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PODCAST – Matt Gardner, St. Louis Blues

Matt Gardner, Vice President, Innovation & Digital Strategy for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, Enterprise Center and Stifel Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri shares his insights on all things technology, innovation, and fan experience.

More about Matt Gardner

Matt has spent 20 years working in professional sports, providing leadership in marketing, digital strategy, content creation, revenue generation and innovation. In addition to being 2019 Stanley Cup Champions, the St. Louis Blues were named the Sports Business Journal 2020 Team of the Year, and were also recognized by Fast Company as one of the 2020 Top 10 Most Innovation Companies in Sports.Prior to arriving in St. Louis in 2012, Matt was part of the marketing and digital teams at the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the ATP World Tour. He has also worked on the digital agency side where his sports and entertainment clients included SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, International Speedway Corporation and Planet Hollywood. Matt also serves as an advisor and mentor for Stadia Ventures, and is a founding member of Xvisory. He is a proud journalism graduate from the University of Kansas.

PODCAST Transcript – Matt Gardner, Vice President, Innovation & Digital Strategy for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, Enterprise Center and Stifel Theatre

James Giglio (00:00):

Welcome back to the MVP Interactive podcast. Today we have a very special guest. His name is Matt Gardner, who is the Vice President of Innovation and Digital Strategy for the NHLs St. Louis Blues. Matt, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Matt Gardner (00:37):

Hey James, thanks for having me.

James Giglio (00:38):

onderful. And as we regrouped a little bit before the podcast this is a very unique experience for us where I am constantly told that I have a nice voice for radio, but I think you have me beat here. You have a booming voice and it should sound great for the listeners.

Matt Gardner (00:54):

No pressure. Now I got to live up to the hype.

James Giglio (00:56):

I know, and we might have to do some spots after the recording here, but in all serious, it’s fantastic to have you here on the podcast. I think with your background and experience, both working in the NHL and in terms of the advisory and mentoring services that you provide with other technically driven or sports focused startups this should be a really enlightening and fascinating podcast for our listeners. So if you could maybe give our listeners a little bit of background on your career and what led you to St. Louis and we’ll start there.

Matt Gardner (01:34):

Sure. I’ve been in marketing, sports marketing for over 20 years now. Kind of start with that is the primary area that got me in the business right out of college. I joined the ATP tour in a marketing slash pr, which ultimately turned into a digital media style position as the ATP was taking their web properties in-house for the very first time. After a few years of doing that, it led to opportunity with the Orlando Magic where the magic we’re in a similar situation. They were bringing basically a digital department, morphing that out of their communications team and had a really great opportunity to be early in that stage of working in digital for a professional sports team. And then after a couple years of working on the agency side, I started to shift my focus a little bit from more of a content role to being very focused on strategy, working with big brands in Orlando, the Universals and the Sea Worlds and Planet Hollywoods and companies like that.


The goal was always to dive back into sports and had a really terrific opportunity come with the St. Louis Blues. And so the last 11 years now had a really great opportunity to see digital continue to emerge. Obviously social media become a very big part of our everyday lives and in the last five years, really focusing on the innovation side of the business, just problem solving and thinking about different opportunities to continue to drive our business across all of our different departments. How can we improve, how can we be better and find new ways of reaching our fans, delivering improved technology within our venues, and then just all of those emerging tech things that keep coming down the pipeline.

James Giglio (03:28):

Yeah, that’s fantastic. And I’m sure if you talk about 11 years prior to joining a sports organization, working for agencies and brands and studios like Universal, generally speaking, if you go back a decade or maybe 15 years ago, what the fan experience meant for Sports Property <laugh> was then versus what it is now. Getting that experience working for brands and theme parks where innovation traditionally sort of had a step ahead in terms of where the inflection point of technology and the emergence of stadium tech and fan experience. So I’d imagine that at the time of your career you may have not plotted out the path thinking that it would be a perfect full circle, but I always find that interesting in terms of where maybe the magic were 15 years ago versus where the blues are today.

