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Podcast

Fobi Insider - Episode 13: Sports & Live Events in a Post Pandemic World

On this week's episode, bdG CEO Brooks Downing returns to talk about how Fobi's solution is changing the game for sports businesses in the pandemic's aftermath.


Compared with the previous event bubbles Fobi and bdG deployed at 3 NCAA basketball tournaments, Fobi demonstrated the full capabilities of its powerful, on-location mobile marketing capabilities.

On this week's episode of the Fobi Insider (Previously Loop Experience), bdG CEO Brooks Downing returns to talk about how Fobi's solution is changing the game for sports businesses  in the pandemic's aftermath.

Listen to Fobi Insider - Episode 13: Sports & Live Events in a Post Pandemic World


The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel and bdG CEO Brooks Downing.

Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel: I think you're totally right. Those foundations in protecting users at live events needs to be there still. There's the check-ins, being able to manage and have the exposure notifications, but we're so excited about now what we can do, how we can engage these fans as they're starting coming back to live events.

bdG CEO Brooks Downing: We set it up much like we did with basketball and we had it on points of entry, points of access, where you're getting in, you're scanning, you're tapping your wallet pass and moving on into the next area. So you have all of that that's in place, that contact tracing, that venue management that we need. But now, oh, by the way, on the way home, and there's this special at MGM at this particular restaurant or bar or this particular show, or I can get a two for one special or whatever it may be that we were able to target and interact and engage those different individuals. I'll be honest. I've been doing this awhile. I've never had that option. It's a game changer. So being able to implement it through our MGM resorts championship platform, engaging the decision makers and letting them see the results. I'm really excited about where this could go, not only for Loop, but for us and all that we do with MGM. I mean, they're our biggest client as well. And hopefully there's a lot of activation that comes.

Devon: Hey, you're listening to the Loop experience podcast. Join us for exclusive interviews, behind the scenes updates and all things Loop. Coming at you from the Loop head office in Vancouver, I'm your host, Dev.

Our guest today is Brooks Downing from BD global sports. Lupe works very closely with Brooks and his team at BDG to implement our insights, engage, and venue management surface at many of their sporting events. Welcome back to the podcast, Brooks, I think you are actually officially the first guest to make a second appearance. So congratulations on that.

Brooks: I feel very privileged. So that shows you how much we've worked together, I guess Dev, over the last six or eight months. Huh?

Devon: No, it's been good. It's been great getting to know you a little bit more, but for our listeners, what have you been focused on for those last months? Because I know you've been very busy.

Brooks: Well, time we spoke, we had come out of our first basketball events in November, which was our first endeavour with Loop and bringing you guys in with your venue management system, which was just paramount for us to even having an event. And then as we continued in the sports and entertainment business, as we all know, it's taking a pretty significant beating during the pandemic. So event management companies like ours, you're looking to scratch and claw and pick up new business where you can. And we've been very blessed. We had the big west conference tournament back in March, men's and women's NCAA division one, which we obviously implemented the same venue management service there. You know, it was without fans, so much different event, much like we've been dealing with all winter. But then most recently, just within the last two weeks, just completed a Korn Ferry tour event, a professional golf tournament, $600,000 purse and more importantly, the all important points that the participants earn to earn their PGA tour card here at the end of the regular season later this summer.

And so it was a quickly put together major event in Las Vegas at the Paiute golf resort. Had 156 in the field, had 15 players, 15 pros who had won 30 times on the PGA tour. And so it was a heck of a stacked field and we had to put that together. We had limited fans, which was cool just to have some folks back out on the course and some cheers and some friends and family following golfers and little groups. So even a couple of hospitality tents at 18, you felt like life was taking a big step forward from where we've been. And, of course, we were there managing that and had Loop at our side. So that's taken a lot of our attention, those two events in March and April back to back, we're just now stepping out and catching our breath.

Devon: That's great. And I do want to touch on that event. So we'll touch on that a little bit later, but I think kind of what you said, as restrictions start to lift, and we see this change from where we were in super lock down before, and really seeing what are we going to do with sports, to now just a few months later with vaccination rollout and everything, there's been a large change. So I kind of want to get your point on that because I know we talked about that in our first interview, but now as we've kind of transitioned into this full reopening, I want to kind of get your take on it. What have you seen as restrictions and operational changes and what are those pieces that are changing for the better for the future?

