Marketing history: ANZ Stadium's Melinda Madigan

ANZ Stadium's general manager of marketing talks to CMO about why 2013 is a historic year for the venue, and how digital transformation is set to trigger stronger customer engagement

ANZ Stadium is in the midst of its biggest sporting year since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Capped by a visit from the world’s most famous football club, Manchester United, the arena will also host two State of Origin games in 2013, along with the British and Irish Lions Test against the Wallabies, the Bledisloe Cup, two FIFA World Cup qualifiers featuring the Socceroos, three AFL clashes, key Waratahs Super 15 rugby games and the NRL Grand Final.

And that’s not to mention the 20 regular-season rugby league matches plus a series of high-profile concerts plotted into the 2013 calendar.

Driving customer engagement with this historic content is just one of the branding and marketing opportunities in the hands of ANZ Stadium’s new general manager of marketing, Melinda Madigan. Appointed to the role in February, her task is to revolutionise the way the venue is perceived both by consumers and corporate clients through a digital makeover, customer communication improvements, and collaboration with partners and peers.

Madigan’s background stretches across entertainment, property, destination and sports marketing. She made her start in newspapers and had eight years with Fairfax Community Publications before leaping into the gaming sector and rising to executive level by the age of 30.

“I have always been in marketing – there was never any other career for me,” she told CMO. “I have also always worked in male-dominated industries and quite often been the only female executive on an executive team. It gives you an opportunity to learn how to deal with various personalities at that level and be able to work collaboratively. That is a real focus of mine and core to how I operate.”

From gaming Madigan jumped into the racing industry, developing a skillset across sponsorship, corporate hospitality, media/PR, events and sales. One of the biggest changes she witnessed was the historic merger between the Sydney Turf Club and the Sydney Jockey Club.

“There were two years of uncertainty leading into that merger before the merger itself, which was intense,” she said. “It was a real challenge merging two completely different cultures – a younger, more innovative culture versus a historic and traditional one. It was a very interesting and hands-on experience, to say the least, and I’m pleased I was part of that.”

Racing led to a job offer from Crown Melbourne as general manager of marketing and brands, managing a team of 45 staff and the entire brand portfolio including casinos, hotels and retail. “It was a marketer’s dream – you are working with a national, if not internationally recognised premium brand,” Madigan said.

“Crown is a very savvy and innovative organisation with healthy marketing budgets and a great number of people. The three-month contract turned into six, then seven months, and I had to make a very difficult decision whether to stay or not.

“It was just unfortunate my husband was living in Sydney and I was living in Melbourne.”

Digital aspirations

As the general manager of marketing at ANZ Stadium, Madigan oversees consumer and B2B marketing channels and is tasked with helping the venue transform its relationship with both types of customer.

“This new role combines all of my areas of experience - it’s very much about brand development, fan engagement, digital innovation and working with key stakeholders in driving visitation and engagement with the customer,” she explained. “That is such a critical part of marketing.

“We’re not just marketing to put bums on seat in an 80,000-seat stadium, it’s also about marketing to corporates to understand what a dynamic opportunity there is here to entertain their clients.”

The first and biggest item on Madigan’s priority list is an overhaul of ANZ Stadium’s digital assets. The organisation is embarking on a redevelopment of all its core assets incorporating Web, mobile, CRM, ticketing function, video screens, network, payment systems and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Ultimately, digital innovation is about ensuring the stadium can engage with fans and customers more frequently and successfully, Madigan said. “At the moment we engage with our consumer customers on event day; they purchase tickets through Ticketek, come to the stadium, we deliver what we believe is a premium sporting or entertainment experience, and then they leave.

“What we want to do is make sure we’re engaging with them before, during and after an event. We want them to have a much deeper level of engagement and relationship with us, improve their experience as a fan, and drive repeat visitation. It’s about them understanding more about what ANZ Stadium offers, and us understanding how we can make their experience better.”

The stadium has appointed digital agency, Reactive, to work on the digital project and aims to launch its new website in coming months. As well as carefully managing the roadmap for digital asset redevelopment, success will depend on consultation and discussions with partners around innovation, Madigan said.

