The SBC Digital Summit is almost here and the Director of Marketing North America, Kevin Smith, joins the show to talk about it. We discuss the decision to push back Betting on Sports America to December. We also get to hear about the details surround SBC Digital Summit in April.

Show notes from Kevin Smith Interview

Ryan Knuppel: All right. Welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. I’m your host, Ryan Knuppel, here again with you. Thank you so much for tuning in. We really appreciate you joining the show and giving us a little bit of your time to talk sports betting and iGaming.

Ryan Knuppel: Hey, today I’m joined by another special guest. I have Kevin Smith with SBC. He’s the Director of Marketing and Communications. Kevin, are you with me?

Kevin Smith: I am here. Ryan, pleasure to be with you today.

Ryan Knuppel: So excited to have you on, Kevin. I know we’ve been friends in this industry for a little bit now. I’ve been hoping to have you on and hear your story a little bit here for quite some time, so this is quite a privilege. Thank you for joining me.

Kevin Smith: Likewise.

Ryan Knuppel: Awesome. So give us a little background. I know you’re with Betting on Sports America/SBC. I want a little bit of background about you in general first, before we get into the event side of things. So give us a little bit about Kevin Smith and your background in this industry.

Kevin Smith: Sure. I’ve been in the industry now for, gosh, around 20 years. I owe my start to the industry, to one of your previous guests on the show, Sue Schneider. I worked with Sue back in the early 2000s at River City Group. I was part of the team that was developing their content around iGaming news, the Global Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo, which was quickly became the global leader in the iGaming, interactive gaming, space from a both content and conference and event standpoint.

Betting on Sports America 2020

Kevin Smith: I transitioned from Sue to go working for some operators, a main operator in Costa Rica in the sports book world back in mid-2000s. I was there when everything blew up on that industry, at least from the US Department of Justice going after some operators, and the one that I was closely aligned with. So that was an interesting time for me and I tell folks that was my involuntary sabbatical. I was forced out of the industry. I mean, my options were to basically stay in the industry and move offshore somewhere, or just get out of the industry. And at the time, many of my friends were like, “Oh yeah, go move to Costa Rica, Antigua, Malta, Isle of Man.” Had a little bit of an appeal, but from a personal standpoint it just wasn’t in the cards, pun intended, for me to be making a move like that.

Kevin Smith: So transitioned out, was doing a lot of digital marketing, project management for part of the last little bit of the decade, I guess I would say, in the early teens. And then Sue and I are both, I’m from St. Louis so our paths would still routinely cross, and she had been doing some work for the SBC guys and [Ras 00:02:51] on a consultant contract basis. After the success of their first Betting on Sports America last year, they knew that they needed to expand and really bring on some folks on a full-time basis.

Kevin Smith: Ras and I had gone, our paths had crossed back again in the early 2000s, just as the industry was growing, so we were very familiar with each other. So we began some dialogue last year and he brought me on board to shepherd things here in the US, from a marketing and communications standpoint. I’d say it was going really great and it still is going great, but certainly we’ve all, everyone in this industry has had a little bit of a hiccup, bump in the road, with this current pandemic. But hopefully, we’ll all get through it soon.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, that’s some great experience that you’ve had in this industry. I’m sure you have quite the stories and the connections, and just the people that you’ve run across in this industry. That’s pretty cool.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, speaking of Betting on Sports America, man, we were supposed to be in New York here, what was it, end of this month.

Kevin Smith: Yeah.

Ryan Knuppel: New York, New Jersey timeframe. I know the original Betting on Sports America, last year, oh my gosh, you touched on it, it was a successful event. I had a blast. It was probably the best event in general I’ve ever been to. I mean, it was amazing, it was fun, it was engaging, informative, just all around, the team you guys have there puts on just a great show, and you really care about the audience and the guests. So that’s what I really got out of that. And so man, I’m bummed that we’re not at it right now, or I guess it’s in a few weeks, but I’m a little bummed at that. But it’ll come back strong, I’m sure.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. And I will tell you this, from my perspective, having been in the industry as long as I have and been to countless and countless numbers of conferences and events, part of what drove me, and I think to your point of why the BOSA, Betting on Sports America, event was such a such a success last year, is because the approach that SBC takes to their events, to our events, is very unique in that we like to call it the all-inclusive approach to event management.