Matt Gardner (04:25):

It, it’s amazing to look back on it and to think about how quickly in 10 to 15 years things have shifted. We were paper tickets and you know, stood in line at a concession stand. We had static advertising on our walls in our venues. Now, especially mobile phone in particular has done an incredible job of putting all of those controls and options in the fingertips of a fan where you can easily access your mobile tickets, you can transfer those tickets, you can mobile order, you can use a wallet to have a credit card on file or use loaded value. How quickly conversations have changed and how teams have really shifted to a very, very progressive content strategy because of all of those fans and reach, they can have those millions of people that are following us across social media. And now we’re kind of getting even deeper now and getting into personalization and customizing that experience, having those one-on-one conversations. So technology in particular has really guided a whole new way of thinking and opened up incredible options for us in the last decade or so.

James Giglio (05:44):

Yeah, absolutely. I was actually just speaking about this in terms of what the game day experience was or what it used to be prior to technology and how much of an influence it’s had on us where even to the point of the alarm clock going off for you, buying the ticket, going to a tailgate, and then showing up that the arena was a very analog experience in the past and now with social media mobile, and you said that personalization of being able to target that fan or that user a day or two a week, a month ahead of time of whatever the plan date is, I think has to be such one of the bigger sea changes in how fans even prepare to attend a game.

Matt Gardner (06:29):

There’s so many answers you can give to fans prior to them arriving and it used to be a lot more difficult to get those answers. What can I bring into the venue? What are my food and beverage options outside of the venue, inside of the venue? Where can I park all of those questions that fans have that create a little an anxiety sometimes when you’re coming to an event, we want to have everything figured out and sometimes, especially if you’re going someplace for the first time, it’s a little more challenging to make sure that you have all those answers now via email, mobile apps, et cetera. We can give our fans as many answers as we can possibly think of to eliminate all of those touchpoints that may cause a little bit of friction to begin with and get them in the venue and make it as smooth as possible give them frictionless options for getting food and beverage so they can quickly get to their seats and not have to wait in lines or mobile order. All of those touchpoints that are hope, hoping that we’re easing a little bit of that experience and at the end of the day we want them in their seats and we want them to enjoy great action and all of those other things that come with it, the more we can leverage technology to ease the burden of some of those things hopefully leads to a fantastic night of live sports entertainment.

James Giglio (07:53):

Yeah, and I appreciate so much that you had mentioned this sort of anxiety that fans can experience before a game, before a game and getting these answers. Because personally to this day as well versed as I am in terms of what the technology is out there, and I live in Philadelphia, I live in downtown Philadelphia, I’m less than three miles away from the stadiums and yet I still have the pre-event anxiety of the things that I feel like I need to get in order to attend the game. And my wife and I, she always jokes in terms of how anxious and how early I want to attend an event just because I need to feel settled. And so I think that is an understated phenomenon that maybe the teams do talk about it, but I don’t feel like it’s widely broadcasted of that sort of pressure for fans to what they need to know, get to the arena on site and just feel prepared to attend the event.


So I do appreciate as someone who suffers as his pre-event anxiety that you guys are thinking about that. So I just want to thank you <laugh> for making that mesh message there. So speaking of the blues themselves, so you guys are obviously a very storied franchise over 50 years old now, and for the last four or five years you’ve had some positive accolades one being in 2019, obviously winning the Stanley Cup a year after that, being named the Sports Business Journal Team of the year, and then in 2020 as well being recognized by Fast Company as one of the most innovative sports teams in the world. And so talk to us a little bit about the franchise and how they value not only the fan experience, but the technology and the innovation side and talk to us a little bit about that experience.

Matt Gardner (09:43):

I think a big part of that starts with culture that we have within our organization and it’s one of those areas that you probably don’t think a whole lot about on a day-to-day basis. You’re just thinking about the numbers, ticket sales and sponsorship revenue and growing your fan base across your digital channels and you’re using the metrics that you go by. But the key I think to all of that is having a group of people that love going to work for one another. And we had a once in a lifetime opportunity in 2019 winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history that we knew we needed to take advantage of the situation and we needed to make sure our fans were a part of that. A big piece for us that summer was getting the Stanley Cup to as many people as possible. Our fans had waited 50 years for us to win the cup and to parade it down Market Street.


