Is B2B Dead? The modern face of sports hospitality

During this hospitality-focused panel session at last week’s ESSMA Summit, hosted by Legia Warsaw, Sports Venue Business’ Katie McIntyre discussed the latest trends and insights with industry experts Julien Lepron, HIP Consultancy, Jacob Nielsen, CEO, AGF Fodbold, and Olivier Jarosz, Board member, LTT Sports.

The 2023 ESSMA Summit took place in Warsaw, Poland, last week, with the Legia Warsaw Municipal Stadium hosting the main two-day conference, alongside partners PGE Naradowy and Ekstraklasa.

During this panel session, the trio of industry expert speakers – Julien Lepron of HIP Consultancy, Jacob Nielsen of AGF Fodbold and Olivier Jaraosz of LTT Sports – discussed the modern needs of the hospitality guest and answered the question of how hospitality as a concept has changed within the live sports and entertainment venues sector over the last number of years, with moderator, Katie McIntyre.

From ‘How venues are adapting to the ever-changing needs of modern fans?’ and ‘ Is a change strategy enough or do you need to make crucial infrastructural changes in your venue?’ to ‘ Is there a different approach needed for smaller markets in Europe compared to the “Big 5” and if so how can these “smaller” teams still make a difference and offer a unique experience for their clients?’, were just some of the topics under the microscope.  

Before opening the discussion, the trio first defined what they understood by “B2B” and “hospitality”, and what these concepts mean and what audience we trying to reach when we talk about the “hospitality client”.  

The changing concept of hospitality 

Hospitality in the end is about selling and creating an experience that is worthwhile for your guests. The panellists explained how they set about creating an offering that guests want, how they know what it is that guests want, and how they convince them to buy it. Touchpoints included cross-selling and upselling.

Using the ESSMA Hospitality Survey as a reference point, the panel discussed the findings that modern stadiums are offering a higher amount of packages compared to “older” facilities and why this differentiation is important to reach a larger audience.

ALSD International 2023 is being hosted at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, October 9-10, with optimising revenue through New Builds, Renovations & Service Expansions taking centrestage. The ESSMA Manchester/Liverpool Stadium Tour 2023 will see 50 European Stadium Managers in attendance.

Julien Lepron spoke about his work specific to indoor arenas and how the hospitality experience compares between indoor arenas and stadiums, and what could be used/translated across the two.

The trio also highlighted how “Hospitality” as a concept is of course not new, and that looking to other segments like cinemas, hotels, airports, restaurants, can be beneficial.

With the non-matchday part of stadium operations becoming increasingly important, the case for hospitality on non-matchdays was another topic for discussion, with some clubs even choosing to incorporate hospitality facilities in their training centres, like the Dallas Cowboys

Hospitality Facilities 

Jacob Nielsen spoke about how, in light of the club’s new stadium project, he has been visiting facilities all over Europe, as well as some US venues, including the home of the Boston Celtics, his main takeaways and how he will try to implement them in Aarhus. 

Another point for discussion, as highlighted within the ESSMA Hospitality Survey, was the fact that increasing numbers of clubs, like Arsenal, are creating larger networking areas for their hospitality guests instead of closed off skyboxes, designed in such a way as to optimise networking and flexibility.

Olivier Jarosz also spoke about how he had been involved in the creation of the ECA Club Management Guide, part of which mentions the importance of hospitality. Olivier discussed what he learnt from this process and what advice he would give to clubs when they are thinking about their hospitality strategy and facilities.

The trio then discussed how can clubs make sure that their facilities and the experience they are offering is something that brings fans back every time. Pointing to how infrastructure and atmosphere can create this effect, even when the action on the pitch is less than favourable. 

Hospitality of the future

Finally, the panel discussed how they would compare the needs of the hospitality client from ten-twenty years ago to those of a modern client, and how a new generation of fans are looking for a new type of experience; with the adaption of technologies like VR/AR, chatbots, digital wayfinding, biometrical identification, etc., to help attract the younger audience to  sports venues. And how they imagine the future of hospitality.

Image, courtesy: ESSMA

Sports Venue Business organises and delivers ALSD International – the leading event and 365 community for the Premium Seat & Hospitality sector – on behalf of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors (ALSD).

ALSD International 2023 will take place at Etihad Stadium, October 9-10th, with venue tours complimenting the high-level conference, exhibition and networking events. This year’s edition will feature a 1-day Tech Symposium, plus a 2-day ‘Fan Experience’ breakout being delivered by IIFX.

#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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