Kevin Smith: First of all, we feel like our delegate passes and badges are very affordable, compared to some of our other competitors. And then even with that in mind, when you go to the event, you’re not getting nickel and dimed, lunch is included.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure.

Kevin Smith: All the evening stuff, the networking events, the dinners, the appetizers, all those things are included, which allows you to really hone in and really maximize your time at the event because we know time is so valuable, and especially now with everything going on. But those elements I think really raise our event experience so much far and above what you get at other events.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure.

Kevin Smith: And again, that’s really what drew me to SBC, and really is what we’re trying to get out of this upcoming SBC Digital Summit. So with BOSA, we were one of the first ones that had to move our dates because of the pandemic, just largely because of timing, things were starting … [inaudible 00:06:04] was affected from the Asians that were not able to come to the event. So that was the first, I think, thing that we saw in the event space. But so we were having discussions back in January and February.

Kevin Smith: But then as this just got worse and worse, we started hearing from our clients and partners around, “Hey, we might not be able to attend. Are you guys still thinking of doing this?” That sort of thing. And then we also had to take a look at where we were on the calendar. It was starting to be, I guess it was mid to late February when we made the decision, maybe it was beginning of March. Now it’s all coming … It all bleeds together now. It seems like such a lifetime ago.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure.

Kevin Smith: But we knew folks were still in that window of had they not made travel plans yet, they needed to start making them. And if they did, they could probably still get money back and refunds or whatever. So we started having conversations with the venue, the Meadowlands Expo Center there in Secaucus around, “Okay, if we look to move this, what dates can we move it to?” And we ultimately settled on the December 1st through 3rd window. Because as I’ve been telling folks, if this is still an issue in December, this being the pandemic, we have far greater things to worry about-

Ryan Knuppel: Sure.

Kevin Smith: … than a trade show in the sports betting industry, where survival becomes a far more greater concern if we’re six months, nine months into this.

Kevin Smith: And then secondly, we feel like … So that timeframe of early December, and we certainly know that we probably won’t have the numbers that we had originally hoped for in April, but it’s still gives people some time and at least some level of comfort and confidence that they can go to a conference and trade show, and not have to worry maybe as much as they would have if we had moved it to July or August.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, that’s amazing, man. I mean, that’s a lot of planning. I can’t imagine the planning that you guys had to do to move things and to deal with all the people that have … Travel and all of that. I mean, it’s just amazing that you guys were able to put that together. I really hope we can. That’s my birthday week, man. December 2 is my birthday. So I’m going to be down there, up there in New York, hanging out with you guys, Betting on Sports America, around my birthday. So I’m excited for the post-party on the second.

Kevin Smith: I think we’ll have to add a Knup Sports birthday celebration to the agenda for our networking event.

Ryan Knuppel: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. So in the meantime though, in the meantime … So we have that to look forward to in December, but in the meantime, you guys decided to, I’m not going to say jump on the bandwagon because everyone in the world, not in the iGaming space, but just in the world, is doing these virtual events, right? I’m seeing virtual proms and just virtual meetings, virtual everything.

Ryan Knuppel: And so you guys are putting on the world’s first and biggest, real, true Online Betting Virtual Summit. Correct? So give us a little … Man, that’s coming up here in a few weeks, but give us a little bit about the SBC Digital Summit.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. So first of all, we had a hole, if you will, in the calendar once we moved the BOSA dates, which was going to be in April 28, 29, 30. So what we ultimately decided was, “Okay, what can we do that fills the void in the calendar gap now, but then certainly addresses the current situation that everybody’s in?” So really what we’ve come up with, and we still feel, to your point, that this is, I hate using the pun, but we’re talking cutting edge, certainly one-of-a-kind experiences here, in that we are not just doing webinars or even Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts, and no offense to any of those platforms, but we made a major investment in a very robust platform that’s going to allow us to truly do what we’re calling a virtual trade show and exposition and conference.