When I first got to St. Louis in 20 12, 1 of the things that I realized as I met people in told ’em I worked for the Blues was they would say, I can’t wait until we win the cup. It wasn’t when the blues win the cup, it was, I can’t wait for our parade down Market Street. So we knew it was extremely meaningful and so every opportunity we had, we got the cup in front of an audience and we did as many public events as we possibly could so that people could get that photo, they could touch that cup. Building that relationship with our fan base was step one of that process and it was really cultivating those relationships that we had with our fans and taking it to another level like winning the couples one level. Now we need to really build upon it. And so we knew ticket sales were going to be strong, we knew it was going to lead to new sponsorship opportunities, all of those things you can expect after winning a championship, but it’s how do we deepen that bond that we have with our fan base and how do we strengthen and identify those fans outside of our market?


How much can we continue to build more of a national audience, a global audience, just really working off of every angle that we could. And it took a lot of meetings, it took internal conversations and constantly bringing people together to form what that was going to look like. And so I think there was a lot of different conversations of what we should do, how can we best utilize it? The cup goes on tour with players, it’s all over the place during that summer. And so lots of meetings bringing people all together from different departments and making sure everybody understood what was going on and had a touch base and so we could really capitalize on those types of situations. And that’s just the culture that we’ve built is one initiative regardless of where it’s starting in the organization, whether it’s our retail team, it’s our sponsorship team, community ticket sales people and culture.


Everyone has to really get behind that initiative and figure out how it can impact their department, but ultimately support the primary ones that are operating it. And that type of mentality I think has really enabled us to take advantage of multiple opportunities. Winning sports s BJ’s team of the year in 2020 I think was incredible. And then the innovation side of it I think is just, it’s a part of that story. How do we look for new opportunities and new ways to continue to advance as an organization by utilizing emerging sports tech as it comes around but introducing that at a time when it’s right for us, even though something is new and shiny and looks amazing, sometimes it’s not the best time to introduce it for a number of factors internally. You just might not be ready for it. Structurally, you may have to make some changes in terms of resources and bandwidth you know, also have to think about your fan base, what you know about them, how they engage with you and interact. Is our fan base in St. Louis going to interact with something the same way that a Seattle or San Francisco market might. Those are all different factors that we have to put into play, but it’s exciting to look and evaluate those things as a, an organization understand where all it can have some really incredible touch bases for us.

James Giglio (14:28):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that’s a really great point as well. And even as a company that produces emerging technology, we really try to educate and advise our clients across all verticals, not just sports is the idea of technology and something shiny and new and emerging is always fascinating. But what you don’t want to do is shoehorn the use of tech for just my <laugh>, for the use of tech. It needs to be a part of a holistic story or packaged collectively to the messaging or the brand pillars or what you’re looking to achieve. And so you know, had mentioned that after the Stanley Cup, how many folks that could be and experience the cup in itself. And I’d imagine on one hand that that’s a very grassroots type of community outreach effort. And so maybe technology wasn’t the best deployment tool outside of perhaps social media and channels of that nature where talk to us maybe about some of the grassroot efforts that you would, I think you had mentioned you have a community team that probably helps with that, but before we kind of go into the innovation piece,

Matt Gardner (15:42):

We try, there’s always a lot of stakeholders that you’re wanting to make sure that have that opportunity, get it in front of season ticket holders and corporate partners. From a community standpoint, we wanted to take it to hospitals, let children’s hospitals let kids have an opportunity to see it. And it was fun to see the evolution over the summer of the rumors of where the cup was going to be. We had one person that was created an account on Twitter that was like Cup tracker and she would get tips and she would hear things and she would report, Hey hear the cup is at this location and stuff. And it was fun watching how quickly she would pick up on things and we would know where it was going to be. It was going to arrive at this location at three o’clock and there was a brand there, a Stanley Cup champions van that was used to transport the cup and hearing the van was just located in this location.


