This November, Fobi's wallet pass technology will provide a complete smart ticket solution for guests attending bd Global Sports' "Baha Mar Hoops" event - where 19 NCAA Men's and Women's NCAA Basketball teams will battle it out before the stunning island backdrop that is the Baha Mar resort complex in Nassau, Bahamas.
On this week’s episode, we talk to Josh Franklin, Tournament Director at bd Global Sports about what this event is all about, and what capabilities Fobi's technology will bring for bd Global Sports.
Understand how Fobi's technology will be used at Baha Mar Hoops, listen to the latest episode of the Fobi Insider Podcast.
The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel and bd Global Sports Tournament Director Josh Franklin
Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel: Welcome back to the Fobi Insider Podcast. Our guest today is Josh Franklin, Tournament Director for bdG Global Sports. Fobi has worked with bdG on the past events such as NCAA COVID-19 Tournament bubbles, the MGM sponsored, Paiute Las Vegas, PGA Tour. And now most recently the upcoming Bahama NCAA Tournament. Welcome to the show today, Josh.
bd Global Sports Tournament Director Josh Franklin: Hey Devon, thanks for having me.
Devon: We've had Brooks on the show. So, Brooks Downing is the CEO of bdG. So we've had him on the past couple of times, we have a really good working relationship with you guys. We enjoy working with you. We're hoping that we're providing great technology to you. But you've now been working at BDG for more than five years, can you tell our listeners or just remind them of what bdG actually does?
Josh: Sure. You hit it on the head, I've been with bdG for a little over five years. We've always been an event management company, but we do more than that. We're very big in the college basketball space as you know. We also run several professional golf tournament that you guys have worked on us with, most recently in Las Vegas. We do some high-end Pro-Am golf tournament as well. So I oversee all of our golf division as well as anything that happens basketball wise in The Bahamas. Simply because we have two golf tournaments down there and when we added the basketball tournament, it made a lot of sense.
Devon: Great. So you mentioned that you're working with the tournaments and you have a set group turns. What's really involved in that? What's your day to day look like?
Josh: So for me, it's a one-stop shop for a lot of different things, from working with the teams on their travel, working with the sports information directors on just tournament information bracket, marketing, social media, and then working with the venues. In this instance, we're working with Baha Mar and the Grand Hyatt. Their own property for hotel room blocks, fan travel, setting up ticketing, building out the resort itself with how we're going to seat people in the, for lack of a better term, the ballroom. The convention center that will turn into an arena for that week. So realistically Devon, it's A to Z. If someone sings the national anthem, we went out and found them. The officials, we have to go out and hire them. So it's a lot of those smaller details that people don't see that happened behind the scenes, but also the bigger details that people see. The releases, the press releases, the brackets. And if we have a television partner in the sales, all of that.
Devon: And that probably requires even more attention to detail because you don't have your own stadium where everything is set up already, you're traveling and hosting these at different events. So there's probably lots of challenges that go along with that too.
Josh: That's exactly right. If we were going to compare golf and basketball, typically I would say golf is slightly different or slightly more difficult, because every single golf course is different. And typically basketball is played in an arena or a gym that is the same. In this instance, we're having to create something from nothing. We have four walls in a conference center, a very big conference center, if you will. So we still have to work with vendors on creating the seating, creating the ticketing.
Fortunately, Baha Mar purchased a basketball court. About two years ago, they hosted a summer tour event where the University of Memphis came down with Adidas and did some summer games. We were able to utilize that court for our tournament in 2019. And now they've purchased a second court for us to use this year where we're able to utilize a larger ballroom. We can use the ancillary court in the secondary ballroom for practice. So it really makes it a great experience for teams and fans, never having any leads to resort.
Devon: And I want to dive into that a little bit deeper, a little bit later on of actually what goes into the construction of creating a basketball court out of a ballroom that's really not set up for it. But first of all, how did you get into this? What's your history? How did you get involved in sports and tournament direction?
