The upcoming SBC Barcelona Summit (20-22 September) takes place as business and leadership adjust to clashing global dynamics impacting the industry’s development and relationship with regulatory stakeholders.
Having examined all elements disrupting gambling’s business landscape – SBC Marketing Director Dennis Algreen, and Director of Conference Production Jonathan Whelan shed light on producing gambling’s most important executive agenda, as all leadership disciplines will be showcased at the Barcelona Summit…
SBC: Hi Dennis and Jonathan, thanks for this Catch-up. Why is the Barcelona Summit SBC’s most important conference and agenda to date?
Dennis Algreen (Marketing Director @ SBC): SBC Summit Barcelona is our biggest-to-date conference and exhibition.
When we started planning the event, the main goal was to ensure that each industry vertical is represented on the conference agenda — this is how we ended up with seven conference stages and eleven tracks covering the hottest topics in sports betting and iGaming.
We are well on our way to securing 350+ speakers for our Barcelona event, and just a short glimpse of the agenda is enough to realise that these are the top people in the industry — all senior executives, leaders and innovators in their respective fields.
With a comprehensive conference agenda covering sports betting, iGaming, affiliate, media and marketing, payments and compliance and emerging tech, we deliver on our promise that every delegate will get valuable insights that will help them elevate their business.
Jonathan Whelan (Director of Conference Production): The carefully curated conference content and the high level of the speakers serve as the culmination of this year’s flagship event.
Our global betting and iGaming show is about providing the full picture — there is something for every industry professional attending SBC Summit Barcelona
It is our most comprehensive and impressive conference agenda to date simply because it is a snapshot of what the brightest minds in every vertical of our industry are thinking. Global casino, sports betting, and affiliate communities will all be represented, as the agenda features 350+ speakers and eleven conference tracks.
I am pretty excited about this one, as we are bringing some of the greatest leaders to share their insights on the current state of the industry.
SBC: Why have you chosen innovation as the focal theme/narrative of the Barcelona Summit?
DA: All our conference stages feature a separate track focused on innovation. Innovation keeps things moving forward, and we all know that the industry and the players can be unforgiving to those who stagnate.
Technology and innovation lead the way to progress and efficiency — think of open banking that revolutionised online gambling, the impact of introducing the concept of social gaming, or the lessons that traditional operators can learn from crypto casinos. All of these topics will be explored in detail during SBC Summit Barcelona.
The modern consumer is demanding, and companies are not just expected to deliver a good product but also continually evolve, entertain, and minimise friction for the customer. If your company is looking at ways to attract Gen Z and the more technically savvy audience, you need to make sure that you are at least aware of these trends.
JW: I don’t really like the word ‘innovation’ because it is often used as a buzzword for something we do not fully understand — plug innovation into a ‘forward-looking’ panel session and hope for the best.
In this specific context, however, we felt it legitimately reflected our purpose. It has been a big focus for us to create a platform for our attendees to familiarise themselves with the revolutionary trends that can help them better serve their increasingly intelligent and savvy audience.
Each conference session comes from months of speaking to the industry leaders and digging into the novelties that will shape their strategies in the coming months and years. Our ‘Emerging Technology, Metaverse and Blockchain’ track is a great example. It focuses on the topics that will impact the industry here and now, bringing in outside the industry innovators and applying their knowledge to the context that is most familiar to us.
Finally, the First Pitch competition comes to transform this debate into action by investing in the very innovators we are talking about.
This is our thinking for every industry event we organise, but Barcelona is probably our most complete example of a truly innovative agenda.
SBC: The Barcelona Summit takes place as a number of regulatory and economic headwinds impact the gambling sector. How will these complex market factors and realities be showcased at the Summit?
DA: The evolution of compliance standards has created an environment where each operator has to figure things out for every market separately. However, despite the market-specific intricacies, there are many commonalities and a lot you can learn by chatting with industry peers and competitors.
Our conference agenda is really about that — analysing examples, reflecting on the lessons learnt, building on past mistakes and trying to bring all that knowledge together to better navigate the complexity of each market.