Kevin Smith: So what that means is, yeah, we will … The conference part of the agenda will have a very, I’ll say traditional webinar look and feel to it, although we’re confident that even that platform that we’re using for our webinars is much more robust than what folks are maybe used to seeing. And then in addition to that, we’re going to have a virtual show floor. So we’ve got companies that, and this is very fluid, they’re being added almost on a daily basis. So the demand is there from companies that want to have a booth. Just like if you think about a physical trade show, the experiences that you have at those events will be very similar to what happens here, but it’ll be in the virtual world.

Kevin Smith: So you will be able to click, you will … The experience of the platform is you’ll go into a lobby of a big event center, very similar to you walking into the front doors of the Las Vegas Convention Center or the one in Secaucus with the Meadowlands, and you have options then. Okay, do you want to go into the auditorium where there’s some conference sessions being conducted? Do you want to go into the show floor and see all the booths? Do you want to go into the networking lounge and just randomly see who’s hanging out there and chat with folks? And even the networking capabilities, it’s beyond just chat. You’ll have the ability to do video calls and Skype calls, and exchange digital business cards and LinkedIn profiles and things like that.

Ryan Knuppel: Wow.

Kevin Smith: So we’re really excited, not just because of the ability to transition something, and I say transition this, it’s really not a transition, we have … It’s also important to note that this content that we’re having is really, we purposely …

Kevin Smith: Well first of all, most obviously, Betting on Sports America, so it has a very US market-centric angle to it. The content here is global for the digital summit and it’s fresh. It’s relevant. So we’ve got a number of tracks. I think we’re up to six tracks, maybe even seven where we’ve … And that’s everything from leaders in gaming, leaders in betting, a Latin American market kind of look, a lottery day, a payment day, a digital marketing day, a BOSA US day. So we still have tracks very similar again to what you would see at a physical traditional conference, but all these sessions are going to certainly talk about where the industry is now, where what effects this pandemic will have on the industry, both short, medium, and longterm.

Kevin Smith: Having said that though, we also don’t want this to just be every session is, “Oh my God, we’re in a pandemic. What’s going to happen next?” I mean, that’s certainly an underlying theme to everything, but we will have sessions that, for an example, the US track, we’re going to have a session on legislative updates. So certainly, some States are still moving forward. Colorado just passed their regulations today, yesterday. Tennessee’s still moving forward with theirs. So those processes are still being done even in this new climate.

Kevin Smith: But then of course, okay, in the current climate, what does that mean? I’m based in St. Louis, Missouri. Our state legislature’s not convening right now. They’re supposed to come back in another week or two, but what does that look like? And even if they do come back, where does sports betting now rank on the agenda? There’s all these States are going to be faced with massive budget shortfalls. So do they … Maybe some look to gaming and betting to address those shortfalls. Maybe some say, “We’ve got so many bigger issues in terms of the budget and education,” and all those sorts of things, that they need to now consider where the priorities lie. So there’s going to be … There’s a lot of meat on that bone from a discussion standpoint in that session alone that yeah, COVID-19 has a direct effect on this, but it’s not just sitting around saying, “Oh my God, here we are in a pandemic.”

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, this is going to be so cool, man. I’m really excited about this. You can talk forever about it, I’m pretty sure, because there’s just so much that’s going to go into this. There’s so many tracks, there’s so many learning sessions. I’m going to vouch for the whole next level experience conference. I attended one similar to this, not in the iGaming space but in a different industry, just to see how it was. I’m assuming it’s a very similar platform to this, and it was amazing.

Ryan Knuppel: I mean, it was amazing to actually feel like you were in a lobby and then you went to go check out the main stage speaker and then, oh man, I’m going to go over and check out some of the exhibitions on the exhibition floor. You could actually chat with the people at the booth and set up networking events. I mean, it was just like you were actually at the event. So I can vouch that it’s going to be a great experience before we even do it. I’m excited that you guys did spend that time and investment into this to really make it next level for everyone that chooses to attend.

