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You know those supercar giveaways at the airport you think nobody ever wins? Actually, they do... We meet the man behind it and some of the winners {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

- BOTB CEO William Hindmarch single-handedly setup the car competition business in 1999

- He first operated out of Heathrow terminal 4 with a Porsche he had to wash with bottles of Evian

- Now thousands of people play his spot-the-ball contest online every week for a range of 150 luxury cars

- The reactions of all 52 winners a year are captured on camera and posted to YouTube and Facebook

 

'Do you want to win this Jaguar?'

It's a question you could well have been asked as you lug your suitcase through the terminal building at a UK airport.

But the general suspicion is that nobody is ever handed the keys to the beautiful sports car that the guy at Gatwick is trying to flog you tickets for. But the reality is they do, and we've met some of the fortunate winners.

Best of the Best, or BOTB, was set up by CEO William Hindmarch in 1999, and it's a business concept that's historically been rife with conspiracy, skepticism and very little trust.

But through the powers of social media,  the walls of doubt surrounding the supercar giveaway company have started to crumble. 

'It all started when I secured a spot in Heathrow terminal 4, as it was then, and managed to get hold of a black Porsche,' William explained to This is Money at a recent meeting.

'It arrived on a transporter at 11pm the night before we were due to open but it was covered in that orange sand we sometimes get when there's been a southern wind.

'Somehow I managed to get it into the airport on my own before it dawned on me that it needed to be washed. The only taps were in the toilets but the bucket I had wouldn't fit in the sinks. So I had to spend £20 on bottles of Evian from a machine to clean it with.

'I had about an hour of sleep and went back and started selling. At that moment I thought, am I wasting my time and is anyone ever going to buy a ticket?'

They did, and since then the company has flourished into a 60-employee strong force, though with a little help from YouTube.

That's because the emotional reaction of one new lucky car winner is now documented on the video site for all to see each week, and it's had a monumental effect on the legitimacy of the giveaway competition people have doubted for years.

‘Video has had a massive impact and social media really has become our friend,' William said as he details the first instance the video camera came out.  

‘About three years ago we had a winner in Surrey, which is just up the road from us, so one of my colleagues suggested I borrow a Range Rover – the car they’d won – and take it there to film his reaction. I remember it vividly because it was a freezing cold December day and it was p*ssing with rain. 

'We recorded it and put it on social media. From there, it really took off. It’s great validation for what we do and people love to see the individual's response, so now we're documenting more and more of the winners with their cars.'

How it works

If you're unfamiliar with how the competition works, it is, and always has been, a game of 'spot the ball'.

 As gambling laws dictate, any competition entered where a winner is drawn purely out of chance is illegal, so the process has to have an element of skill - in this case, placing a marker where you think a football was in a photograph before it was cleverly edited out.

You can do this online or at one of the branded booths at the airports and shopping centres BOTB operates in.

But it's not a case of revealing the balls true location after the weekly competition has ended. Not even William knows where it is, as the photographer who snaps the shots at amateur matches in Ireland Photoshops it out.

Instead, it's up to a group of judges to work out where they think the ball is, making the entire concept skill based. This expert panel has to have some credentials, though - that's why it includes up to eight referees and former Arsenal and England legend, Sol Campbell.

Once they've come to agreement on where they think the missing ball is, the location is marked and the entire database of competition entries is overlaid to see which one is closest.

Individuals have to pay a 'ticket' price to enter and place their own markers, with varying costs depending on which of the 150 cars they're playing for. These prices range from anything between £3 and £19 for a range of vehicles from souped-up Abarth 500 city cars to ultra-performance McLarens. 

It's all part of being transparent, William tells us over a coffee at Rockingham Motor Speedway during an event organised for BOTB winners to drive their car around the Northamptonshire circuit. 

'Spot the ball has had a bit of a bad reputation in the past because sometimes the final reveal would show the ball was incidentally in a really obscure location. By having a panel of experts deciding they’ll always choose somewhere sensible within the realms of where people have guessed.

'Win or lose, you can see your results afterwards. We film the judging so you can hear the experts and their debates about where they believe the ball is and everything is overseen by auditors. You can log into your account and compare your marker to the winning selection, too. You can also get back up to 100 per cent of your ticket price if you're really close' - a clever strategy to incentive people to play again, we imagine.

 

If you win, you can take the cash instead

 

If you've entered the competition and the doorbell rings on a Tuesday morning, it's worth getting excited about. The BOTB team turns up at the home or workplace of the winner with a borrowed vehicle from a dealer - it's all part of getting the adrenaline and emotional juices flowing, ripe for the camera to capture the magical moment.

But it can cause a bit of a headache, as William well knows after featuring in the videos himself for some time.

'I appeared in the videos for three years, which was great fun – you don’t know where you’re going, what you’re going to do, who you’re going to meet and it never goes to plan – you really have to react to what happens,' he chuckled.

 

'There have been cases when we knocked on the door and someone said, oh, he’s at work at Pizza Express - so we have to pack everything up and head there instead.'

He's had to pay a visit to the same people more than once on occasion too -  one lucky entrant won a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and a Porsche Cayenne worth a combined £200,000 in back-to-back months last year, and there have been two other instances of double winners since.

While the car used for each reveal isn't the one the winner receives, they do get to order their own new one from scratch. BOTB also covers the first-year cost of servicing and insurance (based on terms and conditions) to encourage winners to experience their vehicles for at least 12 months - which also gives them plenty of time to create more viral content about their success.

'The winner gets a brand new car,' William explained. 'When you enter, you can tick a box to get £10,000 worth of cash to spend on it too – which costs £1.25 with the ticket, although with the discounts you get it’s often less than that.

'On average, people add £3,000 to £4,000 of extras when they order their car. That can be a lot or not very much depending on the model you win and the unused balance is given to them as a cheque.'

But you can have the total value of the car and the £10,000 in extras as cash entirely instead of ordering the vehicle you've played for.

'The cash is a slightly lower amount than the car because we give away the same price we would pay for the vehicle inclusive of the discount we get from the dealer.

‘You get all sorts of different circumstances. Some people say I can pay off the mortgage, which is a sensible choice, and other people take the car and use it forever. Some enjoy it for six months and then sell it. At the moment, 75 to 80 per cent of people take the car.’

 

'We might start giving away up to three cars a week'

As it stands, Best of the Best has become a roaring success, and its performance on the London Stock Exchange has reflected this. 

‘We listed at 63p ten years ago and now they’re at £2 something, so they’ve gone up several hundred per cent - we’ve tried to do well for our shareholders,' William tells us with a grin. 

‘However, there’s still an innate skepticism to what we do. If I get in a taxi and the driver asks me what I do and I tell them I give away cars in airports and online the first question is always, does anyone ever win?

‘We would love to get to the stage where it has become more of a household thing. We want it to be a trusted, fun thing people can do. And we don’t want to over complicate it - maybe the next step would be moving to two or three giveaways a week.'

Whatever the decision, William says there are no plans to retreat from the locations he and his business first set up shop at the turn of the millennium. 

‘The airports are really important to us and they’re what we’re known for. They’re very good brand advertising and people can see and touch the metal, and I think it gives us a solidity so people can see we’re a physical business rather than a online-only operation.'

Back to Homepage 22 Nov 2021