Four key takeaways from ALSD International 2022

On October 17 and 18, experts in the premium seating and VIP hospitality business were finally able to gather and exchange their experience and knowledge at the 2022 edition of ALSD International, expertly hosted by Tottenham Hotspur and Levy UK + Ireland, as iXpole Co-founder, Luc Vanhecke, explains.

For iXpole it was the 4th edition of the summit. We attended it for the first time in 2018 in London. This year was definitely the best edition ever.

The brand-new and iconic Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London was the backdrop for this specialist summit. During the event we got to tour the entire stadium including the different premium locations, including the Tunnel Club and the H Club, the two most impressive locations in this brand new stadium.

But the location was only the backdrop for a summit packed with expert speakers sharing their vision and experience in the field of premium hospitality.

Sector-specific summit

It was a pleasure for us to see that the number of like-minded people is growing steadily. Where are the days that we had to attend fan engagement conferences and try to raise awareness about the specific needs for the VIPs. Today this segment has its own annual summit.

We loved all of the sessions and were pleased to see there was agreement amongst all of the attendees and speakers about where the sector is heading to and what is required to get there.

The topic of “Optimising the Premium Seat Experience” was taken on by Marc Lee of Principality Stadium Experience, Borja Gonzalez Bilbao of Athletic Club, Adam Hateley of Levy UK+I and Oded Efrati of Nina Labs 

Key takeaways

Here are our 4 takeaways of the conference:

1. The COVID pandemic had no impact on stadium development projects

According to a study, which was shared by Matthew Avila, Project Manager at Hunden Strategic Partners, the COVID pandemic has had no negative impact on stadium development projects. While the operations within the stadia came to a halt, the developments just kept on going.

Matthew gave an overview of all the sports & entertainment development projects that are currently in progress worldwide. A staggering €11 billion in major international sports projects are currently finishing or underway. In the past years, on average €750 million was spent every year on new venues.

The study also took into account stadium development projects for cricket, rugby and Formula 1, but football still accounts for the majority of these development projects. By far!

Interestingly enough, esports is becoming more of a mature, major player in the arena development scene. We’re all wondering where this sector will be in 5 years from now and whether it should be accounted for in Hunden’s annual studies.

Download HSP’s full State of the Industry – International report, detailing sports & entertainment facility developments from across the globe, as well as latest trends, here

2. Listen to your customer

It is not enough to rely on your sales team and their conversations with the odd customer. To really understand your customers’ needs, you will have to get more organised in getting the feedback. Regular and widely spread customer surveys are no longer an exception. They are an essential component in your process align the offering to the demand/expectations.

Segmentation doesn’t have to be a bad word. It is the secret to optimising both your customer satisfaction and your revenue.

And don’t worry if you don’t get it all right from the first time. It is a moving target anyway. Hence the need to keep on listening.

Laura Chiplin, Head of Events and Visitor Attractions at Tottenham Hotspur, shared her team’s view on this subject. She admittedly said that one of their offerings (in the mid-tier level) had to be tweaked a little as they didn’t get the membership proposition quite right the first time. Thanks to their regular member feedback surveys, however, they were able to spot this quickly and adjust accordingly.

Laura Chiplin, Head of Events and Visitor Attractions at Tottenham Hotspur, shared insights on delivering an optimised customer experience

3. People, people, people

Since the COVID pandemic, the (VIP) hospitality sector has suffered from a serious shortage in good hospitality personnel. One would assume that technology and its positive impact on process automation and self-service would solve or at least greatly contribute to the solution of this problem. And maybe it does. But only in a way.

Jeff Wollen, CIO at Marylebone Cricket Club described it nicely during his talk with Roy Yaoz of Triple Jump Technologies. When he was asked which system he would buy or build if he had unlimited budget, this is what he said:

If I had unlimited budget, I would first invest in the right people. I would make sure I’d have a team of excellent business analysts. I’d have them supported by the best technical architects and I’d make sure I have people that are obsessed with the customer experience. Only when I have this kind of team I’d be ready to invest my unlimited budget in technology.

Jeff Wollen, Chief Information Officer, Marylebone Cricket Club, discussed how technology enables premium guest experiences with Roy Yaoz

4. It is impossible to involve ‘the business’ too early

With staggering budgets invested in stadium development projects (see our first finding), we all wonder how premium seating and VIP hospitality is evolving in these new projects.

Roy Westwood, CEO & Co-founder of Forward Associates, has been and still is involved in many stadium development projects. He shared his views in a general session with hospitality managers from different stadiums and venues.