Kevin Smith: Yeah. So that was the two things we really wanted to ensure happen, that it was truly a virtual experience, and that we could still bring the industry together. Because SBC, in its DNA and Ras’, the whole history of the company and how it started, was really just as a networking and bringing industry folks together. So that’s really, we’re a very collaborative company. Again, it’s in our DNA and who we are.

Kevin Smith: We’ve gotten some pushback on this, but we certainly have gotten much more positive than negative, but we certainly understand, and especially in the US, there’s hundreds of thousands, and probably if you look at some of the reports, it might even be closer to a million, of the people that are in the gaming space that have been furloughed or laid off. And we understand that, but we also, we’re working with a lot of those folks as well, as we want them to have a presence here. So it’s very important that we offer that experience, but also give, create an avenue for the industry to come together and have these discussions.

Kevin Smith: Because we know that, again, networking is part of who we are, and people need this now more than ever, just to be able to have a place where they can get together and have a chat or have a video chat or some virtual drinks, or whatever that looks like they can decide, but at least give them the opportunity to go somewhere and just have open dialogue with each other. Because again, I mean we’ve heard this phrase in all avenues I think of our lives, but we’re all in this together. Truly, we are. And that’s no different in this industry as well. We were a tight knit industry, I feel anyways, but this has certainly brought us all together and I’m really excited about the potential to do that as well.

Kevin Smith: The other thing, this platform, you think about some of the negatives of a physical event from a company, vendor standpoint We always hear companies that want to exhibit, they always say, “Man, we got to staff it now.” It’s so important for them to do business and network with folks. Well, you can do all that almost at the same time now. You’re not chained down to a traditional booth like you would be at a physical trade show because you can still “man your booth” virtually, but still go listen to a conference session in another tab or window, or go to the networking area and take part in that while you’ll still have a “digital presence” in the booth. So we’re really excited for what lies ahead and really looking forward to bringing everybody together.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, I can’t touch on that point enough. And this is nothing to do really with SBC, but just in general, I would encourage listeners and people that are going to attend this event, to really treat it like a true event and that maybe you want to schedule some appointments with people that are there, or go into the networking lounge and try to find people that you can just connect with and talk to. Because I can vouch for just putting yourself out there and just going and talking to people, having discussions will get you so far in whatever you’re trying to do. Go into it without an agenda. Go into it just trying to learn what people are up to and what’s going on in the industry, and you are going to, seriously, you’re going to learn so much about what’s going on. And then you’re going to be better connected within the space as well.

Ryan Knuppel: So I’m really looking forward to this setup and really taking advantage of being able to meet with more people. Because some of these events, in a physical manner, are so impossible to get with everybody you want to, that I’m hoping over this five day period, we can have many, many discussions. And I would encourage anybody listening to this show, reach out to me. I would love to schedule 10 minute virtual just chat with you and just talk to you and understand what you’re up to. So I would do hundreds of those over this week. It would be amazing to do that. This is going to be cool.

Kevin Smith: I would echo those sentiments and make the same offer, as well. Although I have a common name, I’m pretty easy to find. I’m on LinkedIn and whatnot.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, pretty cool. So, awesome. Well, we can talk about this forever, but let’s talk a little bit about I guess the price of admission. What’s it cost to go to something this or to attend, or to get their passes, and how easy it is?

Kevin Smith: Yeah. I’m so glad you asked that question because this is another, I think, point of emphasis that we’d like to focus on, just from to your point around all the logistics that go into making a decision like this and rescheduling. We consciously did put a price tag on this for two reasons. We did make an investment in the platform, so we do have some costs to cover, and more importantly, we feel like the value that people are going to get from this is far beyond what the costs are.

