Las Vegas’ Extraordinary Year Captures Marketing Managers’ Minds

Ike Richman and Joe Flanagan
Linda Deckard/VenuesNow
– Ike Richman and Joe Flanagan

A record 450 attended the 39th annual Event and Arena Marketing Conference here June 13-14, where arena marketers shared best practices and honored their own. Las Vegas’ incredible year, highs and lows, was the topic of several panels, and many talked about the impact of the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights, who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season, as a driver.

Legitimate pro sports are changing everything, even in times of crisis like Oct. 1, when a mass murderer caused terror and death at the Route 91 Harvest music festival here. When the Golden Knights made its deep postseason run, Budweiser coined the phrase, “This was about more than raising a trophy. This was always about lifting a city.”

The glow of the NHL playoffs colored everything during this conference, including the EAMC’s chance to award its own. The big award, the Gigi Award – named after Gigi Pilhofer of the old Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., who was instrumental in forming the association – went to Joe Flanagan, who spent more than 20 years working for some of the largest companies in the sports and entertainment business, including WWE, Global Spectrum, Madison Square Garden and Ogden Entertainment. Flanagan is the director of booking and creative services for LAZ Parking, the second-largest parking company in the country. With WWE and Global Spectrum, Flanagan was instrumental in scores of box office records celebrated by arenas around the world. 

Jim Murren elaborates on plans for Springfield, Mass., after his keynote at EAMC.
Linda Deckard/VenuesNow
– Jim Murren elaborates on plans for Springfield, Mass., after his keynote at EAMC.
Ike Richman, who has spent his career in Philadelphia, most of it leading the PR charge for Ed Snider and the Flyers and Comcast Spectacor and is now head of his own Ike Richman Communications, was inducted into the EAMC Hall of Fame. Bernie Punt of Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State introduced his good friend, calling Richman the P.T. Barnum of PR and citing career highlights such as the “If You Can Carry It, It’s Yours” clearing of the old Philadelphia Spectrum of memorabilia in preparation for implosion. He also had some lowlights, like the time he posed with Tina Turner and followed up with a holiday card from Ike and Tina, much to the chagrin of Turner’s management.
Richman taught everyone lessons, among them: “Don’t worry about what you know. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Just take care of the people.”
Besides the many lessons learned from co-workers in marketing and public relations, Richman noted the relationships built at conferences like this. “After every conference, I went back to the office and sent personal ‘great to see you at the Arena Marketing Conference” letters to at least 50 to 100 people, inviting them to stay in touch. That was before Facebook and LinkedIn. I always returned from the Arena Marketing Conference inspired, energized by something I heard,” Richman told the crowd.

Among the inspirations this year was a keynote by Jim Murren, MGM Resorts International chairman and CEO, whose company operates half the rooms in Las Vegas (41,000) and is the biggest employer in the state. Introduced with a sizzle reel of MGM International’s latest campaign, themed “We’re in the Holy Shit Business,” Murren further emphasized that MGM is not in the gaming business but rather in the live entertainment business, creating “moments in time” for its guests.

Murren predicted even more collaborations with AEG such as T-Mobile Arena in Vegas — “Stay tuned,” he said — and touched on the firm’s international and domestic outreach. Murren is particularly excited about the MGM Resorts casino in Springfield, Mass., which will incorporate what is now the MassMutual Center and was once the Springfield Civic Center. He also noted he was headed to Japan immediately after the talk, where MGM has yet another project underway.

MGM is also in the forefront of diversity and inclusion in the workforce and responsible management of the environment, he said, citing the solar array being installed at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “We spent $7 million to leave the Nevada power grid,” he said. (VenuesNow, partner publication to Pollstar, will have more on EAMC in future VN Pulse e-newsletters.)

On the awards front, EAMC also presented kudos for Best Marketing and Publicity campaigns and Best Artist Gift and Artist Welcome. The 2018 winners:
·       Marketing Campaign of the Year – Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, N.J., Jonathan Vena, Kayla Prendergast, Caileigh Nerney and Andrew Musser for their Giving Tuesday, Veterans at the Basie campaign.
·       Publicity Campaign of the Year – Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., by SMG, Hilarie Szarowicz, Alison Goodyke, Mike Klompstra and Rebecca Chesnut for their Thank You Cards for the Troops campaign.
·       Best Artist Gift of the Year – Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Adam Armit for The Weeknd’s Starboy Game.
·       Best Artist Welcome of the Year – Staples Center in Los Angeles, Cara Vanderhook, Samantha Marker, Patrick Whitehill, Marina Paul, Evan Gole and Kasey Ferrin for Ed Sheeran’s Very Own British Pub.

This story originally appeared on VenuesNow.