In Person: Gary Knight - Manager, global events, Land Rover

When, after 30 years with the same company, a man still talks about his job with the kind of animated gusto more associated with kids' TV presenters, you know that somewhere along the line things have gone very right. Land Rover's Gary Knight is clearly at ease with his life's calling, and has been since 1976.

"I joined the organisation straight from school," he recalls, grinning.

"In itself, I feel that's quite an achievement. It wasn't really planned - I lived eight miles from the plant, applied to do a five-year business-technician apprenticeship, and that was it - the best thing that's ever happened to me."

The move into live events came in 1981, and ten job titles later the self-proclaimed "through-and-through Brummie" could probably write a book on the role of live events in the automotive industry. It would make for a rollicking read. "It's very difficult to put into words just how much I enjoy it - I love getting up in the morning," he testifies. "I'm in at 7.15 every day until roughly the same time in the evening. No two days are ever the same, that's the beauty of it."

His passion is clearly genuine - the fact that he's missed only one Birmingham City game, home and away, in three years, is testament to his all-or-nothing nature - and he's clear on how he sees the industry. "Events in days gone by were seen as a bit of a jolly, an excuse to have a laugh," he says.

"Now, they have to deliver for both the business and the brand. People come to us with ideas on the back of a fag packet sometimes and you have to turn it into a complete holistic experience. You have to educate, involve, entertain and get the aesthetics right - if you don't hit all four you've failed."

Knight stresses freely the importance of events retaining their fun, but there's bad news for the industry's grape aficionados. "If people come away just saying, 'Ah that wine was fantastic', then I'm not doing my job," he says. "There has to be a thread running through an event and you have to show return on investment. Everything we do and touch has to reflect what the brand's doing, even down to the crockery and glassware. It's no use 90 per cent of the experience being 21st century and the rest being where we were before."

He points to last year's ITMA award-winning Discovery 3 launch in Stockholm and a 2001 Range Rover event in Brescia as the moments that have generated most pride. The importance of finding a new and exciting destination for each event is something he stresses at length, outlining strict "location criteria" that keep Land Rover a few revs ahead of the competition.

"The agency relationship is also vital, and finding the right one takes time," he continues. "You need someone that challenges your ideas - all too often agencies just respond to what the client is asking, but the client isn't always right. I actually want them to say 'I think you're wrong', but you don't get that very often."

In a business world that is reluctant to stand still, illustrated perfectly by Land Rover's myriad parent companies over the years, Gary's adherence to the brand is something rare. Surely though, such a dedicated work ethic must play havoc with his home life? Far from it. "My wife, who I absolutely adore, is in the same business," he says. "She's head of logistics at Thomas Hannah Associates, so there's a definite understanding there. One or the other of us is always away somewhere."

Balancing home life with work commitments is a life's labour for most of us, so Gary is emphatic proof that for all the industry's ups and downs, one simple thing matters above all else: job satisfaction. "My niche is events and exhibitions. I want to better myself in that field to make myself a true expert. I wouldn't want to push for the MD's position ... I just love what I do."

GARY ON ...

... his obsession

I'm an absolutely passionate Birmingham City fan. I saw a 0-0 draw with Hull when I was six, and it's been in the blood ever since. People spend their money on all sorts - I spend mine on my football. I actually hopped back from Stockholm for a game during the Discovery launch.

... his dream holiday

My wife and I love the Caribbean. We go every year. We love the people, the climate, the history, the fact that you can explore small islands, dive into the culture and just chill.

... his funniest moment

It was a few years ago, and City were playing Southend away in the Cup. My mate, his son and I all met up and we travelled down. It wasn't until we got to the stadium that we realised we were a week early.

... who he'd have a pint with

Sir Michael Edwards, for what he did for the automotive industry, standing up to trade unions. Likewise, Maggie Thatcher transformed the nation - I was mortified when she stood down. Muhammad Ali stands out for me too - what an advocate, what a showman.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

2005-present: manager, global events, exhibitions and promotions, Land

Rover

2002-2005: manager, global dealer/corporate events, Jaguar and Land

Rover

1985-1998: project manager, conferences and events, Austin Rover/Rover

Cars

1981-1983: exhibitions administrator, British Leyland

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Register now
Already registered?
Sign in
'Four-poster bed, copper bath and gorgeous furnishings': a night at Down Hall Hotel

'Four-poster bed, copper bath and gorgeous furnishings': a night at Down Hall Hotel

C&IT's associate editor reviews a country house hotel dating back to 1322 with Italianate architecture and luxury interiors.

The charity ball with a projection-mapped 'Wheel of Fortune'

The charity ball with a projection-mapped 'Wheel of Fortune'

Country estate Alrewas Hayes hosted the 25th anniversary of the Hope and Homes for Children fundraiser.

2020's most popular incentive destinations

2020's most popular incentive destinations

In our State of the Industry: Incentives report, we look at the top countries and cities over the past year.

Cancellations and deferrals: How global agencies are reacting to coronavirus

Cancellations and deferrals: How global agencies are reacting to coronavirus

As IBTM APAC gets postponed, agencies tell C&IT what they are doing to meet the challenges posed by the outbreak.

IBTM APAC 2020 postponed over coronavirus

IBTM APAC 2020 postponed over coronavirus

Organisers have postponed the inaugural IBTM Asia Pacific due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

How are incentive budgets changing in 2020?

How are incentive budgets changing in 2020?

Budgets increases come despite fears over economic uncertainty, according to the State of the Industry 2020: Incentives report.

MGM Resorts takes action over massive data hack

MGM Resorts takes action over massive data hack

More than 10.6million guests have had their data leaked after the cyber attack, according to reports.

APAC planners still 'use manual processes' for most of their tasks

APAC planners still 'use manual processes' for most of their tasks

Australian and New Zealander event planners need a more technology-driven approach, according to new research by Cvent.

DICE launched to improve diversity at conferences and events

DICE launched to improve diversity at conferences and events

New charter aims to eliminate 'manels' and offers guidelines for making events more diverse, on and off stage.

Are experiential food and drink incentives on the rise?

Are experiential food and drink incentives on the rise?

Planners reveal what food and drink experiences clients are increasingly requesting, in the C&IT State of the Industry: Incentives report.

LATEST JOBS