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Volume 24 No. 155

Events and Attractions

Attendees at the AT&T Sports Facilities and Franchises conference this morning got a preview of this afternoon’s tour of New Meadowlands Stadium, with Giants Senior VP & CMO Mike Stevens describing some of the sponsor activation at the venue during a panel titled, “Sponsor/Property Roundtable: Developing Unique Partnerships.” Stevens said the four Cornerstone deals are “like nothing I have ever seen” at a sports facility. Stevens said these deals give partners -- PepsiCo, Met Life, Verizon and Budweiser -- “just a dominant, dominant presence” that extends to non-gamedays. He added each sponsor area includes private club areas, and these are each “very distinctive and different.” White Sox Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Brooks Boyer asked Stevens, “How are you going to layer in a naming rights partner?” Stevens responded, “For how much space (the Cornerstone partners) get, trust me, there’s more.” When asked whether the naming-rights market is more vibrant now after a tough period economically, Stevens joked, “Vibrant? It only takes one.” Stevens: “People are talking again. … Marketing is back. It’s reflective of the economy.” Stevens also was asked about what the value of the Farmers Field deal for the expected NFL stadium in L.A. means for the market. Stevens: “Every deal is great for the industry, but they are all very, very market-specific.”

Rooks says PepsiCo is constantly monitoring the
value of its sports sponsorship deals
HAPPY RETURNS: The panel also featured two representatives of the brand side of the marketing business: PepsiCo Dir of Sports Marketing Mark Rooks and MillerCoors Dir of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Ryan Luckey. Luckey’s brand activates at the White Sox’ U.S. Cellular Field, and he said the activation is “street to seat.” Luckey: “The value of communicating our brand matters to the 42,000 people inside the stadium. The value of communicating to the 55 million people passing U.S. Cellular Field on the express way is every bit as valuable.” The brand reps also had some more general comments on assessing the ROI of deals. They agreed that putting a hard number on the value is difficult, but Rooks said PepsiCo is “actually monitoring” its deals and will “course correct where we can.” Luckey said marketers at times look for the “Ferrari of measurement tools.” Luckey said his brand tries to measure impact in a way that is “simple, repeatable, affordable and credible. It’s more the reliable Toyota Camry of measurement tools.” He stressed the importance of retail activation numbers, “not so much brand awareness.” Luckey: “At Coors Light and Miller Lite, we don’t have a brand awareness problem.” Stevens pointed out the variety of activation that is possible with sponsorship compared to traditional media buys: “Look at what somebody like us can deliver and what we can do together versus classical marketing expenditures.” Boyer also said one “can’t put an ROI on a connection” to a team’s brand.

SUPER MEN: Stevens said the Super Bowl at New Meadowlands Stadium will be “the largest single event that has ever come to this market bar-none. Not just in sports.” Rooks: “Obviously, we activate around the Super Bowl as an NFL partner, and it’s always great when we can activate around a PepsiCo facility as well. And then you layer on top that it’s in our back yard, and it’s even more of a win-win for us.”

MLS Commissioner Don Garber sat down for a one-on-one interview yesterday afternoon to close out the first day of the AT&T Sports Franchises and Facilities conference, hosted by SBJ/SBD.

Q: Next year MLS will welcome a team in Montreal, which is the league’s 19th club. You have publicly said you support growth. What markets appear best for growth?
Garber: We are focused on New York. It’s a big market. The Cosmos have a great legacy and they have a great soccer history that so far the Red Bulls have not been able to tap into. For the most part Red Bulls fans come from New Jersey. The challenge for [the Cosmos] is to build a stadium, and as we all know New York City is not the easiest place to build. And we’ve put a high price on the 20th team. In 2007 we were asking around $7 million, and last year [teams] sold for $40 million. This could be in the $75 to $100 million [range].

Q: Is the Wilpon family still a viable option for MLS given their recent negative press?
Garber: We have talked with [the Wilpons] about MLS. They have a good situation when it comes to stadiums in the site around Citi Field. Willets Point is one of the largest pieces of undeveloped property in New York.

Q: It’s the elephant in the room. I have to ask you about television ratings. The league has had growth in attendance but in TV it has been relatively flat for the last three years. How do you grow those numbers?
Garber: I had lunch with [an NHL friend] and we spoke about their deal with NBC and Versus, and talked about our situation as a challenge and an opportunity. We have to convert those fans who are part of the global game. We are similar to the NHL; however they are not competing with Russian hockey like we are competing with the Premier League. We need a product to convert those fans, and we do it by having good stories in local markets and better promotion. You think about what has driven hockey, it was strong local teams that had great local TV deals and passionate supporters. The soccer audience is big. Chelsea versus Manchester United had 550,000 viewers this year.

Q: Kansas City will open a soccer specific stadium this year that is branded with the Livestrong brand. Are you worried that the brand may receive negative press given the [recent doping allegations against Lance Armstrong]?
Garber: It is a beautiful facility, one of our best. Think of a Midwest version of Red Bull Arena. The ownership is great, they are young, technical-minded guys. They think differently. I think Livestrong was an innovative deal, and with the brand’s recognition in the cancer fight, I think they can do well with that. Clearly they will have something to manage if something does happen with Lance Armstrong. We are hopeful they won’t have to.

