The Azalea Group is an integrated marketing and communications agency targeted at the golf, sports and tourism sectors. The organisation has big ambitions which include opening another office in Mainland Europe, and to expand into the sport and luxury arenas. Jamie Ndah caught up with Sean Noble, their Managing Director, to find our more.
LM: How long have you worked in the marketing industry, and when did your journey within the golf marketing and PR sector begin?
SN: I have worked in golf-related marketing roles for 15 years, having previously gained sound knowledge in sales and commercial positions. This grounding gave me an invaluable insight into consumer buying behaviour and a powerful understanding of the benefits of relationship marketing. I was able to utilise these various experiences once I moved to Azalea in 2007 to spearhead its PR drive into golf tourism.
LM: What is your personal definition of luxury? What luxurious item could you not live without?
SN: Luxury is having the time to do the things I enjoy in life, and in a way which leaves me – and those around me – feeling special. My luxury items would be my high-spec road bike, which gives me the freedom to explore the beautiful Hampshire countryside, and my passport, which enables me to indulge my passion for travel.
LM: What makes The Azalea Group so special?
SN: We are specialists in making our clients feel special, providing many of Europe’s top golf and lifestyle destinations/resorts with outstanding opportunities for engagement in what is Europe’s most-keenly travelled and golfed market. Attention to detail, personalised service and a daring eye, have been the backbone of our growth over the past five years, a period that has seen us consistently retain existing client business.
LM: Golf trips and holidays has seen a number of significant new hotel openings and brand entries into the marketplace over the past few years. How do you feel this has impacted the hotel scene in general?
SN: It is great news for consumers with more choice of hotels and resorts than ever before, many in the luxury category. This makes our role of creating stand-out engagement for our clients even more important in a congested market.
LM: The Azalea Group has worked and supported some high profile golf charitable events. Can you tell our readers about your association with these charities, and why they are so good for golf?
SN: Azalea organises and promotes a number of B2B and B2C golf events. The event which was most rewarding has to be the Disabled British Open. We launched this a number of years ago and had it televised on Sky Sports. It has been fantastic to witness men, women and juniors overcoming adversity through their passion for the game
LM: What other types of luxurious events does The Azalea Group get involved with?
SN: We organise many client media and industry events in London. Two in recent times were at Urban Golf with Sir Nick Faldo – a very cool ‘golf bunker’ in High St Kensington – and an evening on The Thames using the Silver Sturgeon, one of the most luxurious boats on the river.
LM: What are your top 5 luxurious golf resorts around the world? And Why?
SN: Quinta do Lago (Portugal) epitomises how a resort of 40 years can be remodelled to suit the modern lifestyle traveller. In Spain, La Manga Club really is unique among golf resorts, not only for its three courses, but for the vast array of sports and apres-golf facilities on site. The Italians do luxury brilliantly, and Siciliy is a great upcoming luxury destination worth checking out – Donnafugata Golf & Spa Resort and Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort is a perfect combination for a twin-centre luxury golf trip. Further afield, Legend Golf & Safari Resort in South Africa promises outstanding golf, real game safari and the once in a lifetime thrill of the Extreme 19th, the world’s longest par-three hole, with the first tee only reached by helicopter.
LM: What has been the most lavish golf resort you have played and stayed at?
SN: It has to be Sandy Lane in Barbados. The best course I have played though is the Gary Player course at Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria. It offers breath-taking sea views for every hole.
LM: Away from The Azalea Group, what are your two favourite luxurious destinations in the world? And why?
SN: I love the Caribbean for its relaxed pace of life. The west coast of Barbados is also great, and I was fortunate to eat at The Cliff Restaurant there a couple of years ago. Mauritius is another favourite – Le Touessrok in particular.
LM: Does the Azalea Group have any exciting plans for 2016?
SN: We have two main goals: to open a second office in mainland Europe, and to expand our services wider into the sports and luxury sector.
Interview by Jaime Ndah