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Driving your revenues, sustainability and fan experience: #SBS24 – 15th annual TheStadiumBusiness Summit in Manchester on 17-18-19 June


TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2022: Talking points

While TheStadiumBusiness Summit was able to return at the end of last year, this summer’s event was a full-blown return to action with international visitors and speakers and plenty of talking points. 

Here is a round-up of some of the key takeaways from last week’s event, which took place at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester. 

‘Doing more with less’

We all chased that return to normality once the pandemic was over, but the way we work, customer attitudes and the way everything is operated have changed.

For venue and stadium operators, cycles have changed and the ability to find staff has become difficult. 

The Summit’s opening panel featured The O2’s vice-president and general manager Steve Sayer, who said that while the venue has had a busy couple of months – including the busiest June ever thanks to many rescheduled events – on-sales for future events are not quite performing in line with expectations.

He also explained that drop-outs and no-shows are still around 10-12%, and a key initiative is to communicate confidence to fans to ensure they turn up.

Sayer also said that perhaps 2023 is the year where The O2 expects to be fully back on track. 

Mike McKenna, chief executive of Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia, relayed recruitment woes after Australia shut its borders for a couple of years. 

Worker woes

Sticking with the subject of workers, the venue and stadium industries often rely on more casual workers for large-scale events. One exhibitor, Vindico, has created a solution that can help keep track of workers, keep them safe and also keep all data in one place. 

Using an app, workers can sign in and out when starting a shift, raise concerns and view policies, while management can keep track of who is working and also have this information in case of an emergency. 

For SWAPP (Smart Workplace Application) to work, venues and stadiums just need to install QR codes at exits and entrances. 

Changing customer experiences 

Customer expectations are consistently evolving and, increasingly, patrons expect swift responses, a trouble-free experience and perhaps less contact with an actual human being. 

During the Innovation Showcase, Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology was highlighted by Max Gill, head of business development EMEA. 

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology enables customers to quite literally grab and go. All they need to do is tap a credit or debit card on entry and anything they pick up is added to a virtual cart, before the patron is able to just walk out of the store. 

The technology was also successful at TheStadiumBusiness Awards, and received the Product Innovation Award.

Gill told TheStadiumBusiness: “On behalf of the team, we’re just delighted to win such an award.”

While most services seem to head towards a more digital experience, exhibitor Cedar Packaging Group highlighted the need for a physical and tangible experience. 

The luxury packaging manufacturer showcased its bespoke offerings for membership packs and season ticket deliveries. Fans can receive their membership card or season ticket in luxury boxes that can include sound, video, gifts such as pens, pin badges and other branded merchandise. 

Cedar Packaging Group has worked with franchises across the NFL, Major League Soccer (MLS), Wimbledon, the English Premier League and even international artists such as Taylor Swift, to create an experience for fans to cherish. 

Everywhere is advertising space

GroundWow’s chairman and CEO Tony Rhodes discussed during his speaking slot how stadium managers can further utilise and activate their real estate. 

Through a full-colour autonomous printer and the use of data, a traditionally manual and intensive job can now be done simply to transform areas into advertising boards. From the grass of a pitch through to platforms at train stations, car parks, airfields and skyscraper roofs, anywhere can be utilised for advertising. 

As mentioned in our initial review, Eden Park – which is the home of New Zealand rugby – has found new revenue streams through in-stadium golf. Utilising the empty venue, a golf course is mapped out for fans to come and play a round. GroundWow’s technology can be used for this sort of initiative. 

Lizzie Johnston, social media executive at GroundWow, explained that while it was not GroundWow’s first time at the Summit, it was great to experience it for herself for the first time and witness what the industry has to offer. 

She said: “The event’s really good, it’s my first time, but it’s really nice. It’s a very chilled environment which is great to start networking with people. You don’t feel like you’re being invasive, chatting away and everyone is really friendly. 

“The event itself is really well put together. There’s so much going on and the technology here is just mind-blowing. It’s just great to see what’s going on in the industry.”

A new digital era

Vitec’s sales director, Andrew Smith, highlighted a recent digital upgrade of Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. 

Vitec is a provider of IPTV, video streaming and digital signage solutions and installed roughly 450 screens across the stadium. These screens can be used to generate revenue for the stadium, as well as improve the customer experience for visitors. 

Enhancements to the fan and customer experience through digital signage were also highlighted by Damon Crowhurst, display director, Samsung Electronics. He discussed a recent deployment with Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion, at its Amex Stadium. 

Ascot was also a talking point, as a large digital screen was installed at the entrance. It is particularly important for Ascot to create a seamless customer experience as the course considers itself to have customers, rather than fans, which management needs to attract and tempt back every year. 

Co-op Live update

Manchester’s Co-op Live is certainly drawing a lot of interest – and rightly so. The 23,500-capacity venue is set to open in December 2023 and has backing from the likes of artist Harry Styles. Oak View Group (OVG), City Football Group (CFG) and naming rights partner Co-op are aiming to create the UK’s premier destination for live music and entertainment, and have also focused on a sustainable approach. 

The venue aims to be the first all-electric music and entertainment venue and to be as sustainable as possible, through solar energy, harvesting rainwater, zero food waste and locally sourced construction materials. 

Diversifying content

With stadiums often empty in between matches or concerts, a panel at the Summit highlighted ways in which to utilise the down time and create another revenue stream. Nick Sautner, CEO of Eden Park discussed the aforementioned G9 golf tournament, while Arsenal’s venue projects and strategy manager Amy Trynka discussed using Emirates Stadium to host women’s matches. 

Jean-Christophe Giletta, CEO of Live Stadium, showcased how stadiums can be transformed into opera houses and theatres, through projection and digital technology. This initiative offers a change to the traditional narrative of opera and allows audience members to feel comfortable while still experiencing the beauty of classical music. 

Finally: It’s great to be back

This year has allowed the international community to reconvene and meet face-to-face to discuss ideas, solutions and technology. 

The marketplace allowed delegates to talk to exhibitors and amongst each other to scope out new initiatives to take home to their own venue or stadium. 

Aegidius Lackner, director of global sales for events at SKIDATA, said: “First of all, it’s super to have this face-to-face interaction again and not only via video. Very interesting people here.” 

Lackner further highlighted the benefits of attending an event such as this as it allowed the team at SKIDATA to explain its solution and gain further insights from others.