It’s a rotten job, but Ashley Ellis, who manages the vending sector for Carabao Energy Drink, is the ‘someone’ who has to host a selection of vending’s finest to top-class hospitality at the Carabao Cup Final.
‘You often come across footy fans in vending, so to be able to offer them tickets to important games is a privilege’, he says, ‘and I‘m a massive football fan, so it’s a real pleasure on every level.’
Carabao Cup Final Day is an early start for Ash. ‘The final was a hot ticket this year’, he says, ‘with two big clubs that each have huge fan bases.’ As he gets off his train, he’s met by a seething sea of black-and-white clad Newcastle United supporters. ‘The place was mobbed with Geordies’, he says. The tube from Waterloo to Wembley resounded to enthusiastic renditions of ‘The Blaydon Races’ and ‘Who’s That Team We Call United’. ‘I’m not kidding, the guy sitting next to me was wearing an old-school Newcastle goalie shirt and he was drinking a bottle of Carabao. I thought, ‘this is going to be a good day’. However, it was only when he left the tube that the full sense of the occasion struck him.
‘When you leave Wembley Park station, you’re high up, and as you walk down the steps, the stadium is right in front of you in all its glory and the route to the ground is rammed with people wearing their club colours. It’s an impressive sight.’ For Ash, it was about to get better. ‘As I walked to the ground, our branding was everywhere, on every lamppost on Wembley Way, and digitally on the side of the stadium itself. It’s a source of great pride to see our brand up in lights. I never get bored of that.’
This is our Carabao’s sixth season as title sponsors of the English Football League’s knock-out competition. The company has discovered that tickets to football matches are a great way to reward their customers…
This time around, Ash hosted a hospitality table with guests from ARN, Morvend and Apple Vending. Elsewhere in the stadium, some fifty additional vending customers enjoyed the game, courtesy of Carabao Energy Drink.
‘When my guests arrived, we headed into the Great Hall for a welcome glass of champagne, in the company of the respective club mascots, Fred the Red and Monty the Magpie. Then we were served a three-course lunch and I have to hand it to Wembley: the food and the table service were fantastic, as usual.’
Jim White, the high-profile football journalist currently raising the ratings at TalkSport was the Big Name host and there was even ‘a wandering band’, taking their music to each table in turn. The sense of occasion was palpable.
With fifteen minutes to go before kick-off, Ash and his party took their VIP seats. In a hard-fought game, the Reds overcame the Black & Whites and the party – some of whom were, let’s say, rather crestfallen – retraced their steps to The Great Hall, for a pie and a pint prior to the long journeys home. ‘Our guests had a great time and left with a match programme and a bottle of Carabao for the trip’, Ash says. I’m not complaining, you understand, but it’s a long day in Wembley hospitality, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s great fun. In some ways it’s like going to a wedding…’
Which is not a bad analogy: Carabao’s partnership with football is, after all, a marriage made in Heaven.
- Have your photo taken with The Carabao Cup on Stand 11 at Vendex in Milton Keynes
- Carabao Energy Drinks are available in a variety fruity flavours in 500ml bottles and 330ml cans. Available to purchase at ARN.
- The 2023/24 competition starts in August and once again, tickets will be available for vending customers. Get in touch with Ash or ARN for more details.
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