Josh: So I played college baseball, very interested in sports, and then once I completed my playing career, I moved into coaching. So anytime you're talking about a coach of any sport, it's a lot of planning. You have to be pretty buttoned up to manage 35 individuals throughout the season, from the travel aspects to the camps, to everything. Although being a coach, there's quite a bit of travel involved. And if you want to move up the ranks, you have to take every job that comes along with it. I wasn't necessarily too interested in job hopping all over the United States, I wanted to find something else I could sink my teeth into. And a good friend of mine was working for Brooks at the time, he's still with us, but he introduced me to Brooks and we hit it off.
And at the time we didn't have a golf division and we just had basketball. So I came in, I ran one of our college basketball events in Austin, Texas. And then Brooks asks if I wanted to head up our golf division as well. And I took that head on. And then we moved that college basketball then from Texas to The Bahamas, just given some relationships we had down there, and it made a lot of sense. And that's how it happened. It was right place, right time. But I felt like I had the skills to be able to do what Brooks wanted us to do.
Devon: Is there any future for bringing some baseball?
Josh: We've talked about baseball quite a bit. Just right before the pandemic, we were actually getting down the path a little bit with one of the major league ballparks. The issue with baseball is it has to be premium. It has to be a big time ballpark. Therefore, you have to either find a partner or be willing to pay a very hefty price tag to rent a facility. And we were talking with the folks down at Tampa Bay on the Rays, and unfortunately our talks stopped because they started having to look into creating a split season, where they would actually take the team back to Montreal. There were some news about that as well, they would split their season. So the person I was working with, their head of operations, he had to pump the brakes. But I mean, we would love nothing more than to add a baseball event to our repertoire. It made a lot of sense, given the fact that it would need to be played in probably March, a time of the year where we're not doing a lot of events.
Devon: Well, what you're doing with basketball and golf right now is awesome, but let's talk a little bit more specifically about this Baha Mar Hoops Tournament that's happening in Nassau, Bahamas. So it's running from November 22nd to 27th. So over the American Thanksgiving long weekend. So we've talked a little bit about, is there currently no regulation NCAA basketball court there? Are you having to build that from scratch?
Josh: Well, right now, Devon, they do have one court itself. They have a second court on the way, but there is no quote unquote gym. So there's no facility, the court comes up in panels. Like you would see at any facility, they just back it up and move it out and then they install it when they need it. And that's what they're going to do here at Baha Mar, they'll just do it twice. We'll have one utilized for the practice gym and the other utilized for the game gym. We're going to call them a gym just because it makes sense, although they are a very large ballroom.
So not only we going to have to put down the courts, we're going to have to install scoreboards. We're going to have to install seating and everything that goes with seating. So the scaffolding, the platforms, the chairs, the actual exit and entrance strategies, the signage. It sounds a lot more involved than it is. I mean, it's plenty involved, however, we're no stranger to doing these things. It's temporary seeing that you would see at a golf tournament. And so we work with a similar vendor that we do on golf tournament that we'll use here and that's all for basketball.
Devon: And why The Bahamas? Is there a big draw for a basketball there? Are the teams really wanting to play there?
Josh: So these teams, they get to take a trip every so often. This is called a Multi Team Event or for short we call it an MTE. And the teams can make one. They can travel to one of these MTEs every four years. So if they come to this tournament, they can't come back for another four years. They can do one each year, but for each specific tournaments once every four years. The draw is just a trip for them to take so that they can bring their families, bring their friends, bring their donors. You'll see a lot of these early season events at destination location. And for us, we have relationships within The Bahamas and it's obviously a big tourist destination. So fairly easy sell for us to convince teams to come down in November. It's a great, great time of year for them to travel.
It's great for them to get out of the cold weather, to come down where there's a beach, palm trees. That seems to be what teams want that time of year. And by playing in an MTE, it actually allows them to schedule additional games. So without getting too far in the weeds, if they play an MTE, they can schedule up to 31 games as opposed to 28 games. So there is an inherent advantage to these teams to be able to play more games. Because they're all trying to get to 20 wins. Historically, 20 wins is a really good season and they have a good chance of making the NCAA Tournament if they can get there.
Devon: And how many teams are we expecting? I know this is, we're now on the tail end of COVID where we're opening it up more to teams and fans. How many fans can we expect? How many teams are excited to be coming to this tournament?
