How the ASB Classic became a commercial success

The appearance of three of the world's top players has been billed as the strongest field of any sporting event ever held in New Zealand.

Three of the world's top women tennis players, Caroline Wozniacki and sisters Serena and Venus Williams, are in Auckland preparing for the ASB Classic tournament, which starts on Monday.

Their appearance has been billed as perhaps the strongest field of any sporting event ever held in New Zealand.

It’s also been said the tournament makes more money in a week than the New Zealand Warriors make in a year.

The man behind the event and one of the reasons for the success of the tournament is Karl Budge, who has become something of a cult figure in New Zealand tennis circles.

Under his watch the ASB Classic has grown to be a commercial success story, which is great for the sport and the fans.

"It’s been a great blast of unprecedented growth over the past five years,” Mr Budge tells NBR Radio’s Andrew Patterson.

“To be in a position of real financial stability and a scenario where the sold-out signs are dusted off on a regular basis and the field just keep getting stronger is fantastic.”

So how much money does the ASB Classic make now?

Mr Budge remains coy, simply saying it’s in the seven figures. 

“We’re going pretty well in that sense that we had a very strong commercial year last year … outside of rugby there wouldn’t be too many sports that would compete with the commercial year that we had.”

As a not-for-profit organisation, all profits go back into grass roots sports “ultimately to make sure people are getting active.”

The secret to commercial success has been turning a very good tennis tournament into a quality entertainment and hospitality event.

Mr Budge says he learned from the Australian Open.

“[Auckland] is a city full of foodies and it wasn’t good enough to go on serving hotdogs and chips at an event like this, so bringing in the best of New Zealand’s restaurants was something we really wanted to bring to life.”

To listen to the full interview click the special feature audio tab above.

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