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Interview: ASM Global’s Gary Jacobus on venue tech, sponsorship trends and fan habits

Images: ASM Global

Images: ASM Global

Industry veteran Gary Jacobus is hoping his experience of working with the NFL and NBA can prove beneficial in his new role as ASM Global’s president of business development in the US and Latin America.

Jacobus was appointed to the role earlier this month. As well as overseeing business development at ASM Global’s wide range of venues in the Americas, he will provide support and assistance to the company’s European and APAC teams.

Having joined from cashierless store operator and retail solutions provider Zippin, Jacobus is well placed to comment on the emerging trends in venue technology. Zippin, which seeks to eliminate queues at venues, lists several major-league stadiums and arenas among its partners.

Prior to joining Zippin, Jacobus worked as head of sports and entertainment business development at hospitality company Aramark, and from 2009 to 2012 he served as vice-president of global partnerships at the NBA.

While at the NBA, he led the league’s business development team in negotiating its largest marketing partnership in history when it struck a $222m (£187m/€215m) deal with telecommunications company Sprint.

Jacobus has also spent time as managing director of corporate partnerships at the United States Tennis Association, as senior vice-president of corporate consulting at the IMG agency, and as vice-president of corporate partnerships at the NFL.

Jacobus tells TheStadiumBusiness.com how his previous work experience can be used in his new role amid changing fan habits and emerging digital trends.

TheStadiumBusiness.com: What does your new role at ASM Global entail and what are your main priorities?

Gary Jacobus: “I oversee business development for North America and Latin America.

“My main priorities include renewing and growing our current partner venue portfolio; acquiring new business in our core managed business verticals (stadiums, arenas, theatres and convention centres) and developing new verticals; and growing the Savor food and beverage business.

“Expanding the offerings in our existing venues is a top strategic imperative.”

TSB: What do you feel are the emerging trends in stadium and arena technology?

GJ: “The digital transformation journey for stadiums and arenas has accelerated since the start of the pandemic. Guests are expecting a seamless event experience from start to finish. The guest journey starts with buying the tickets and having them stored in your digital wallet.

“Once guests enter the venue, they want to use their phone as the navigation and purchasing tool as they move through the venue. From checkout-free concession stands to in-seat ordering, everything is digital. They also want a fully immersive experience, so unique team content, sponsor offerings, food and beverage offerings, all delivered to their phones.”

TSB: What are the main changes you have noticed in stadium/arena operations since the COVID-19 pandemic?

GJ: “Guests are seeking touchless experiences. They don’t want to stand in line or interact with staff. They want to be able to order food in advance and pick it up or breeze through a checkout-free store without the hassle of having to interact with a human being.”

TSB: Your most recent position was at Zippin – what did you learn while at Zippin and what skills are transferable to your new role?

GJ: “Zippin is a high-tech, sophisticated hardware and software company that solves a very massive problem: long lines at retail stores. I learned that every business is in a different stage of their digital transformation journey.

“Very quickly, one must assess how willing the potential customer is to invest in new technology. The key is to show the potential ROI and how an enhanced guest experience drives all revenue streams. I learned how important it is to take a holistic view of the venue and customer journey.

“Each step along the way must be thought through and managed. It’s all about creating a magical guest experience from the first step to the last.”

TSB: How can your experience of working at the NBA, NFL, Aramark and IMG help you in the new role?

GJ: “My core strength is developing strategic partnerships that maximise revenue and meet key business objectives. Throughout my career, at each organisation, I learned about key elements of the sports and entertainment business.

“I now have an extremely deep, expansive, and intimate industry knowledge base that I am able to tap into to develop comprehensive, profitable business building partnerships.

“I am not directly responsible for our sponsorship business but will be working closely with our commercial team to bring that core ASM Global offering to our new business development partners.”

TSB: What do you feel are the emerging trends in venue sponsorship?

GJ: “Sponsors are continuing to look for very deep relationships with sports properties and sports venues. Authentic partnerships with multiple touchpoints that reach fans wherever they want to consume content is what brands demand.

“Brands want to add value to the fan experience, whether it’s delivering unique content or branding an element of the in-venue experience, it’s all about connecting to fans at their passion points.”

TSB: What are your views on cryptocurrency/NFT partners for venues?

GJ: “I think we are at the very early stages of the cryptocurrency and NFT businesses. I believe as those businesses evolve and grow, their involvement in sports and entertainment is going to grow at a rapid pace.”

TSB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

GJ: “ASM Global is only three years old. We are rethinking and reimagining the venue management and live event business. I was attracted to the company because it’s young and dynamic.

“Creativity and innovation are at the core of how we approach our business. Live event guests expect a much different experience from even a few years ago. We are built to deliver experiences that exceed those high guest expectations.”

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