Josh: So we're going to have 19 teams over six days worth of games. The first three days are going to be made up of eight teams. They're all NCAA Division 1 mid-majors. And those teams will consist of Toledo, Charlotte, Drexel, Tulane, Abilene Christian, who was in NCAA's tournament team last year. Jacksonville State, Coastal Carolina, and Valparaiso. So they'll play an 18 tournament. So the winners move along and play winners. The losers will move on and play the losers. They'll play three games in three days, we'll have four games each day for fans. And then from a fan expectation, every year is slightly different because each teams have different fan bases. Some schools it's easier to travel to The Bahamas than others, but I expect we'll have anywhere from four to 600 people each game during our mid-major tournament, that's historically what we've had.
And then once we move on to Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we actually have some larger name teams. We have seven women's teams that'll be headlined by Stanford, the defending National Champions. We'll have NC State and Maryland, both top five programs. We'll have Indiana Washington State, Miami, Florida, as well as south Florida. So that's seven teams in that tournament then we're calling the Pink Flamingo Championship. And then we'll actually have four, what we're calling our power five division or our Bahamas Championship, where we'll have men's teams consisting of Louisville, Maryland, Richmond and Mississippi State.
Richmond's not quite a power five team. They don't come from a power five conference. However, they're a very good basketball team, high quality. I wouldn't be surprised for them to win both games they played in The Bahamas. And for that, we love to see a 1,000 to 1,200 fans each day. We absolutely will market to our local folks there in The Bahamas. But in perfect world, we'd fill it up with some folks coming in from out of town. I mean, as you know the day, it's a tourism play. That's what we want. We want to bring people down and showcase this phenomenal resort that is Baha Mar. And let them just see The Bahamas for themselves, because it's a special place. We really love being there and the people are friendly, but the resort has a lot to offer.
Devon: And you mentioned how it is tourism play. With the last major events that we were doing with you, we were really focused on using our technology for the bubble events. So making sure that the athletes, the coaches, the officials, the limited fans that were available were protected. There was contact tracing and testing. Is this going to be one of your first tournaments where COVID isn't the primary focus of the actual event?
Josh: Exactly. This will definitely be one of the first ones in which we're not having to knock on wood. We hope we're not having to test folks daily and have it be a primary concern. I mean, obviously it's still going to be a concern. Teams are going to be traveling out of the country. They'll have to be tested prior to leaving the country per the current guidelines. And then they'll have to be tested to come back to the United States as well. But we still are four months out and things will change I'm sure between now and then. But we're focused on getting fans down there, having them be able to sit up close and personal with these teams and see some great basketball while also getting to spend their afternoons in the sunshine.
Devon: And how has your conversation been with the team directors when you were looking and running those bubble events versus now? Are they more open to coming? Is it more of a easy decision for them?
Josh: Absolutely. And last year it was a lot of what are other teams doing and are we okay? Is it safe for us to travel? Are we going to be allowed to travel? If we commit to this event, will we have to shut it down last minute? We're not really getting that this year. I think that due to do the vaccination rates, teams are not quite as concerned. We do have some backup plans in place should we have to pivot? Although, we're confident that we're not going to have to pivot. The things that Baha Mar has in place are phenomenal, the different protocols they have. So in our minds, it's very safe for these teams to travel to Baha Mar, to be on one resort. Here we have 19 teams, all in one spot. So we're going to have a vast majority of the folks who are traveling in being a part of our event. But I think that's a much safer environment that we're creating, even though it's not a quote unquote bubble than what others would be showcasing it other locations.
Devon: And hopefully from your previous events, you've established to the industry that bdG is this company that can successfully put on events with no exposure during the pandemic, and then carry over that same safety regulations into previous or into post events that are happening now.
Josh: That's right. And teams have worked with us enough. They know that everything that we do is going to be first-class. We're not going to skimp on things. It's going to be high quality... Brooks and myself and others, we've had the experience of being around the teams. We know what things they're looking for before they ever even ask the question. So that's nothing new to us, and teams expect that first-class environment when they play in a bdG event. Especially when we take them to a property like Baha Mar. Baha Mar is first-class in all facets. So there's definitely some synergies between the type of product that we put forth and the type of product Baha Mar support.
