are able to get involved in things that the club are supporting,” Ralph explains.
“Aberdovey was a great example, where I was not the only person from Marston’s who took part.
“Teaming up with the members when they are involved in community activities is a real positive for us, and we are also a part sponsor of the Lord Bilston Big Challenge which has been put together by Brendon Turner.
“There are a lot of benefits from our involvement with the club beyond the obvious commercial relationships.
“As a business we are keen to support all sorts of community initiatives, and we are sponsoring the 10k event at this year’s Carvers Half Marathon.
“I think it is important to get involved and support these sorts of activities wherever possible.
“And what I would say to other businesses that if they were looking at engaging with a club or getting involved in some sort of sponsorship, then WLTSC is a great place to do that.
“There is such a broad membership base down here, and there are always opportunities for some really good networking.”
*Is your business interested in exploring the idea of Corporate Membership at WLTSC and all the benefits it could bring? Or any sponsorship opportunities? Contact Operations Manager Marc Hughes via (01902) 755265.
Tomorrow we bring an interview with another Marston’s employee and long-term WLTSC member – squash supremo Alan Griffiths!