Speakers on day two talked about how Covid-19 has forced event organizers and stakeholders to explore new ways of securing and delivering events. They also debated shifting trends in technologies, commercial ecosystems, how to capture and retain new audiences and the importance of environmental, social and governance criteria to Gen Zers and rights holders.
The inaugural event reached a combined global audience of close to 1,000 registrants.
The opening panel discussed changes in ‘Hosting events with international federations’.
Paul Bush OBE, director of events at VisitScotland, said it was crucial for rights holders and host cities to collaborate effectively, but the financial impacts of Covid-19 and what it means for return on investment in events would be “pretty challenging” in the short term.
“We’re seeing a sea change in the way events are constructed and developed – we’re now into negotiations and not bids,” he added. “It’s about the symbiotic relationship between the rights owner and the host. Traditionally they sat in different camps; they now sit in the same camp, working collegiately, because everyone’s realized that’s the best way forward.
“We’re entering an exciting and very different period for the events world.”
Darryl Siebel, CEO of World Lacrosse, said the federation was “not just looking for hosts but event partners” who shared its values.
Tom Dielen, secretary general of World Archery, said Covid-19 had added another layer of complexity to hosting events. But the pandemic had accelerated plans to use remote production in broadcasting its global events.
Janelle Janis, director of Edmonton Events, said the pandemic “made people realize how much they love and value events and the vibrancy they bring to our city”.
She said Edmonton Events was “aggressively going after events to recover our economy”, dedicating more resources to that mission.
Janis made an interesting point about working with LOCs and rights holders to leave sporting and social benefits behind, not simply creating memorable experiences and economic impact assessments. She suggested the one-size fits all mentality had been abandoned in favour of a more flexible approach on sustainability: “it’s not about the money”.
Event bidding was “more a negotiation or conversation with rights holders, determining what outcomes we want to achieve together”.
A presentation on digital transformation in major event planning followed. Rugby Football League chair Simon Johnson and Joe Cusdin, CEO and founder of Iventis, gave an overview of the digital collaborative mapping tool.
Johnson said ways of delivering bids and events had traditionally been labour intensive, costly and inefficient particularly from a management perspective. “But digital tools now exist to enable faster, more efficient, more cost-effective and better managed collaboration.”
Referencing his involvement in England’s FIFA 2018 World Cup bid, he said that had digital planning and collaboration tools been available, “it would have saved us, in my estimation, about three months of management time and tens of thousands of pounds in costs”.
Cusdin spoke about the difficulties in coordinating and integrating plans between various event teams, adding: “What we are trying to do is digitize that planning process, to provide a collaborative visual platform available to everybody involved in planning a major event where they can interactively produce, manage, update and share their plans covering every aspect of operations.”
Another panel evaluated how technology trends were shifting how audiences engage with events and brands and what sports, entertainment and business events can learn from each other in the battle for attention.
Sarah Lewis OBE, Global Sports Leader and a presidential candidate for the International Ski Federation, said there was a shift from passive fans to greater engagement. Fans were being empowered to follow events on their mobile devices and AR technologies and virtual reality sport gaming were “ways to satisfy the interests of audiences and come closer to experience what athletes experience”.
In a session on the role of environmental, social and governance criteria and progress being made in the Americas in diversity and inclusion, Jimena Saldaña, vice president of the Mexican Olympic Committee, said there was a demand from millennials and Gen Zers for event organizers and rights holders to be much smarter about sustainability and climate change issues. Good governance and transparency in sport and from sponsors was also important.
Brian Lewis, president, Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, said ESG criteria depended on the sport, the event and the target audience: “Some audiences may have different interests, climate change or racial and social justice.
“I think events and rights holders bidding for an event must be very clear what their objectives are and what is their target audience. You will then be very clear on what elements of ESG will resonate with your audience.”
Karin Korb, Paralympian and a Para-Sport consultant, said “a lot of progress” was being made in the Americas in diversity and inclusion – but not quickly enough. She applauded organizers of the World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama for efforts to leave a legacy of disability inclusion in a multisports event by staging wheelchair rugby.
Korb urged event planners and rights holders to bring Gen Zers and millennials to the decision-making table to get their perspectives.
A presentation by Willie Cruickshank, race series director of World Championship Air Race, focused on the evolution of the sport and how it was gearing up to be staged on city centre tracks and creating fun family experiences.
Cruickshank spoke of innovations in aviation performance and a move to greener technologies to minimize environmental impacts. The new series starts next year, and host cities are sought for 2023 and beyond. “We have flexible business models to suit all locations and budgets,” he said.