Brooks: Well, you know, definitely you're starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccinations pick up, especially here in the US, and folks are desperate and the pent-up demand for sports and entertainment, for vacations, for just life to return as normal is there. And yet as an operator, we're still pretty much responsible for providing a safe venue for our participants. In golf, for instance, the participants, the caddies, the tour officials, all the folks that work this event week to week around the country have to be, still for the better part, in a bubble, in a mobile bubble, if you will. So while we're encouraged by the direction of where everything is happening, we also feel a very sense of responsibility to put the protocols in place, to protect all of those there.

And so whether it's our program participants, whether it's a guest, friends and family, how do you set up those protocols as we kind of morph out of this pandemic, and I tell you what was great for us and what I was so excited about, and if you remember in our first conversation, I told you what I was most excited about, what Loop had in its stable was the all-in-one access pass. And yet we're so focused on venue management and making sure we were doing our contact tracing and doing our best that we could to put that foot forward in basketball with the indoor sports all winter long. And without fans, we didn't have the opportunity to properly introduce that all-in-one wallet pass. Well, guess what happened two weeks ago. We got to bring it out and bring it to life.

And so I got to see it in action and the implementation that we did and your team did, Dev, and Terry and company of putting that in place and working with our key title sponsor in MGM was to see it come to life. And now I feel like there's so many possibilities with this software, with this wallet pass, that we can be so effective with our sponsors because here's what's happening. Not only do you have life returning to normal, but everybody's budgets have been cut, and guess who gets spent on last. Events and live events and spectator events, because the traditional marketing has to take place first for a brand, secondly for those enhanced areas like event marketing. And so if I'm going to convince a partner to come on board as a sponsor with one of our marquee events, like the MGM resorts championship at Paiute, we've got to show a direct return and a direct response. And I think the early numbers already in from what we did in Las Vegas, where there was a 50% engagement. Just incredible. We're able to go back to MGM and show them the effectiveness of this all-in-one wallet pass and what it was able to do to directly market to our consumers and clients on property. Really, I'm just absolutely blown away by how effective it was and the potential that we have going forward.

Devon: And I think you hit the nail on the head there. A big piece that we've been really trying to do is showcase all the benefits of this venue management system. I know at the end of last year, and in the beginning of this year, yes, it was very heavily grounded in COVID and testing. But because that was the main piece that that venue management solution needed to have at the time it was protection. We had these restrictions, governments were looking at us, teams, leagues were looking at us. So we had to make sure that that was at the forefront. And now, as you say, if we move out, we can really bring out the engagement side of it and the insights, and really the access pass that you talked about, which was the initial intent for it. I think you're totally right. Those foundations in protecting users at live events needs to be there still. That's still what it's still based on, there's that piece there, there's the check-ins, being able to manage and have the exposure notifications, but right. What you said, we're so excited about now what we can do, how we can engage these fans as they're starting coming back to live events.

Brooks: Well, Dev, let me just give you an example. I mean, we set it up much like we did with basketball, and we had it on points of entry, points of access, right? Where you're getting in, you're scanning, you're tapping your wallet pass and moving on into the next area. So if you're one of our participants, our 156 professional golfers, you've got it going into the dining room area, you've got it going into testing. You've got it going into the golf course proper areas. You have all of that that's in place that's that shell, right? The contact tracing, that venue management that we need, but now, bam. Oh, by the way, on the way home, there's this special at MGM at this particular restaurant or bar, or this particular show, or I can get a discount offered or a two for one special or whatever it may be that we were able to target and interact and engage those different individuals. I'll be honest, I've been doing this awhile. I've never had that option. It's a game changer.

Devon: And I think a really important piece and something that I want to touch on there is what you're probably seeing, because you have so many of these contained events that you launched. We've seen in the past companies try and roll out specific apps that are centered around events, and there's so much cost and time that goes into building out an app. By the time you do your pre-build, you deploy it, get everyone onboard and you have a three-day event, wasn't really worth it. Where what we can do with wallet passes is supply the same engagement level as an application, provide that single piece on the user's phone, where they can go for leaderboards, alerts, notifications and everything, but then be able to copy that so quickly and deploy it so quickly for all of your different events. You basically end up having an app for every one of your events that's personalized.

Brooks: It was a brilliant plan to come up with the wallet pass, because to your point, we all have hundreds of apps on our phones, many of which we don't use, or we use it one time, we downloaded it for whatever the mood or the purpose was at the point in time. But now with that wallet pass, the whole digital approach. I mean, let's talk about that for a second. Everything's moving digitally. You have to. The pandemic expedited that tremendously into the digital world for event management, event marketing, and now to have this tool at our disposal and be it a wallet pass to where, bam, download it, it's with me the rest of the weekend. As you said, it's my one-stop shop. I don't have to go looking for the app. I don't have to learn a new app, how to navigate it. It's all right there, easy to use by the consumer, easy to access, easy to show and scan and move on to your next opportunity.