Very cool. It was really fun to see. And one of the things that we did was we were able to track down her information. We surprised her with the Stanley Cup because she was providing the service via Twitter and she hadn’t had the opportunity to actually see the cup yet. So we went to her office with the Stanley Cup and gave her a chance to see it. So it’s, it’s those types of moments that you remember the most about the entire journey of what was a crazy summer, but touching someone’s life in a moment and time that they’ve been waiting years and years and they’ve dedicated so much of their fandom to you cheered you on for years and to be able to return that at the right moment is just a fantastic thing.

James Giglio (17:35):

Yeah, that’s really great. That actually reminds me of a production and an application that we had once built through an augmented reality platform that in similar nature it created almost this scavenger hunt like craze within the community. And what we were able to do is implement augmented reality through different historical touchpoints in a particular city where whether they were bus stations or local bars or sports bars or retail stores to kind of drive that community engagement. And so I think what you just explained there was a far more organic and natural analog version of that experience, but equally positive, equally beneficial. But as we kind of approach technology or using that as a reference point, you lead the Blues innovation team over the last decade or so. Is there any one particular product or technology or project I should say collectively that you’re most proud of? And I suppose it doesn’t have to be tech driven per se, but maybe walk us through some of that.

Matt Gardner (18:43):

Even before we won the cup one of the big problems we were trying to solve was pulling together all of these different data sources that we had. We had been doing wins and contests and other things and we had multiple partners At 1.1 season, I think we had seven or eight different sources of information we were pulling in from fans and we decided let’s find an opportunity to bring this together in one place. Because every time we were running one of these contests, we were asking our fans the same questions, gimme your name, gimme your email, gimme your phone number. And it’s frustrating from a fan, somebody that is loyal and dedicated to you to continue to ask those questions again and again. And so that was in motion and we won the cup. We decided, okay, we need to really get this formalized and launched.


And so a few months after winning the cup, we launched our fan engagement platform called Lunatics. And the idea behind lunatics is that that’s your source. That’s where we’re pulling everybody together. We’re creating this foundation of entering contests and participating in polls and surveys and quizzes game day activities like first goal vote or predict the final score or predict the starting lineup. And we’re doing so in a way that is going to allow our fans to quickly and easily complete these activities. We’re going to pull in corporate partners to where they can be tied to these engagements. We’re going to deliver offers to our fans based on how they engage with us and on the backend we’re going to use that data to provide them offers and marketing that is very specific to how they engage with us. And one of the key things that’s been really great about the platform is we will go to social media and we will promote and enter to win and we’ll get thousands and thousands of people to do it.


But the really great thing is those people then complete on average four different activities on the platform. One of those really key ones that we’ve done has been a poll that we do every year, what’s your favorite jersey? And so we’ll have our five Jersey options that we’re wearing that season, we will get them to our fans and we will be able to then know fan by fan what Jersey they liked the most that we’re wearing that year. And for those fans that have opted in to receive retail communications from us, we can then go out with a retail offer specific to that fan and the jersey that they selected. So it’s that platform and process, that collection of first party data, which is becoming so valuable to how we operate. That has been really great for us. We included this as the single sign on when we launched our Blues mobile app back in February, and we’ve onboarded over a hundred thousand fans onto this platform and it’s really becoming a foundation for a lot of the data capture and a lot of the personalization that we are now bringing together as part of our process.

James Giglio (21:42):

Yeah, that’s great too. And another aspect of implementing this technology and is having that frictionless experience with the opt-in from the user is really important. Whether you’re doing something concourse sponsored, activation related, or even integrating a mobile app or community platform, being able to wisely and smartly and creatively create that call to action where you had mentioned data where no one, especially in this age where everyone is sort of guarded and protected against their personal information but as a sports franchise in particular, you have a little bit more of an acceptance by the nature of the passion and the affiliation with the team, but it’s still important for the technology and the user experience to feel like it is community based. It’s not like, hey, you need to do this because our analytics team is trying to figure out what your blood type is and we’re just going to pull a bait and switch. It’s really more of that holistic interaction and connectivity with the team, the technology and the fans. So it sounds like you really kind of mapped that out really well and it’s pretty seamless

