From a Social Platform to a Revenue Channel: How A Stadium Leverages WeChat

Editor’s Note: This post is contributed by Alexis Bonhomme from Curiosity China, a Product & Digital Agency focusing on Social Media – CRM  – O2O – Digital Marketing for International Brands on Greater China market and China outbound tourism. 

Mercedes-Benz Arena(Shanghai)/image: Wikipedia
Mercedes-Benz Arena(Shanghai)/image: Wikipedia

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 consumption, digital is playing an integral role in connecting fans. The venues need to adapt their marketing communication to a more tech savvy consumer base.

In Asia and especially in China, venues are facing a specific digital eco-system, where mobile apps such as Facebook and Twitter are not relevant. The Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai (JV between the two large actors : American AEG and Chinese OPG) is probably one of the most famous Arenas in China as well as being an architectural icon and nightlife destination in Shanghai.

The MB Arena welcomes +18,000 customers, around 350 shows a year, and artists such Andy Lau, Metallica, the Rolling Stones, and Taylor Swift.

How to Combine CRM Marketing and local/international audience?

Working with Curiosty China, the MB Arena has leveraged an all new marketing and CRM concept based on the messaging app WeChat. Understanding the specific China internet consumption needs, the idea was to create a premium customer experience before, during, and after the shows to increase daily communication with fans and sponsors.

The MB Arena communication does not only focus on the Chinese speaking audience. Around 30% of their customers are foreigners, or even more when international artists are performing.

The Answer from BtoC and BtoB perspectives

From the BtoC perspective, a bilingual English – Chinese navigation menu, with a weekly updated content has been created. Also calendar, upcoming shows, stores, restaurants, Arena Location LBS (location Based Services), and customer service. A new tool will also go live in the upcoming weeks: a global Internet WIFI system, allowing thousands of customers to go online when at the Arena and a check-in onto the WeChat platform, or collect loyalty points based on their location or the stores/shops/restaurants/shows they visit.

From the BtoB perpective, the tech developments build a customer profile segmentation regarding the fans interest (rock, classic, pop..) and the recruitment channel (regular, VIP, online, offline…). It will offer the possibility to MB Arena to build a detailled customer fans based and accurate marketing pull and push promotion. For example, the thousands of VIPs recruited as Suite customers will be relevant for a Mercedes Benz new model of communication. On the other hand, the 20-30 year old rock music fans will be the key target for Coca Cola in order to highlight their product. It allows MB Arena to go deeper into marketing efficiency and increase the fans and sponsors relationship (Mercedes-Benz, Heineken, Coca-Cola, China Unicom..).

The Next Steps : From a Social Platform to a new Revenue Channel with deep understanding of the China digital eco-system, Mercedes-Benz Arena top management is turning a social media platform (WeChat) into a true revenue channel. Sponsors will improve marketing expense efficiency by targeting at the exact type of customer they want (VIPs, young, who like rock music or classical music). It is making the sponsorship more attractive since sponsors know that they will be able to reach thousands of specifically targeted fans.

This new way to communicate with a large group of customers push the boundaries of the classical marketing technique. In the next few months, we will probably see other arenas trying to enlarge their revenue business model with digital activations such as the one created in Shanghai.