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AXS takes over NEC Group’s The Ticket Factory

AEG-owned ticketing firm AXS is taking over the ticketing operations previously handled by NEC Group’s internal ticketing arm, The Ticket Factory.

As part of the deal, AXS will now provide its ticketing services to NEC Group’s venues, the Resorts World Arena (cap. 15,685) and Utilita Arena Birmingham (15,800).

In addition, AXS will establish a ticketing hub in Birmingham adjacent to the NEC Campus, and all existing employee roles within The Ticket Factory at the NEC Group will become part of the firm.

“We want to make every customer’s experience brilliant, from the moment they think about buying a ticket, to the experience they have at our venues, and every interaction beyond,” says NEC Group CEO Mel Smith, who last year succeeded Paul Thandi.

“The AXS platform opens new and exciting opportunities for us to connect with customers and enhance their journey with us. We are delighted AXS has chosen to establish a centre of ticketing operations in Birmingham and look forward to a long-term partnership for the benefit of customers and the community.”

“The AXS platform opens new and exciting opportunities for us to connect with customers and enhance their journey with us”

Bryan Perez, CEO, AXS, adds: “We have long admired the NEC Group and The Ticket Factory and are therefore thrilled to welcome them into the AXS family. We share their vision for transforming the entire customer journey for fans at Resorts World Arena and Utilita Arena Birmingham and look forward to deploying our industry-leading AXS Mobile ID for fans and Apex platform for arenas to meet that goal. We are also excited to establish another base of operations in the West Midlands that will help grow and service our partners throughout the UK.”

AXS is the ticketing partner for more than 500 venues, sports teams and event organisers across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. With offices in London and Manchester, the global ticketing firm’s clients include USGA, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Crypto.com Arena, Coachella, Stagecoach, Stockholm Live, The O2, and B. League (Japan).

In the past fortnight, AXS has acquired a majority stake in event tech firm WRSTBND and secured a partnership with TikTok on an in-app ticketing feature.

AXS’s parent company AEG was reportedly interested in acquiring Vivendi-owned See Tickets but the UK-headquartered ticketing company was snapped up by CTS Eventim earlier this month.

 


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Utilita Arena Birmingham extends sponsorship deal

Utilita Energy and NEC Group have agreed an early extension to their existing multi-year partnership, which includes the naming rights for Utilita Arena Birmingham.

As part of the seven-figure agreement, the Birmingham venue will carry Utilita’s name through to 2030.

The deal will also have a heavy focus on charity and sustainability. In what is believed to be a UK first, the arena has renamed its VIP lounge after the supplier’s partner charity, Utilita Giving, which supports people in food and fuel poverty.

“It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to extend our partnership with Utilita Energy,” says NEC Group Arenas MD Guy Dunstan. “We love working with the team and it’s clear they’re committed to investing in Birmingham.

“Alongside the world-class live music, sport and comedy we stage at Utilita Arena Birmingham, we’re continually looking at ways to make the arena a more enjoyable destination for visitors. We’re all about giving our customers amazing experiences, and with Utilita sharing that vision, we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership for the years ahead.”

“This is far more than just a naming rights deal. We vow to build on the strong foundations we have established in this great city”

Utilita aims to be a net zero business by 2030 and will also work side by side with the venue to support its own sustainability goals.

“This is far more than just a naming rights deal,” says Bill Bullen, CEO and co-founder of Utilita Energy. “We vow to build on the strong foundations we have established in this great city and will continue to educate and inform through our campaigns which have proved crucial to everyday people throughout the cost of living crisis.

“The arena is also a great platform to help Utilita Giving access a wider pool of people who urgently need help out of fuel and food poverty.

“Our main goal as a business is to help consumers make their energy go further, meaning they spend less on their bills, and this will continue to be at the crux of how we give back to the local community here in Birmingham.”

Upcoming concerts at the venue include James Arthur, Jason Derulo, Simple Minds, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Keane, Olivia Rodrigo, Take That, Nickelback, Pet Shop Boys, Jonas Brothers, Kings of Leon, Justin Timberlake and Noah Kahan.

 


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Q&A with NEC Group’s Allie Bishop & Lily Tomkins

To mark International Women’s Day, IQ catches up with senior event manager Allie Bishop and event manager Lily Tomkins, to find out more about their day-to-day in the (predominantly female) events management team for NEC Group’s Resorts World Arena and Utilita Arena Birmingham.

What does your day usually look like?
Allie Bishop: Every day is different! But generally, I make sure the wider event management team have the time, resources and training they need to be able to deliver successful events. I also have my own event workload, which involves getting as much information as possible out of a tour, then translating it into an event that will fit safely and successfully into our buildings. Day-to-day this requires a lot of liaison with different people and departments to ensure everyone is working to the same information and objectives. I tend to find myself getting involved in wider projects too, offering operational input into projects that improve our customer journey.