Angela Ruggiero, co-founder and CEO of Sports Innovation Lab, World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin and Coca Cola’s former head of sponsorship Ricardo Fort were among speakers in a panel looking at opportunities to generate revenues from non-fungible tokens (NFTs), gambling and CBD.
Gilpin said rugby’s governing body was taking a cautious approach to the commercial opportunities, highlighting ethical and moral issues around gambling. “The World Rugby policy for our owned properties is no partnerships with gambling companies,” he added.
Ruggiero suggested that gambling presented host cities with interesting possibilities to grow revenue streams. “The question is how federations and sport grapple with the sensitivities around it.”
On NFTs, she said: “It’s definitely the shiny new object right now. If you’re getting into it, be very thoughtful. It’s a big opportunity to allow fans to own something wherever they are in the world.” She suggested there was also lot more revenue potential to come in ecommerce merchandising and licensing.
Commenting on sponsorship and revenue generation, Ruggiero said athletes would play a greater role: “I truly believe the pie will be bigger for everyone. The athlete is the voice, the influence… empower athletes to tell their story and your story and increase interest in your event.”
Fort added: “Broadcasting and all the different forms of OTT distribution of content will continue to pay the vast majority of the bills for rights holders. The good rights holders are bringing it all together, and making offers to sponsors in which they can package the live experience with the content being produced in the ‘off event’ time – that’s what makes a proposition for a sponsor more compelling.”
A presentation by Gideon Clark, business director, Mailman Group USA focused on ‘The Next Age of the Global Sports Tourist. He said the global sports tourism industry represented $800bn and 10% of the international tourism industry.
Forecasting strong growth, he said the driving forces were pent-up demand post-Covid, demand for experiential, continuing globalization and the many major sporting events on the horizon. The profile of the global sport tourist was: a millennial, high value spender, adventurous, multicultural, eco-conscious, socially aware and principled, digital and tech savvy.
How Covid-19 has reshaped the outlook for live sporting and entertainment events was the subject of a fascinating panel debate. There was talk of events and venues getting more savvy with mobile ticketing and contactless concessions to maintain social distancing and reduce queues and having to work hard to ensure the safety and security of fans and athletes as coronavirus restrictions are removed.
Jim Mercurio, executive vice president and general manager at San Francisco 49ers – Levi’s Stadium, said: “The jury is still out about the anxieties of people coming to all of our facilities and the tolerances they are going to have [for crowds and fans eating, making a noise nearby etc].
“I have a strong suspicion that it’s not going to go over very well with a subset of people. Additional spacing for folks may be the answer.”
Jeremiah Yolkut, director, Major League Baseball, said the league was focused on the welfare of fan’s game-day experiences and keeping staff and players safe. Best practices have been shared across teams and guidelines created.
After a pandemic-hit year, “things have normalized fairly quickly” said Tad Bowman, venue director of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Denver Coliseum. The venues were back to full capacity by the middle of June, but backstage areas had fewer people, “less hectic, more of a bubble”.
Speaking about security issues, Andrew Lynch, senior director of S2|FOAMHAND, talked to delegates about the company’s CertScan Prism technology and how it delivers a secondary layer of security by providing a direct line from X-ray machines to professional X-ray detection technicians on demand.
He said the benefits included reducing potential for single point failures in the security screening operation during an event and the fact it can network multiple systems/ venues.
Wrapping up the conference was a session called ‘Get fit for the future’.
Dr. Melita N. Moore, board member and chair of the health and wellness commission of the Global Esports Federation, said live esports events were opening up again. With the first Global Esports Games to be held in Singapore in December, she said uncertainties remained but was hopeful the event will go off with a bang.
“I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like. I hope fans, players and stakeholders get to see more of what we had in 2019, not in 2020.”
Moore said this year was more about esports unifying and telling its story, while a partnership with football legend Ronaldo had launched a wellness initiative for esports athletes.
“It’s about promoting healthy digital lifestyles. It’s so important to engage everyone,” she said, noting that there are 3 billion gamers worldwide and 130 million-plus gamers in US aged 18-34.
Host City Americas is brought to you in partnership with Event Delivery Partners NEP Group and Creative Technology, Official Sustainability Partner Aggreko; Gold Sponsor Orange Sports Forum; Preferred Event Technology Partner OnePlan, Silver Sponsors Dallas Sports Commission and Iventis; Strategic Partners Edmonton Events, Global Esports Federation, Mailman, S2|FOAMHAND and World Championship Air Race.
Following the first Host City Americas, the eight global Host City 2021 event - the largest annual meeting of cities and sports, business and cultural events - takes place in Glasgow on 7-8 December. Follow www.hostcity.com for updates.