Matt Gardner (22:54):

And the opt-in I think is tremendously important. And as you’re adding more and more tech to what you’re doing and how you’re delivering to that fan, making sure it’s clear what fans are opting in for I think is something that is crucial and becomes even more important. S m s where people were a lot more fickle about how many text messages they’re getting. I had somebody recently tell me at one of our blues games that they were sitting in the crowd and somebody airdropped to them a flyer for another event and they came to me and said, can we do something like this? I said, I think that’s brilliant as a gorilla marketing tactic, but not one that I’m going to explore because there’s no way to opt fans into getting that just because they’re sitting in your building not a path I am ready to go down. So it’s being cautious and making sure you’re doing things the right way. If everyone gets tons of communications this time of year especially where we’re all getting massive amounts of emails and just making sure that you’re delivering the right messaging, the right fans that they’ve asked for is just part of the playbook that you have to make sure that you’re executing things the right way.

James Giglio (24:11):

It kind of brings me back a little bit, we’re talking about a decade’s worth of technology here and we, we’ve gone from airdrops, but a technology that never really got off the ground in a similar vein was I beacons you remember in 2013 when that was

Matt Gardner (24:26):

Oh yes,

James Giglio (24:27):

<laugh> be integrated, integrated across all the stadiums in the arenas. But I think that in itself, the people spoke, right? No one wanted to be unsolicited <laugh> bombarded with information that they didn’t ask for. So yeah, I mean it is a fine line of being creative and smart and kitch and gorilla as you say, but also being respectful to the privacy and obviously we’ve, over the last G D R P and overseas, there’s regulation and legislation really to help the consumer safeguard around that. And so I think you probably made the smart decision there with not taking on now although it would be very clever, I think you hear those stories about people doing that on airplanes these days and

Matt Gardner (25:14):

Oh yes,


And a conversation we have to constantly have, I mean we have the ability now to we have our Ticketmaster integration with our app, so we know when one of our fans has scanned their ticket and come into our venue, which then as we’re looking at that, we probably know 80% of the people just by ticket scans that are in the building. But it doesn’t mean you can just start firing off push notifications for everything that’s in there. Then you have that list, but then you have to look at that list and then sort through the fans that have opted in for that segment of push notifications and then that’s who you’re sending to. So I know internally we have these discussions and people think, wow, okay, we can now send out 18,000 push notifications because that’s how many seats we have in our building. No, you gotta make sure you’re operating the right way and only hitting those fans that have asked for those communications. So we have to constantly be thinking about that and just making sure that the right steps are being taken. Yeah,

James Giglio (26:16):

For sure. So thinking about, we’ve touched on some of the things in the past, but thinking of the future and considering innovation and challenging everyone yourselves and your marketers, sponsors, everyone involved the franchise and technologists like us, what excites you about the future? And I guess I suppose it doesn’t necessarily need to tie into maybe fan experience, but is there any technology or innovation that you’re really excited to eventually work with or is on the roadmap?

Matt Gardner (26:46):

I think the biggest thing that we’re all constantly thinking about is just the different way that fans are consuming live sports now and what that experience is just going and sitting in front of a TV and watching for two and a half, three hours is changing and how fans are consuming, whether they’re watching a live event or they are just taking in highlights on social media. I have conversations with my sons all the time and I’ve watched a soccer match or something and I’ll watch the entire 90 minutes and they will have just watched the same thing via highlights on social media and we’ll have the exact same conversation. So the dynamic of how it’s being consumed, what the expectation is of a live sporting event at a venue whether it’s sitting in your seat the entire time having more social type of an experience the opportunities you’re seeing via the streaming platforms now are changing the game.


