Why it’s critical to fill venues with talent

Posted by in Commercial, Entertainment, Josie Lahey, Management, Sales, Venues

It will surprise few who are involved in the running of stadiums, arenas and convention centres, that global competition for events is as fierce today as it has ever been.

With single sport stadiums and multi-venue precincts starting to attract some of the biggest events outside of their traditional hunting grounds, the opportunities for venues are both exciting and daunting in equal measure.

Add into the mix the plethora of entertainment options available to time-poor consumers today – from TV to mobile games – and it has never been more important that in-house teams are packed with the best and brightest talent from a range of differing sectors that can capitalise on the changing business climate.

SRi’s venues team has placed dozens of candidates in the past two years across events, commercial and operations functions, and many similar themes rose to the fore during the recruitment process.

A changing business climate for venues

The three big ‘buckets’ in the world of venues – ticketing, corporate suites and sponsorship – remain the same. Most stadiums and conference centres the world over now have the minimum competency required to run a major event to a decent standard.

But there are plenty of areas for venues to tackle that are equally as critical, including technology, content and human resourcing. Content in particular has shifted the sands upon which venues now stand.

This step change has come in the ability of some stadia to secure additional revenue streams, often through additional content from outside their core sport – think major global music acts or rugby internationals at ‘football-only’ stadiums.

The competition for this additional content is fierce – both the Etihad Stadium and Rod Laver arena in Melbourne could successfully accommodate a tour stop from say, Taylor Swift, as could at least ten different venues in London.

A ‘football-only’ stadium might be the perfect size and location for an international artist’s tour stop, but without the experience of running a major non-football event, the artist’s team is unlikely to take a chance.

The present and future challenges

Event procurement is one thing, but there are myriad challenges – and opportunities – once an event has been secured which require a highly specialised skill set.

Fans, concert goers and conference delegates need to be offered more than just the same experience time and time again, otherwise they will simply stay at home.

With advances in TV broadcasting, it’s a simple fact that many live events offer a better viewing experience from the couch than the stadium seat.

The profusion of live content available immediately on social media through Twitter, Periscope and Facebook Live, only add to the number of reasons fans may choose to keep their wallets closed and stay at home.

To counter these challenges, stadium teams must cultivate a Fear of Missing Out sensation. ‘FOMO’ is a very real pull for consumers and can make or break events.

The team behind London 2012 did an incredible job in fostering FOMO and applying that to every event at the Games. Even traditionally less popular sports such as archery and water polo enjoyed packed stadiums and record attendances.

Compared to Rio 2016’s noticeably empty stadiums – tickets were available at the gate for the evening athletics session that included the Men’s 100m final – it’s clear that the Brazilian public felt they could afford to miss out on the live experience and catch the Games on TV instead or simply could not afford the price of a ticket.

Interactive capabilities can help bridge the gap between venue and fan. The best stadium teams are using data, apps and other digital innovations to improve their operations and fan experience. Fans want to be in the centre of the action, even if they’re in the upper tiers. Can your team make that happen?

Technology plays a major part; powerful WiFi connections, giant HD video screens, GoPro style streaming of video content direct from an athlete, or even crowd noise streamed through native apps should all be high on the agenda of stadium teams, to make their venue more attractive to content owners.

Similarly, fan-first design and expanded premium seating opportunities can bring fans into venues and closer to the action. Some MLB stadiums offer fans the chance to watch the game while in a pool, while elsewhere couches at field level give both fans and sponsors the opportunity to make the live experience more unique and exciting.

The future

With all venues looking to make themselves truly multipurpose arenas, the competition in event procurement and delivery will only stiffen in the years to come.

Venues must ensure they have the right team in place to meet those needs, be they general operations, event management, commercial, production, digital or technology-based employees.

At SRi, we have seen a significant increase in requests for content acquisition specialists from our clients to procure new events in to venues over the past year and we expect that trend to only increase in the years ahead.

Digital and tech-based employees will be critical in the coming years, as content owners try to keep up with and outpace the ways their products can be consumed for free.

One major bane of live event content owners is undoubtedly the proliferation of social media and streaming apps that makes it near impossible to protect that valued content. However, help may just be on the way. Apple has filed a patent for technology that would disable an iPhone’s ability to take photos and videos via an infrared signal. Venues that have the right team in place and can offer content owners this type of protection against piracy would immediately shoot to the top of the list when considering tour stops.

The future for stadia is incredibly exciting and bright, and venues need to make sure they have the right teams in place or they risk getting left behind by their neighbours.

Josie Lahey is a Partner in Australia for SRi. Managing the Melbourne office, Josie’s role is to lead a dedicated search service to sports, media and entertainment organisations in the region, as well as co-leading the development of the Australasian business. She works closely with clients to build and manage world-class executive search and senior management recruitment processes, as well as personally leading on a range of executive search assignments with particular focus on venues, rights holders, clubs & teams, events and sporting goods brands.

For more information about attracting the right talent needed to stay ahead of the competition, contact Josie at jlahey@sriexecutive.com or +61 478 803 255.