And so for us, that was a really big move because when you're talking about a touchless approach, bringing fans back into a venue in which we did, having a wallet pass, having them scan before they get to the admissions tent, boom, boom, boom, everything then falls into like a domino effect. Because now it's on their phone and we can positively effect everything on that wallet pass now with a click of a button.

Devon: Great. And I kind of want to lead into that. So you're seeing this digital transformation. Of course, the pandemic, like you said, has pushed this transformation ahead even further. What are kind of things that you're planning for your events, maybe next year or years forward, that are really more digital focused? Are you looking to do more of digital aspects to your events moving forward?

Brooks: I would like to strictly be digitally focused going forward because I think it provides me a much greater opportunity to know who my consumer is. Who's my ticket buyer, that's what I need to know. I need to know as much about that individual and be able to directly impact them with the one thing they never put down all day long. And that's that wallet pass. Well, we're already thinking about the things we can do. Next November we've got some of the most Marky college basketball events in the country. Duke versus Gonzaga could be number one versus number two in November at T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas. The weekend before we've got a tournament with Michigan, Arizona, Wichita state, and the UNLB rebels right there at T-Mobile. The Roman Main event we call it. And both of these events will likely be sold out with 18,000 fans at T-Mobile all three days of play plus a national television audience.

So imagine being able to capture and utilize that wallet pass for those fan bases and being able to go back to Roman, who's sponsoring our main event and say, "Hey, here's the different opportunities now that we have to further impact your sponsorship through being able to directly market to each one of the folks that walk through that door into the arena that day, and to do so, whereby we have the updated stats. We have the updated rankings we have, in addition to all the offerings that you can put upon a wallet pass, we can load that up to be a one-stop shop for live in game information source." There's nothing else like it. What I love about it is we're the first to the table in being able to implement this at the NCAA level. And I don't think a lot of folks realize how impactful this can be, long-term, for reaching their consumer on a one-to-one basis.

Devon: Yeah. Yeah, you're totally right. Yeah. I want to talk a little bit now about the event, because I think the Korn Ferry PGA tour was a really exciting event. First of all, I want to know a little bit more about how long you've been involved with the event.

Brooks: Well, we've been working with the PGA tour now since 2017. So we run two Korn Ferry tour events to start the new season each January in The Bahamas, one in Exuma at the Sandals resort, Greg Norman designed a golf course there at Sandals Emerald Bay, and then our following week at the Abaco club at winding bay in the Abacos there in The Bahamas. So we have two events. Well, this year because of the pandemic, both were suspended. This was year five. We were just starting a new contract with The Bahamas for both of these events and Bahamas tourism. And so the tour needed another stop for this series, the Korn Ferry series, we obviously needed work. And so they threw us an opportunity to, hey, if you'd like to create something, this was October now, when we found out we were going to have to suspend our two January events.

And so we went to work and Josh Franklin, our tournament director, the rest of our team, and just jumped in and put together this event in literally four and a half months with a major holiday sitting right there in the front end of it with Christmas. Plus still in the midst of a pandemic. And when we announced it deep into the second wave of the pandemic spreading. So this was not an easy task by any means, but we had good partners around us. First partner, which was Paiute the golf resort, which was 54 hole, beautiful world-class golfers were there, just on the edge of Las Vegas on an Indian reservation. Just an unbelievable partnership with that team and the tribal council and the rest of the folks there. And then the second piece was MGM resorts jumped on board as a title sponsor. And I tell you, those two things, finding the right course and getting a good partner to be your title sponsor, really made this event a tremendous success in literally 120 days. And so we were sweating it, we were working hard, but once all these pieces and parts started coming together, then we knew we were going to be in good shape and were able to execute and activate. And of course, having Loop at our side was a key piece to that success.

Devon: And MGM is such a massive title sponsor. I mean, the amount of things they own and the amount of sponsorships that they're doing, and being able to work with MGM on a level, because we were working with them as well, too, to push out their sponsored promotions through the wallet pass. Just being able to do that in such a short amount of time is a feat as well.