Whether it’s the manning cast being part of the telecast of Monday night football or a stat based experience that you see at Thursday night football via Amazon. There are so many different options and I think you have to be very open-minded in how you are representing your brand and what you’re doing and what that second screen experience looks like. There’s a lot of things that we’re going to be testing just to see what our fans will engage with and what they want as part of their experience. Do they want to be able to have conversations with other fans online? Going back to the simplicity of even just like a chat room as part of a second stream. Do they want a gamified style experience while they’re watching a game or if they are primarily watching a game via their mobile device how can you compliment that experience?


And I think that’s something that broadcast networks the leagues, the teams are all going to have to really continue to work on what that experience looks like. And then as fans come into our building, it’s more and more, it’s becoming about an entertainment experience. It it’s not just find your seat, sit down and watch. We have a live band that plays on our concourse now that we have during intermissions and pre-game, those types of moments and experience that people want as part of the money that they’re spending to come to an event. So I think more than ever in the next 10 to 15 years beyond what we’ve just seen this last period of time, the dynamic of consuming a live event both in person and watching via device or something is going to continue to rapidly change. And how we respond and how we get prepared to make sure that we’re ready for those moments, I think is going to be really crucial.

James Giglio (29:50):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think you touched on a couple of things where we talk about this pre covid or pre well Covid era and then post Covid, right? Where I feel an unfortunate but positive byproduct byproduct of Covid was really organizations and fans alike were challenged with not having, not being able to attend the live event, but I think a lot of creativity had spun up on creating these second screen engagements, whether it was through technology or the manning cast as you had mentioned. I think Major League Baseball is starting to implement similar type of broadcasts that can really play to the person at home and create a valuable experience just by simple overlays with multi-feed broadcast and the use of other technologies to enhance what a normal broadcast television game would be versus what it is now. And then of course the post covid era with the pent up demand of experiencing that live event is really unprecedented.


And so being continuing to challenge the industry to create that entertainment or lifestyle destination is really key. And I think in particular for us, we’re about 10 years old as a business as well, and our company thesis, if you will, has always been to enhance that game day concourse activation experience. And in 2012, a lot of the emerging technologies were slightly focused on that, but more sort of what was happening on the jumbotron or maybe real estate was redeveloping a little bit where mixed use experiences were starting to unroll or develop in terms of having mixed use facilities and such. So selfishly, I have to say that it’s been a nice progression for the industry to move forward to having that sort of disneyfication of the game day experience because fans are demanding and fans do require that memory. We sell experience as a sports franchise, you sell the experience of that in their team. And as technology provider, we sell that experience to make things memorable and being able to really focus in on that. It’s been nice, it’s been a nice evolution of the industry to really get buy-in into that because particularly in the past there may have been some franchises that focused a little bit more on that versus others because of success or lack of success, but now it feels more of a universal acceptance of like, no, we’re an entertainment company as well, and this is what we need to provide to top dollar paying fans and customers.

Matt Gardner (32:38):

There’s two ways, I think, two words that I always think about from just the fan environment. Easy and fun. Fans want to come to an event, they want parking to be easy, they want entry to be easy. They want getting food and beverage and retail to be easy. And then beyond that, they want to have fun. And sometimes you can’t always deliver fun based on team performance, you know, will lose games. Nobody’s winning everything but how can you make that moment just incredible for them? And how can you make them walk away with a memory? And if you can provide the fun level via different engagements that are going on. We’ve had our lookalikes on our video board go viral, and I’ve seen more and more teams doing that now, and it’s just a fun entertainment piece. So whether they’re sitting in their seat, they’re concourse or wherever, and even at home the easy part of being at home now, which gets more and more complicated is finding the game it, it’s becoming more and more challenging with all these streaming devices that you have to have.


This league is on this device and this league is on that device. And so the easy part of home is being able to find the game and then now all of these secondary options, how can you make it more enjoyable? Whether it’s somebody who’s really into sports betting and the streaming feed for the game ties into different sports betting odds and things, or it’s analytics based or it’s commentary based. Those are the two, I think, key things you can really Dr kind of drill down to is how can you make it as easy as possible and fun and memorable.