Q: Will they have the ability to revisit the [naming rights deal] if there is an issue with Armstrong?
Garber: Yes. I hope they don’t. Lance Armstrong has been a great story for Americans.

Q: You worked at the NFL for 16 years, and you worked alongside Roger Goodell. Did you ever envision him becoming the next commissioner?
Garber: I didn't think it would be him. He was a guy of few words and even in his mid 20's I don't think any of us thought he would be in that role. But 10 years later I think it became very apparent that [Goodell] could do it. He had great relationships with all of the owners and he really understood the brand. And he's very well spoken.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
Garber: I'm a walk-around-the-office type of guy. I try to be very accessible. I encourage taking risks. I remember at other jobs feeling like you were always looking over your shoulder, and that is not my style. To me, you can't win in this game or get to where you want to be by being pulled there. You have to be pushed there.

Mobile-based purchasing and fan engagement remained a hot topic yesterday at the AT&T Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Hoboken, N.J., during a panel titled, “Emerging Venue Technology.” ByPass Lane President Brandon Lloyd said that his company is “turning every smartphone that passes through your gate into a point of sale” and using its system to help teams “learn more about your customer buying behavior.” Also on the panel were YinzCam Founder & CEO Priya Narasimhan, Penguins VP/Business Partnerships David Peart and New Meadowlands Stadium Co. VP/Design & Construction Robert Jordan. The Penguins and YinzCam partnered on a mobile video system at Consol Energy Center, and Peart said applications such as these help the team compete against the at-home sports viewing experience. Peart: “YinzCam is a great way for us to bridge that DVR, video replay component.” The panelists in turn addressed Mark Cuban’s well-publicized concerns that fans who are using their phones during a game are not immersed in the arena experience. Narasimhan said when she uses her mobile unit at the venue, she is still “fully engaged” in the game. Peart argued that mobile engagement can actually make the game experience more “communal.” Lloyd pointed out the somewhat ironic fact that despite Cuban’s comments, AmericanAirlines Arena is a ByPass client. When asked about the level of usage of YinzCam at Consol Energy Center, Narasimhan said that it could reach as high as 35-40% for a closely-contested playoff game. Lloyd said usage rates for the ByPass system have been “repeat and very high” once consumers get past the initial hurdle of trying it out. 

: While all of the panelists were bullish on new mobile technologies, they did not ignore the challenges it presents. Lloyd noted that ByPass often runs into connectivity issues at venues, but it has worked with AT&T to resolve these issues in venues such as Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Lloyd: “In the offseason a distributed antenna system (DAS) was put in, and it totally solved the problem. … We’re seeing what was a significant issue when we began having conversations with franchises and venues a year ago beginning to solve itself.” Narasimhan noted video is a “bandwidth hog.” Narasimhan: “You still have to convince people who don’t have a new arena, and the healthy budget that goes with it, to fund some WiFi.” Jordan said, “Only the last six or seven buildings that have been built are truly digital buildings. Everything else is kind of … making do with old technology and new technology.” Jordan added the decision to have WiFi at the outset of a venue also affects architecture and other back-end considerations, and “those dominoes are going to start falling.” Lloyd said another major challenge is determining who the leaders will be in the space. Lloyd: “There’s so much noise in the mobile space today, it’s very difficult for the folks sitting in this room to separate the leaders from the pack. Any garage developer can build an app.” Meanwhile, in-stadium screen displays were another topic of discussion. Jordan, noting the importance placed on these displays during construction of New Meadowlands Stadium, said, “We live in a video-centric world. I think it is another palette, and it allows the brand to come across individually.” Peart: “Beyond the large-format video screen, we’re extremely bullish on IPTV. We have almost 900 monitors in our building.” Peart said the Cisco StadiumVision system improves the fan experience and sponsorship, promotes the team’s brand and helps concourse revenue. Peart: “You can’t swing a cat in our building without hitting a video screen.”

Fred Rosen is grabbing the sports and entertainment industry's attention again as he re-enters the ticketing business. Rosen, co-President & co-CEO of Canadian firm Outbox Technology, spent 26 years as Ticketmaster's President & CEO, turning that company into the multibillion-dollar empire it is today. He sat down for a one-on-one interview yesterday during the AT&T Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Hoboken, N.J., hosted by SBJ/SBD.