Lily Tomkins: My role is split between planning and utilising information and being the duty manager for shows during the open period. When advancing shows I receive details from the client which is disseminated to our internal arenas teams to ensure the show can be run successfully. As a duty manager you are responsible for the safety of the public during the show, helped very much by the security event manager and event safety representative.

“Following Covid, it’s taken a long time for workers to fully return to the industry, and with events coming in quickly there are still gaps in experience across the board”

How did you start working in the events industry and more specifically for the NEC Group?
AB: I joined the NEC Box Office straight from finishing university, selling tickets in the contact centre. That was 16 years ago! I spent around 10 years in various roles there, before moving over to the event management team around six years ago.

LT: I started in events by volunteering at local festivals and events. Whilst completing a master’s degree in live events at Birmingham City University, I made invaluable contacts during Event Week Live – the NEC Group’s work experience programme for degree-level students – and then as a member of its subsequent Elite mentoring programme, which led me to this role.

What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
AB: I enjoy problem solving and coming up with different ways of doing things. We’re given great opportunities in our position to challenge the norm and come up with new ideas and solutions, which is very satisfying.

LT: I love the production side and seeing what goes on behind the scenes to put a show together.

What can be the most challenging aspect of your job?
AB: Following Covid, it’s taken a long time for workers to fully return to the industry, and with events coming in quickly there are still gaps in experience across the board, with people often juggling a lot more. Our role has become a lot more reactive as opposed to proactive, which for people who love to plan, can be difficult.

LT: I’ve not been in the role long so learning all aspects of the job has been quite challenging and finding my way around each arena! Also remembering everyone’s names…

“I think arenas have led the way when it comes to bringing on board new talent into operational roles, regardless of gender”

Is there a project or particularly rewarding moment you can highlight?
AB: It’s always rewarding to enjoy the ‘calm before the storm’ – usually a five-minute window between the show being built, but not yet being open to the public. It’s just a snapshot view of the work you’ve put in over the last few months to get it to where it is.

LT: I found the first event I planned and managed last August most rewarding as it felt like a rite of passage into the team!

What is your favourite thing about working in a team of women?
AB: We’re a tight-knit team that always looks out for each other. If someone has had a rough day on a show or with their workload, there will always be someone who will offer to help in whatever way they can.

LT: The team are very supportive of each other as we all know how demanding the role can be, so we all look out for each other.

Do you feel there is a gender imbalance across the live events industry as a whole and if so, do you think enough is being done to address it?
AB: Looking out on the arena floor at 6am for a load in, often you’re one of a handful of women who make up the 100-plus people there to get the show built. It isn’t always the case though, and there are certainly more female reps, touring personnel and security than there were a few years ago. I think arenas have led the way when it comes to bringing on board new talent into operational roles, regardless of gender.

LT: I have been fortunate that most of the teams I have worked in have been mostly female-led and I have never felt held back or discriminated against as a female in any of my roles. However, I have found that when you hit a more senior level within an organisation these roles can often be predominantly male-led. I do think more industries are acknowledging this now and making changes where possible.

 


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Arena Birmingham to become Utilita Arena Birmingham

Arena Birmingham is set to be renamed Utilita Arena Birmingham as a part of a naming-rights deal with UK energy supplier Utilita.

The 15,800-capacity city-centre venue, operated by NEC Group, was formerly known as Barclaycard Arena and has been called Arena Birmingham since 1 September 2017. It is one of two UK arenas managed by NEC Group, along with sister venue Resorts World Arena (formerly Genting Arena), located on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) site.

Utilita customers will have access to exclusive presales for the arena’s shows, which have recently included Ariana Grande, Take That and Jack Whitehall, while the energy provider also becomes a partner to Resorts World Arena.

Utilita has a growing presence in the UK live business, having sponsored with a number of major music festivals in recent years, including Parklife, Trsnmt, Creamfields, V Festival, Bestival and Camp Bestival, as well as ASM Global’s Utilita Arena Newcastle.

“We’re looking forward to working with Utilita to get our audiences thinking about their environmental footprint”

“Within our venues we’re working hard to have optimum energy usage, and we consider the new Utilita partnership to be an extension of the NEC Group’s award-winning environmental and sustainability commitments,” says NEC Group CEO Paul Thandi CBE.

“The best partners are those who can add value to our visitors, and we’re looking forward to working with Utilita to get our audiences thinking about their environmental footprint.”

The venue will take up its new name on 15 April 2020.

NEC Group, based in Birmingham, UK, recently joined Oak View Group’s International Venue Alliance as its second member.

 


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