Top 4 Takeaways from the 2019 VenuesNow Industry Conference

Last week Venuetize was honored to be part of the forward-thinking discussions that took place with industry leaders at the VenuesNow Conference in New York City. We asked four of our own who attended this great event for their top takeaways.

1) Cashless Venues are Trending

Karri Zaremba, Founder & COO

Venue operators are pushing more than ever for cashless concessions and merchandise stores, and with statistics like the ones shared by Jerry Jacobs, Jr., of Delaware North, it’s not a surprise as to why. Delaware North is seeing an 18% bump in per caps on cashless transactions compared to payments with cash at the TD Garden in Boston. Speed of service, guest satisfaction, and theft prevention all continue to be top drivers of going cashless.


Karri’s Takeaway

Fans want convenience and the freedom to pay with whatever method of payment they wish. Some state laws prohibit not having cash options. Venues and teams should focus less on the publicity of saying they are “cashless,” and more on the infrastructure, technology, and back-end operations required to provide a seamless checkout process for their consumers. The easiest way to do this is to leverage the smartphones that are already in more than 90% of attendees’ hands. Eventually, the less than 10% still using cash will recognize the convenience and other benefits of going cashless, and they will convert. Venuetize is seeing even greater lift than 18% in per caps, on average, across our customer base. We are also seeing sponsorship deals by financial institutions and credit card companies that are backing cashless initiatives.


2) Best. Panel. Ever. 

Craig Duncan, CRO

It will not come as any surprise that a panel discussion with three commissioners of professional US sports leagues was insightful and impressive. However, this panel went to another level. For me, it was quite simply the best panel discussion I can ever recall listening to in my career. To hear the humility of these three industry titans, their work ethic, and the amazing backgrounds that led to their ascent to the very top of their respective leagues, I was blown away. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing both Commissioner Don Garber of MLS and Commissioner Adam Silver of the NBA speak before at events, but never in such an intimate setting or personal manner. The newcomer in the group for me was Commissioner Cathy Englebert of the WNBA. I was not aware of her impressive resume, including most recently CEO of Deloitte. I was both alarmed and inspired by her comments that less than 5% of brand sponsor spend goes towards women’s sports in the United States, despite the fact that over 70% of the buying decisions in the household are made by females. She clearly views this current challenge as a massive growth opportunity for the WNBA and women’s sports in general. Based on what I heard from her on this panel, I would not bet against her in leading a charge that closes this gap significantly in the years to come.


Craig’s Takeaway

All three commissioners referenced “digital natives” and the need to cater to the younger generations, with the way to do this being technology and smart phones in particular. Also, it was interesting to hear their thoughts on how new venue builds and renovations are being driven by the more “social and fluid fan.”  There was recognition across all three leaders that the typical fan of their respective sports has changed dramatically over the last decade, and it is up to venue operators, the leagues, and teams, to adjust to their fans’ interests and behaviors. Then there was the clearly unscripted question at the very end from moderator Tod Leiweke regarding the significance of 9/11 to each commissioner and being in downtown Manhattan for this conference on the 18th anniversary of this tragedy. Each one of their stories was incredibly personal and made everyone in the room realize what a privilege it is to work in this industry, and that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to do our part to promote venue safety and security to the very best we can.

3) Sports Betting is Changing EVERYTHING.

Jim Tobin, VP of Sales, Sports & Ent.

Sports teams, leagues, venue operators, casino operators, owners, and even athletes will all be impacted. While 13 states have already passed legislation to legalize sports betting, there’s still a somewhat long and winding road ahead. Security, fraud prevention, and low latency are all areas that need to be addressed. It is critical to understand how each state will allow a sports bet to take place. In some states, it will all be digital and through mobile – which will require a specific set of requirements.  In other states, the fan will need to place the bet at a physical sports book, whether one that is a part of the venue, or at a casino property.  In any case, a unique set of technical and operational requirements will need to be met, not only to secure the transaction but to provide fans with an optimal experience. What was previously a once-a-day event (often at night) is transforming in many instances to a full-day operation that can include spaces for viewing and/or betting. Betting appears to be the catalyst for an opportunity to increase utilization of the venues, and the revenue impact is already massive and still so much more to follow.


Jim’s Takeaway

The diversity alone in the types of organizations represented across this panel was very telling. From racetracks to multi-use venues, to design and construction companies, to the casino operators, all are working tirelessly to figure out the legal landscape by state, and to take advantage of the incredible opportunity this represents to enhance the fan experience, drive engagement, and increase revenue. There was consensus across all the panelists that sports betting will also keep fans at the venues longer since more fans will have action that is impacted by final score of game. As such, both new venues and renovations of old, are now catering to the sports betting fan with more open, social spaces to watch and/or wager.

4) “Think Like a Brand, Act Like an Agency”

Tony Grillo, Strategic Partnerships

The main topic covered on this panel was the trend towards measurement of advertisements and sponsorship specifically. Last year, Anheuser Busch (AB) made headlines with a new variable cost sponsorship model that would better appropriate funds other than digital based on impressions or other performance metrics. On this panel, agency executives discussed the merits of such a model and the increasing need for venues to provide metrics that can support deals like that of AB. One key point mentioned was that providing more measurement to sponsors can help to renew and increase the scope of current deals.


Tony’s Takeaway

Leagues and teams are likely to agree to some performance metrics and having more analytics to provide them will help immensely with sponsorship deals. Venuetize clients stand to benefit with the additional data that they will be provided from mobile engagement.