“There are a number of other businesses who would also like to reach the types of audiences we deliver,” she continued. “In addition to our own crowds, we’re looking at an aggregate TV audience of close to 40 million people. That is something that can’t be taken lightly as far as engaging with highly target audiences.”

The new website will be measured through standard web performance measurements but Madigan is also focusing heavily on improving the digital experience for corporate hospitality customers. This will involve gathering more intelligence on what the best solutions and opportunities are, she said.

“We’re also focusing on simple things – everyone talks about social media, but we have a fan base of 17,500 likes and with the number of people going through our stadium we’d like to see that figure a lot higher than that,” Madigan said.

We need to make sure the experience here is compelling, and we’ll do that through great content, great digital innovation and great engagement with the customers pre, during and post event

“Ultimately, we want someone to be able to purchase a ticket for one of events, connect with us immediately, and we can talk to them all the way through. This should be right down to when they’re travelling to the stadium, and we identify the best route is to take on the day because of traffic circumstances.

“It’s honing in on what makes your experience the best it can be. That’s what we’ll find out and what we’ll deliver.”

Collaboration between executives is another cornerstone to delivery, and Madigan is working closely with the heads of sales and commercial on business direction and strategy. “From a leadership and executive team, and from the CEO down, there is a real appetite for that discussion,” she said.

Brand repositioning

Capitalising on the array of sporting content this year is a huge opportunity to build crowd attendance, and Madigan saw 2013 as the time to reposition the brand in a different way. Although the stadium is intertwined with naming rights partner, ANZ, as far as brand messaging and positioning goes, there is an opportunity to grow the stadium’s profile and what it represents.

“We have been positioned as the home ground of the Olympics, which was a very strong position to command at the time, but that was back in 2000. We have moved on a lot since then,” Madigan said.

“We need to make sure the experience here is compelling, and we’ll do that through great content, great digital innovation and great engagement with the customers pre, during and post event.”

Base line marketing and promotional activity are high on the list, both in terms of consumer and B2B audiences, Madigan said.

“As a marketer, the biggest challenge is always about making the right decision on where to invest the money,” she said. “We have so many opportunities these days and we all know the proliferation of information makes it difficult to pull back every now and then.

“You have to wade your way through all of the noise and information and make informed and smart decisions. As marketers, we have so many more tools than we used to have. You have to ensure you can pick the right ones for your objectives.”

So how does Madigan determine which channels to invest in? “I always make sure we’re considering the proven, tried and tested model, then overlay at least one new innovation on top and take some calculated risk as well,” she said. “If you stick with the same programs, you’re not optimising your opportunities.”

Any significant investment is backed by a healthy discussion around return on investment (ROI), although this doesn’t always have to be an exact dollar figure, Madigan said. “Whether they be engagement, corporate hospitality bookings or other metrics, it’s important to state those clearly upfront. I would do that on any campaign, whatever it may be,” she said.

“We have a multimedia campaign running at the moment to drive awareness of our membership program during the biggest year of sport for ANZ Stadium since the Olympics, and there are measurable figures around that. I don’t think any true marketer would attempt to do a campaign or activity without considering all of that.”

Content isn’t the only thing in Madigan’s marketing arsenal. Plans are afoot for product innovations including in-seat catering, and she spied additional opportunities to promote its new and premium Xseats hospitality offering.

Read more: CMO50 #26-50: Melinda Madigan, ANZ Stadium

Whatever the opportunity may be now and into the future, Madigan stressed the importance of building on a successful platform, as a marketer, while continuing to observe and learn. “This role offers a unique opportunity for me to bring new innovation into the way we market and that is what interested me in the first place,” she added.

Madigan’s top tips for being a good CMO:

  • You have to be a good leader, whether it’s for one person or 45. It’s about being able to direct where you want to go, and not let the industry or market take you.
  • Respect is key. That includes respecting your colleagues, your customers and understanding everyone has different agendas. Respect and collaboration, as corny as they may sound, are cornerstones of success.
  • Have a great professional network. Be professional with every single person you come across because you never know when you may cross paths again.

Read more of our exclusive CMO Australia interviews

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia or take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia.

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