One of the key benefits of sponsorship, in addition to the extra revenue, is an enhanced product in terms of service. For the Royal Albert Hall, a building that is steeped in tradition but is also a charity which receives no government or public funding, both benefits become equally important.
We are never going to be one of those venues with a title sponsor's name above the door or flashing boards around the auditorium. The introduction however of a strategic sponsorship programme five years ago has meant we have been able to find partners who share our view of how customers' expectations should be met and to work with them to integrate elements of our respective brands. This is a hugely important first step in creating these types of partnerships. When I started at the Royal Albert Hall we had two relationships and now we have ten times that number, with each of them bringing not only valuable funds to the charity but, as importantly, improvements to the customer experience which encourages audiences to buy tickets and artists to choose to perform here in an increasingly competitive entertainment environment. This two fold approach is something that I strongly believe has been key to our success so far.
Our most recent collaboration is with Berry Bros. & Rudd, Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant. The partnership has transformed an underground bar into an incredible new space that offers a high-end experience with a great selection of wines, spirits, cocktails and snacks. It's the seventh space in the last four years we've completely refurbished with the help of a commercial partner and each of them offers a different experience to our audience and an opportunity for them to extend the enjoyment of their visit beyond the appreciation of the performance.
Taking the time to identify brands who match our own ambitions and then create long-term partnerships is an invaluable part of what I believe has been our success in consistently improving the Royal Albert Hall experience in recent years. The benefits are mutual; we give our partners some great brand exposure and have significantly increased sales in every case, along with an association with an iconic British venue with an increasingly diverse and popular show calendar, in the main auditorium as well as in smaller spaces around the Hall.
Sponsorship is a vital element of my role as I need to ensure the Hall, 142 years after we opened, has the funds to fulfil the ambition of our founder, Prince Albert, maintaining this incredible Grade One listed building for the nation to enjoy and help promote the appreciation and understanding of the arts and sciences, these days through our educational work with over 100,000 children each year.
The stage of the Royal Albert Hall, whether full of school children or global superstars, has always been a place which has generated incredible performances and incredible memories. The rest of the customer experience has a lot to live up to as a result and finding the right partners to help us get it right is, for us at any rate, the true power of sponsorship.