Devon: And previously, you talked about how, when you're constructing these tournaments, you have to look at scaffolding and putting in bleachers and all these pieces that tie it together. What are you looking at for technology as we move into more of a digital first world? What considerations are you making around the technology that you're now introducing into your tournaments as well?
Josh: Sure. So we look at this tournament specifically as an opportunity to make that leap into the digital world on a ticketing platform. We've done things in the past where it's been a very, I would say a much more simple way of doing things. Where you come up, you purchase your ticket, you get a credential. It's just a very transactional. And now working with Fobi, we're going to be doing something that's totally different. The folks who've been purchasing tickets currently, they're going to get the email that allows them to download the ticket on their wallet pass. And we'd love that. There's now no more exchanging of credentials, exchanging of tickets. They come in, they scan it and they get to walk right in. That also allows us to work with the resort and other sponsors on how we can direct different messaging to these teams.
We've even talked about how we can be able to share information with the ticket purchasers while they're on property. So, Devon you're out at the water park, the, the brand new $225 million water park that was just opened July the second. And your team plays at 2:00 PM but the game that started at 11:00 AM is in triple overtime. And we can push do a push notification to all of those fans, so you don't have to leave the lazy river early, just to be disappointed that your team is not about to play. So it's just a unique experience that we're going to be able to share with fans. We're excited about being able to try it. Anytime you're doing events at some of the larger arenas, you don't have the capabilities always to do things and to try new things. They may have their in-house ticketing group that you have to do things the way they do it. And that's it. So being able to own and operate the ticket platform 100% is pretty exciting for us.
Devon: We're super excited about that as well too. Not having that mobile ticket that we're used to now with going to maybe larger events where, this is my ticket, I scan it at the door, that's it. What's the point of having it on my wallet versus carrying a paper ticket, it's trash after. But really creating that dynamic piece where, like you said, we can continue conversations with the people that have the tickets, put sponsored promotions and have that communication channel tied to the ticket.
Josh: Exactly. And we're excited to try it out. We're excited for Baha Mar to see it. And the folks who've traveled down there as fans or as teams, they're going to see that Baha Mar has already taken a really big step with their technology. For instance, when you go into a typical hotel or a standard hotel, you get your hotel card. Everyone's had one. At Baha Mar, you go in and they give you a wristband that shows that you're a guest on the property. With that wristband also doubles as your room key. So you walk up to your door, you get your wristband close to it and your door unlocks. So they're doing some things that are innovative as well. And we're excited to do some of those things similarly.
Devon: That's great. It's such a great fit for a technology first hotel to now be offering technology first conferences and events such as this one that we're doing as well. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about, in tournaments in the past how have you done ticketing?
Josh: We've done ticketing mainly in house and we've kept it very simple. So some of our mid-major events, if we're talking hundreds of tickets, we can handle that in-house on our end. In which case, what happens? The ticket purchaser goes to our website, they purchase the ticket, and then we basically just set up a makeshift we'll call. So then they'll show up to the actual game, they'll walk in and they'll get a pass or a credential, or wristband. Something along those lines. And it's very elementary, how we've done those events. Which is fine, it works. However, when you start getting into the events where you're getting tens of thousands of tickets sold, that is not economical nor is it a good use of our time.
Devon: You have full control of the ticketing here, but most of the time these stadiums have contracts with ticket providers such as Ticketmaster or StubHub, right?
Josh: Yeah, exactly. We've had to work with a lot of them. And not that they're bad, I mean, it's very streamlined. The larger companies have been doing this for a long time. They know what has worked. But when anytime you're dealing with a really large company like that, it's not as easy for them to pivot.
Devon: And we've talked about too previously in discussions around how we're doing ticketing for this event. It's not just one ticket for one game, there's the options to have tickets for the whole set of games. Maybe you're seeing all of the men's games and now it's a daily pass, not just a single ticket. But then also we need to have the ability to provide single tickets for people that want to come to a single game. Have you seen with our technology being able to fill a lot of those holes and gaps that maybe you would have had before with your own previous ticketing offers?