Brooks: Absolutely. Getting them introduced to Loop and to our marketing efforts that we had embedded within our golf event, I think opened their eyes to the many opportunities that this wallet pass can provide MGM going forward. They admitted they're way behind the curve digitally, and working with a group that owns 13 resorts or manages 13 resorts on the strip and probably the biggest casino operator in the world. You know, it's like trying to turn a battleship out in the ocean. It just doesn't turn on a dime. They've got great folks and there's a tremendous willingness, but at the same time, it's a tremendous effort to bring something new and something advanced and something that's cutting edge like this all-in-one access pass to the forefront. So being able to implement it through our MGM resorts championship platform, engaging the decision makers and letting them see the results.

I'm really excited about where this could go, not only for Loop, but for us and all that we do with MGM. I mean, they're our biggest client as well. And hopefully there's a lot of activation to come because with the thousands upon thousands of hotel rooms, the tremendous travel impact that they see daily through tourism, there's such an untapped market to greater positively affect their revenue potential by implementing this all-in-one access pass. And I think they got to see it in action, which was, bottom line, the best part of the day for them.

Devon: And we were super excited to work with MGM as well, because it gave us the ability to use some of the capabilities of our wallet pass that we hadn't used before. So we were able to use our segmenting features, where we were able to break down the past and look at segments that were over the age of 21, which allowed us then to provide MGM with the ability to push their bet MGM offers, which is a big thing in marketing that people don't always realize that there's a lot of age restriction based on certain types that these large sponsors want to push, but they just can't because they don't have the validation on the receiving side that that person is over the age. So we were able to set that up, we were able to run our bet MGM promotions with them, which was something really cool that we were excited to actually do.

Brooks: Well, Dev, I tell you, that was a real important piece when we got to that during the planning stages and you all were able to indicate to them, "Oh, we can, we can make it 21 and over, that's no problem." And you were able to pretty much fashion a lot of the efforts that we use, whether it was back in November on a smaller scale with the Hyatt coconut point down in Fort Myers or Miramar outlets, now MGM resorts on a massive level. And you were able to kind of personalize that all-in-one access pass just from the basics. That 21 and older was a huge, huge positive mark in Loop's favor because they were very concerned. Bet MGM is their biggest newest revenue machine. It's growing like crazy. They can't wait to get it out globally. And as the US opens up and it's sports betting state by state, it continues to grow. And so they're looking to really promote that. But Loop's ability to personalize that to MGM was a huge home run.

Devon: A piece that I want to touch on as well too is we're talking a lot about the sponsorship side. And of course, the sponsorship dollars that come in from that, which like you said are so important to being able to put on these events. What are some pieces that you foresee with working with your sponsors in the future to combine this kind of digital engagement and really provide it to the sponsors as an offering for your events?

Brooks: Well, I just think the whole contactless environment, the digital engagement, all that goes into the wallet pass for us will be a positive for our sponsors. So whether it's their marketing, whether it's their fan engagement, a lot of them are doing hospitality as well. You know, so much of sponsorship is bringing other clients into a world-class event. So when we talk about Duke versus Gonzaga at T-Mobile arena, that's going to be sold out probably one of the most watched basketball games next season, having that ability to engage their other clients, grow that base, will be a key factor.

Devon: Yeah, I agree completely. Well, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today, but before you go, I have one last question. Last time I kind of asked you what was something that you learned or something that you really got to take advantage of during the pandemic. And you said spending more time with your family and really getting into barbecuing and cooking. I want to know if there's something else that you've been able to take time to learn as well.

Brooks: Well, let me touch base on the first part, because on Easter, I grilled on a rotisserie over charcoal, a prime rib roast that might've been the best thing I've ever fixed. We'll have to do that Dev if you make it down here, the bluegrass, I'll fix it for you and the crew one day, but that was remarkable. So now I'm looking at I'm trying to invest, to save money. Whether it's family, home, whatever. And my latest endeavor is we've got a geologist who, a couple of houses down, went and put a well in. And so to tap in, put the irrigation system on it, save money, not use good chlorinated water that's flowing into the house. Now you can tap into mother nature way deep below. He thinks he can get me 200 gallons a minute, which should more than do the job. So I'm all about learning about the geology under the turf around my house. So I'll report back on that on my third appearance on the podcast next time.

Devon: That's very cool. That's very cool. Well, again, thank you for taking the time. We're so appreciative of our partnership that we have together and the value that we can bring to your business and your partners and your events that you're putting on. So thank you again for taking the time, Brooks.

Brooks: Well, I tell you what, Dev. Loop and you guys, you've made my life, as challenging it has been during the pandemic, a whole heck of a lot easier. So thank you.

Devon: Awesome. All right. To our listeners, we'll see you next time.

Click here for all episodes of the official podcast of Fobi: ‘Fobi Insider' (Previously Loop Experience).

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