James Giglio (34:12):

Yeah, absolutely. That’s really interesting that you mentioned the optionality of the broadcast because even I think as of yesterday, YouTube is getting in the mix of being a provider for the N F L these days, so let’s just add another source of rotation for the channel clicking, so to speak. But yeah, that’s an interesting point. Well, Matt, this has been really fantastic. Before we go, I want to give you an opportunity to talk a little bit about your mentoring that you provide in your bio. It referenced an organization called Stadia Ventures. And before we wrap up, I wanted to just give you and the listeners an opportunity to maybe learn about Stadia and what your role there is and what the cohort enables.

Matt Gardner (34:57):

I was introduced to Stadia Ventures maybe five or six years ago, and Stadia operates in accelerators for sports tech, sports tech companies. And I kind of got in and started becoming an advisor for some of those companies that were coming through their programs and eventually a mentor. I think I’ve been a mentor now for five or six different times in their different cohorts that they run. But it’s been a great opportunity for the Blues to kind of find some early stage tech that we can use sometimes through companies that have been selected for Stadia program other times just by the network and having some connections to investors and others that are involved that would reach out to me and say, Hey, I just got introduced to this company, what do you think? Will you give it a look? And so it’s been a very rewarding way for us to get in on some early projects.


We’ve done some predictive gaming. We were one of the first, we did that during our 2019 run. We did an XR experience with a company called Mantis XR last spring that was part of Stadia cohort, that it was a kind of VR of our locker room with AR retail elements. So we debuted a number of our playoff gear through that experience and just really great ways for us to tie in with the sports tech community. Sometimes we launch something very quickly, other times those opportunities takes years to kind of flourish whether the tech needs to continue to evolve a little bit or we need to internally be ready for it. But it’s been a tremendous utility for us to evaluate and sometimes we go first to market. Other times it’s just when the timing is right. But it’s been a really big part of how I’ve used my role on the innovation side of the business to make sure that we’re constantly looking and evaluating things to continue to move the business forward.

James Giglio (37:04):

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s mutually beneficial for the startup and for the organization. Obviously you get your hands on the emerging technology that you and integrate, but as someone has been in that position in the past as a startup, you know, really just are looking for that customer acquisition and that first opportunity. And in many ways it wasn’t a part of a cohort, but we were in a similar arrangement with the N B A and had it not been that opportunity of someone giving us a chance to really showcase the technology, I don’t know, we would still be here. So I think it’s valuable more so in more ways than just self-serving in using the cool technology. So good on you for providing that for entrepreneurs.

Matt Gardner (37:48):

Well, there’s kind of a creative way for us as well because we’re an organization that doesn’t have a massive r and d budget to be investing in something new that comes up. But part I think of what our role is is we’ll be kind of an early company to go with this if we feel like it’s something that we can get to market and have a really positive experience, whether it’s identifying new revenue or improving the fan experience or an opportunity to collect data, but then we’ll perhaps pilot something with you, which is budget friendly for us, but we’ll then build that case study that will then allow that company to go out to all the other NHL games or get some conversations with the N B A. And part of our piece of that, not only building that case study, is make those introductions and have those conversations with other teams and explain our experience so that hopefully they’re continuing to grow their business in the way they see fit. And now we’ve just launched something that’s had a very positive experience for our business.

James Giglio (38:48):

Yeah, absolutely. So with that and again, this is based on your comfort level. For any of our listeners, maybe they’re entrepreneurs themselves are looking to reach out to you or learn a little bit more about Stadia and obviously the blues and what you’re doing how can our listeners reach out to you and what platforms and what’s the preferred method here?

Matt Gardner (39:05):

Yeah, please feel free to reach out via LinkedIn, just find Matt Gardner or probably a little bit more colorful and give my opinions on different things on Twitter. And that’s at Matt underscore Gardner. But happy to connect, have some conversations and look forward to meeting some new people.

James Giglio (39:26):

All right. Well perfect. Well thanks again everyone. Matt, you especially. This was fascinating and thanks for listening to the MVP Interactive podcast and until next time,

Watch the video version below.

MVP Interactive Podcast_Matt Gardner with St. Louis Blues


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