Kevin Smith: So having said that, you can get a day pass for $54. And again, this event, it runs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with all the content that we’ve got on there. Actually, I think it goes to Friday now that I see it. There is Friday content. Or you can get a week pass for $105. So that week pass obviously is much more affordable on a daily basis, but if you just want to go to one day of the tracks … And all the agenda and everything you can find on the event website. If you go to sbcevents.com and click on that SBC Digital Summit.

Kevin Smith: Then the other option that we have from a pricing standpoint, is we do offer company passes. So if there’s a group, a company, we got them for 10, 25 or 100, based on how big the company is or how many people they may want to have attend. And of course, if they’ve got more than 100, they can call us and work with our events team on getting squared away with that. So we feel like, again, regardless of what option you take, it’s a very, very affordable pricing scheme. And again, for the value … We consciously are not doing this for free because again, the value that we’re offering, we just think is really unparalleled in the space and well-worth the small expenditure there.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, I definitely agree. And we all know in business, and to get anywhere really in life, you’re going to have to spend a little bit of money. It gives you a little bit of investment, I guess, a little skin in the game to say, “You know what? Nothing comes for free. Nothing good comes for free.” So I honestly think that that’s a good move by you guys, and you guys are in business as well, so you got to be able to pay for the investment and things like that. So props to you guys. This is going to be amazing.

Ryan Knuppel: I’ll put all those links out there on the show notes of this and then we also have a link set up. Very easy, it’s knupsports.com/sbc. Forwards you right to the Digital Summit page, and you can get signed up from there. So that will be simple as well. But man, this is going to be amazing. I can’t wait. The only thing that’s missing, Kevin, I don’t see any a virtual after parties listed here. Where’s the virtual after party?

Kevin Smith: Well, it’s funny you say that. As I said, things are changing and very fluid. We are having some discussions around a virtual poker tournament.

Ryan Knuppel: Let’s do it.

Kevin Smith: And obviously virtual drinks is an easy enough thing to do. So yeah, we will certainly have something filling that void.

Ryan Knuppel: Cool.

Kevin Smith: We just haven’t announced it yet because of the options that are available to us right now. But hopefully we’ll have something to announce on that early next week. Probably when this show airs. I’m not sure when it’ll be airing.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure, sure, sure. And for those of you that don’t know, the reason I asked that, because, man, the SBC after parties are one-of-a-kind. They are truly a great experience. I can’t wait until December, New York in Christmas to see what you guys have planned for some of your parties. The last year I think, we got in Jay Z’s club and then we went to the Meadowlands Rooftop and just had some great experiences.

Kevin Smith: We realize that the Rooftops are probably out of the question with early December, but we are looking at the 40/70 Club and some of those venues as well. And as I said earlier, we’ll certainly be adding a huge birthday cake and maybe somebody’ll jump out of that for you.

Ryan Knuppel: Oh, man. Well, I’m looking forward to it. Kevin, any last words? How can they get ahold of you, if anybody listening wants to get ahold of you?

Kevin Smith: Like I said, feel free to shoot me an email, case, kevin.smith, sorry, @sbcgaming.com. The easiest way, if you look me up on LinkedIn, again, common name, but if you do Kevin Smith and SBC, you should be able to find me. And I also, if you go to linkedin.com/smittyk, that will go directly to my LinkedIn profile. Connect with me there. I would love to hear from anyone and connect with anyone and set up some meetings.

Ryan Knuppel: Amazing. Awesome. Well, I appreciate you being here, Kevin. I’ll put all those links in the show notes so people don’t have to remember them, and we’ll get them pointed over to you as well, so that’ll be nice. But appreciate your time, and I can’t wait to virtually chat here in a couple of weeks and then see you in person later on in December.

Kevin Smith: Likewise, and stay safe, stay healthy. You can still do a lot of networking even from your virtual office, so I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone in the next coming weeks.

Ryan Knuppel: Absolutely. Everybody listening, take care, stay safe, and thank you for tuning in. This was Kevin Smith with SBC, signing off. Have a great one, Kevin.

Kevin Smith: Cheers.

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