: The outspoken, often abrasive but always entertaining Rosen re-emerges with Outbox 13 years after leaving Ticketmaster, and three years after exiting AudienceView, a Toronto ticketing firm where things didn't work out for him after five months on the job. Outbox currently operates ticketing for Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens and Cirque de Soleil's worldwide tours. In February, six months after joining Outbox, Rosen and his partner Jean-Francoys Brousseau, Ticketmaster's former COO, formed a joint venture with AEG. Together, Outbox and AEG plan to grow business over the next two years to include ticketing at facilities AEG owns and operates, and NBA and NHL arenas where it has booking and marketing deals. "What we want to do is ultimately be the company that lets you fulfill your need to be a brand," Rosen said. "It's not our brand, it's not about us, it's about you. The word empowerment is a very powerful word. Some people will get it and some people won't. We don't expect everybody to get it. No one's going to force anybody to do anything. We know how many people we're talking to and I haven't set a measure for what's successful. What's clear is this, people are talking about [Outbox]. People know that in the space of less than a year we're in many of the conversations." The total ticketing revenue those 115 venues where AEG does business produce is in the neighborhood of $400M. One of the first buildings expected to change vendors will be the AEG-operated O2 arena in London, where Rosen is headed next week to prepare for converting the facility's system from Ticketmaster to Outbox next year. "AEG has an extensive reach," he said. "They are everywhere from southern California to Australia and China. This is not a sprint but a marathon. We're doing an orderly conversion. Every quarter, more buildings will convert to us starting in the third quarter. We're going around the world."

A TEAM EFFORT: Staples Center and The Home Depot Center, the facilities AEG owns and operates in its hometown of L.A., will move to the Outbox-AEG system when those two facilities' deals with Ticketmaster expire over the next several months. The remaining 113 facilities where AEG conducts business is not a slam dunk, Rosen acknowledged. In those arenas where AEG books and markets events for NBA and NHL clubs, the decision to change ticketing vendors is up to the team or whoever manages the building, Rosen acknowledged. Together, those two entities will make a collaborative decision that best serves the interests of both parties, he said. For those buildings that currently have deals with Ticketmaster, the Outbox-AEG joint venture is pitching its product as a white-label solution where the team controls consumer data without a third party standing in the way of collecting and using that information to sell things beyond tickets such as food and beverage and merchandise, Rosen said. It is not unique. Paciolan, New Era Tickets and Veritix are three examples of ticketing companies using the same business model. But Rosen believes his three decades of experience developing Ticketmaster into the dominant player in the business, coupled with AEG's powerful presence as a building operator and event promoter, will help make those decisions easier for the facilities. "The point is this -- ticketing hasn't changed from days of the Roman Coliseum when they had much better attendance when the lions were actually eating the people," he said. "It's about putting bodies in seats and creating fair value for the fan and creating an expectation of the experience they're going to get in your building and there's nothing like a live experience."

SMG Senior VP Doug Thornton yesterday offered up the Champions Square development near the Superdome and New Orleans Arena as a model way to “create a vibrant experience for the fan and also generate revenue” outside of gameday operations. During the “Next Wave of Non-Gameday Revenue Opportunities” panel at the AT&T Sports Facilities & Franchises conference in Hoboken, N.J., Thornton said the area was “truly a public-private partnership” with the state of Louisiana. He distinguished this “special events space” from mixed-use developments. Thornton: “We’re not sure we want to be an L.A. Live. … It’s like turning a key to a car on and off. You don’t have to incur the operating overhead day-to-day as if you were running a 365-day-a-year operation.” Thornton later said the area, with the help of both the Saints and Hornets and with presenting sponsorship from Verizon, will eventually host 60-65 events a year. Thornton predicted that the Champions Square model is something that “you’ll see replicated” by other NFL teams.

: The other panelists -- AEG Dir of Booking & Marketing Brian Gale and Live Nation President/Arenas Mike Evans -- shared their own ideas for new ways for venues to make money outside of a primary tenant’s schedule. Gale, who books events for Prudential Center, said he looks at a venue and thinks, “Here’s what it was built for, but what else can it do?” He pointed to the recent auditions for Fox’ upcoming Simon Cowell show “X-Factor” as an example of this thinking. Gale also described how the building books many smaller events using all of its available space, such as magazine photo shoots and Avon parties in the warehouse areas. Revetria said with AT&T Park being a privately financed venue, the Giants have had “no choice” but to explore additional revenue streams. Events have included a free, sponsored opera concert and the annual Icer Air ski and snowboarding competition. He added the ballpark’s capacity will increase to “about 45,000 from 42,000” for a slate of college football games this fall. Evans said with the number of touring music acts on the decline, Live Nation has looked to develop “evergreen” music events that are “not all that talent-driven,” but are more lifestyle-themed. He also pointed to electronic music as a growth area; Live Nation drew 13,000 at a Dead Mouse concert in a parking lot outside Soldier Field. Meanwhile, Thornton floated the idea of having an international club soccer match at the Superdome.

Revetria says Giants have sales team soley
focused on growing convention business
TRIED AND TRUE: Thornton, Gale and Evans all related how conventions are important sources of revenue. Thornton says these events, which have included “huge” gatherings in the Superdome from Microsoft, Oracle and others, account for 40-45% of non-football revenue. Thornton: “We can make $1M in one day.” Revetria noted that his ballpark has a “growing convention business,” thanks in part to a sales team dedicate solely to special events. Another reliable moneymaker is the UFC. Evans: “The bloom has not left that.” Gale noted the Prudential Center has hosted three UFC fight cards in three-and-a-half years, and these events generated the “highest per caps ever.” Ticket sales have come to almost $10M on three cards. Thornton and Revetria both acknowledged that their venues had looked at possibly hosting MMA events.