The most striking quote we took away from this session is that it is impossible to involve your business people too early in your stadium development projects. The sooner you involve them the easier it is to intervene in the design and to assure that the construction matches the need.

See what you missed at ALSD International 2022 by watching the wrap video online here. Keep posted for interviews from the event coming soon!

In a session on day two, together with Vicky Jaycock, Senior Manager, New Stadium Sales at Everton, Roy guided the audience through the stadium development project at the New Everton Stadium.

The duo provided an insight into the whole process, from very detailed analysis of the different hospitality segments to price points. The implementation of the different tiers in the physical venue, the analysis of the offer and athmosphere (formal, casual, …) Down to the smallest detail in the finishing touches of each of the physical venues.

Vicky Jaycock, Senior Manager, New Stadium Sales at Everton, together with Roy Westwood, CEO, Forward Associates, guided attendees through the intricacies of the New Everton Stadium during their ‘Football for All: Hospitality Reimagined” discussion

Hospitality reimagined

What impressed at least as much was how Everton handles the sales process for their premium experiences. Although the delivery will only take place in 2 years, the team rented an entire floor in the Royal Liver Building. This is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. A beautiful historic building, with a view on the Everton development project.

The space has been entirely modified to immerse potential buyers in the future experience. With immersive demos, samples, design mockups, it gives future clients a very concrete idea of the end result and thus the experience that awaits them in 2 years’ time.

Author’s credits:

Luc Vanhecke is Co-Founder of iXpole, providers of a sponsorship and hospitality platform for sports clubs and venues, which increases the customer experience for sponsors and VIP guests.

Luc Vanhecke joined Maxwell Fenton of Tottenham Hotspur and Mike Jeanes of Ungerboeck for a panel discussion on “Sales, Staffing & Servicing Premium to Create Loyalty” moderated by Jessica Gaffney, SVP of ALSD’s Technology Division

Huge thanks to the 350+ industry professionals from across the globe that took part in the 2022 edition of ALSD International, including high-level speakers such as:

  • Hayley Wood of Formula 1
  • Christian Lau of Los Angeles Football Club
  • Laura Chiplin of Tottenham Hotspur
  • Jeff Wollen of Marylebone Cricket Club / Lord’s Cricket Ground
  • Tom Lynch and Oliver Wright of ASM Global
  • Vicky Jaycock of Everton Football Club
  • George Vaughan of Ascot Racecourse
  • Ben Kensell of Hibernian Football Club
  • Amy Trykna of Arsenal
  • Olivier Toth of Rockhal / European Arenas Association
  • Borja Gonzalez Bilbao of Athletic Club
  • Nils Braude of Twickenham Stadium
  • Alice Chiplin of Tottenham Hotspur
  • Matt Botten of The O2 /AEG Europe
  • Robert Fitzpatrick of The SSE Arena Belfast

Partner power

Thanks to main event partners, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and Levy UK + Ireland, as well as Presenting Partner Sponsors, DIGISEQ, Forward Associates, Hunden Strategic Partners, Populous and Triple Jump Technologies.

Thanks to all of our sponsors and exhibitors, including 3D Digital Venue, 20.20 Ltd, Shared Access, Spring USA, WilkinsonEyre, Accredit Solutions, Amazon Just Walk Out, Bendac, Benoy, Bleep UK PLC / Global Payments Inc., Bundeling, Cedar Packaging Group (CPG), CleanEvent Services, dasGate, F3 Architects, Forum by Nowy Styl, Halliday Lighting, Handley House, Identilam, ID&C, Kappture, Major Events International, NowyStyl UK, Pragma, Riptide, Qualflow, Nina Labs, Portview Fit-Out, Ungerboeck, SITECO and Terraplas., as well as media partners Mondo | Stadia, Major Events International (MEI) and PanStadia & Arena Management.

Source: iXpole

Sports Venue Business organises and delivers ALSD International – the leading event for the Premium Seat & Hospitality sector, with a focus on optimising revenue through New Builds, Renovations & Service Expansions – on behalf of the ALSD (Association of Luxury Suite Directors).

The 2022 event featured a high-level conference, an exhibition showcasing industry-leading products & services, networking events and a very special behind-the-scenes tour of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium powered by THFC and Levy UK + Ireland. Details on ALSD International 2023 to follow soon.

#ALSDInternational – Europe’s leading event for the Premium Seat & Sports Hospitality sector

#ALSD – Leading the Premium Seat sector for the last 30 years

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