Josh: Absolutely. I think the way we're doing it right now is, if you purchase a ticket for the mid-major event or an NFL Championship, that gets you tickets to all 12 games. And then if you purchase a ticket to the Pink Flamingo Championship, it gets you into basically all the games for that women's event, same on the men's power side. So it is nice that we're able to do things slightly differently and pivot on the day of, because in a perfect world, we would sell all tournament passes and we'd be sold out before we walked up to the actual tournament. That won't happen, I mean, every event promoter wants to be sold out before the tournament. That just doesn't happen like that always. So we want to be able to invite locals out to the tournament.
I mean, here we are bringing this phenomenal product and it would be a shame if someone in Nassau couldn't purchase a ticket the day of and come in just to watch that one game, or all of a sudden they're a big global Cardinal fan or Maryland Terrapins fan that want to just come in. So we're trying to make that available to them as well. It's just hard. You can't necessarily offer that up currently. You have to wait and see how many tournament passes you're going to sell out prior to offering the single game passes.
Devon: And thank you for bringing that up about the locals, I want to touch on that as well too. Just talking about how important is it for bdG that's hosting these events to also encourage local fans that maybe don't have a local team, or weren't really involved in a sport that you're bringing to their city or community. How important is it for that to be accessible to them?
Josh: It's very important. And we've met so many Bahamians in our time just doing business down there. And we've got a lot of friends who come out to our games and support. We do some ticket donations to some of the high schools and some of the primary schools to be able to bring some school kids out as well. But basketball is really big in The Bahamas. They have the very first international born number one pick in the NBA Draft with Michael Thompson. They've had Deandre Edoneille who plays for the Suns currently. He's a big player at Arizona as well. They've had Rick Fox, he played for the Showtime Lakers. So they've had quite a few Bohemians in the NBA and who's had some really good success. So I think that you will see locals come out and support these games.
And I also think some people were very surprised at the level of play. Even when folks hear about the mid-major tournament or the mid-major teams, they may not quite understand how good they are, because relatively speaking, they may not be as good as the Duke or the Kansas from the Kentucky for that season. However, they come out and they see the level of basketball that's being played and they don't get to experience that up close and personal. So it's just eye-opening for some of them, it's really interesting to see some of the local basketball coaches bring their teams out. Because then they can point out, here's what I've been asking you to do all these years and here is actually it happening in person. So just a unique situation. And if we have 1,200 people in the convention center as far as the seating goes, there's not going to be a bad seat in the house. So it's not that often that you get opportunity to sit and watch these teams up close and personal, it's such an intimate setting.
Devon: So outside of this Baha Mar Tournament at this great resort, what are you really excited about? Maybe not just the ticketing platform that now we're adding into the wallet pass with Fobi but the wallet pass that Fobi is offering in general. How is this going to change the way that you plan tournaments or plan activations around tournaments going forward?
Josh: So we're really excited about it simply because we love to be on the cutting edge of things. We also are obviously a big sales organization as well. And to be able to take this to sponsors, it's going to be different. We'd love to have different offerings and we're going to be in The Bahamas for a long time to come. And this is just going to scratch the surface here in year one, but we're going to be able to showcase this technology to a lot of folks that we work with now, but it's going to open some doors that maybe we didn't have previously. And on the flip side of that, with all of her other businesses and events, I mean from Las Vegas to south Florida, to Naples back down to The Bahamas. It's going to open up some doors and give us some opportunities to work with some groups who I think we'll see a lot of value in being able to do things within the ticketing platform.
Devon: Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your, I'm sure you have a very busy schedule with this tournament coming up. Thank you for taking the time to hop on and talk a little bit more for our listeners to understand how we're doing this tournament, how we're integrating tickets and how this is a new offering that Fobi is doing. I definitely have my fingers crossed that I'm going to be on the team that gets to join you, because the weather in Canada in November isn't great. I'm sure Bahamas will be lot better.
Josh: It typically is very nice. I'm very excited. I'm just excited for people to get down there and experience Baha Mar. It's just, I mean, it's mind blowing really. As good of a place as I've ever been in my life. So it's fun. It's fun getting to see when teams show up or fans show up for their first time, their jaws drop and they can't believe this place exists. I didn't even know it.
Devon: Well, I'm hoping I get to have a jaw-dropping experience as well.
Josh: Fingers crossed for you that you get to do that.
Devon: Thank you so much, Josh. And to our listeners, we'll be back with another episode soon. Thank you so much for listening.
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