All over the the world, arenas and stadiums are trying to personalize the customer experience and increase fan engagement. With the rapid increase of smartphones and mobile internet consumption, digital is playing an integral role in connecting fans. As a result, venues need to adapt their marketing communication to a more tech-savvy consumer base.
This is true for Asia—and especially China, where venues are facing a specific digital ecosystem in which mobile apps such as Facebook and Twitter are not relevant.
The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai (a joint venture between two heavyweights: American company AEG China and the Chinese SOE Oriental Pearl Group) is one venue which has caught onto this trend. As the most famous arena in China and an architectural icon and nightlife destination in Shanghai, it welcomed 641,000 customers and 148 shows in 2013, including mega-stars like Andy Lau, Metallica, the Rolling Stones, and Taylor Swift.
Working with the agency Curiosity China, the Mercedes-Benz arena leveraged an all-new marketing and CRM concept based on the messaging app WeChat. Taking into account the specific habits of Chinese mobile users, the idea of the campaign was to create a premium customer experience before, during, and after the shows to increase daily communication between fans and sponsors.
“The digitalization of large-scale arenas is the future of our industry. Mercedes-Benz Arena is committed to enhancing the event experience for fans and bringing more value to our sponsors, and development of the WeChat platform through partnership with Curiosity China is a major step in the right direction,” said Michael Enoch, the general manager of Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Mercedes-Benz Arena communication does not only focus on a Chinese-speaking audience. Around 20 percent of its overall customers are foreigners, a number which rises when international artists are performing.
On the business-to-consumer (B2C) end, the company created a bilingual English-Chinese navigation menu with weekly updated content. The account also features a calendar, information on upcoming shows, stores, and restaurants, Arena Location LBS (location-based service), and customer service. A new tool that will also go live in a few weeks is an internal WiFi system allowing thousands of customers to go online when at the arena, as well as a WeChat check-in option allowing customers to collect loyalty points regarding their location or the shops, restaurants, and shows they attend and spend money at.
From the business-to-business (B2B) perspective, the tech developments increase segmentation of the customer profile in categories of fans’ interest (rock, classic, pop) and the QR code recruitment channel (regular, VIP, online, offline). It will offer the possibility for the Mercedes-Benz Arena to build a detailed customer fan base and accurate marketing pull and push promotions. For example, the thousands of users who scanned QR codes in the corporate VIP suites will be an extremely relevant demographic for Mercedes-Benz Arena’s new model of communication. On the other hand, the 20-30-year-old rock music fans will be the key target for mass-market brands like Coca-Cola. It allows Mercedes-Benz Arena to go deeper into marketing efficiency and increase the connection between fans and relevant sponsors (Mercedes-Benz, Heineken, Coca-Cola, China Unicom).
In addition to a deeper understanding of the China digital ecosystem, Mercedes-Benz Arena’s top management is turning a social media platform (WeChat) into a true revenue channel. Sponsors will utilize their marketing expenses more efficiently by targeting the exact type of customer they want (VIPs, young listeners, rock music, or classical music). This in turn makes sponsorship more attractive, since companies are able to know the specific groups of fans they can target.
This new way to communicate with a large group of customers pushes the boundaries of classical marketing techniques. In the next few months, we will probably see other arenas trying to enlarge their revenue streams with similar digital innovations.