We have a separate track dedicated to compliance at SBC Summit Barcelona and have done our best to cover all the key markets. The panellists will discuss the opportunities, challenges and entry market strategies in the DACH region, North America, and Japan. We will also have several roundtable sessions covering India, Latin America, Canada, Brazil and Africa.
JW: Although the negative impact of the economic and regulatory headwinds is a factor that cannot be ignored, it is important to remember that there are also numerous opportunities out there. This is how we chose to approach the issue on the agenda — focus on overcoming the difficulties rather than the difficulties themselves.
The regulatory headwinds of maturing markets drove operators to look closer at emerging markets beyond Europe and North America and created the ground for some really vivid discussions around market entry strategies.
This transformational time for the industry and the opportunities in emerging markets are discussed from a leadership perspective as part of our ‘Global Gaming & Betting Markets’ conference track on Thursday. We will also have deep dives into compliance-related issues around new markets in our ‘Compliance & Market Entry’ track, which switches gears to the practicalities of market entry.
It is also worth mentioning that our focus on player protection has expanded again this year. To me, this goes hand-in-hand with the drive toward making betting and gaming more mainstream. We are working with Entain and our partners to ensure that the content of this track is optimised for operators, and draws on the practical optimism with which the agenda approaches these “headwinds.”
SBC: From your perspective, analysing the industry’s current status, what has been the most challenging aspect of producing an executive event for global gambling stakeholders?
DA: I honestly think that this is overall a very fun and creative process, but of course, I can think of some challenges that come with preparing for a global event like SBC Summit Barcelona.
SBC events are not just about the exhibition floor. Our team works hard to ensure that we educate our audience through the high-level speakers we invite to our events. We are also doing our best to create unforgettable experiences for the attendees — whether it is an opportunity to share the pitch with a famous football star like Gaizka Mendieta or play in a poker tournament hosted by the legendary Molly Bloom.
The real challenge is to make sure that every single person leaves our event feeling that it was a time well spent and that they will definitely return next year. For us to achieve that, we need to find the right balance, attract all the leading companies in the industry, and come up with a conference agenda representing all the primary gambling markets worldwide.
A lot of work goes into this, especially when it comes to Barcelona, our flagship event attracting stakeholders from all across the globe.
JW: I feel we can fall into the trap of believing our own hype around these “challenging times.” Yes, it has been difficult, and yes, we have all worked long hours, but my God, we’ve had fun!
I am working in an industry that couldn’t wait to get back to physical events (safely and responsibly) and used the pandemic as a time to innovate and “win in the turns.”
I also have the privilege of working with some of the most talented and interesting people in my career to date. In that respect, there hasn’t necessarily been a challenge, more of an exciting journey, which has seen us bring together the industry this year in a series of fantastic events — and Barcelona will be the culmination.
SBC: What do you believe will be the Barcelona Summit’s outstanding highlights?
DA: It is hard to choose — if we didn’t think these topics were interesting, they wouldn’t be on our agenda. However, I will do my best to pick some.
I am personally particularly looking forward to the Winter World Cup panel session. Major sporting events like that always come with a massive opportunity for operators in terms of both player acquisition and retention. I am curious to hear the thoughts of our speakers on how they are planning to make the best out of the World Cup and use it as a strategic weapon in their marketing strategies.
I am also interested to hear what the ‘Emerging Tech, Blockchain & Metaverse track,’ panellists have to share. There is no doubt that blockchain technology, NFTs, and tokens can be further utilised in our industry — we just need to get more familiar with them and get a couple of hints from our more tech-savvy friends.
Another session I’d like to highlight focuses on the so-called ‘sleeping giant’ Brazil. Brazil is one of the biggest world economies and a market with great potential. However, the progress has been extremely slow. With the deadline for regulating sports betting approaching, the World Cup around the corner, and the upcoming elections in Brazil, I want to hear everything our experts have to share on what the industry needs to do to prepare for the giant’s awakening.
JW: I am excited to hear what Shay Segev has to say about the convergence of entertainment and sports betting. I think the whole industry has been waiting to hear how DAZN will impact the landscape here.
The level of detail we go into around SEO strategies on the ‘Marketing and Media’ track will provide applicable practical takeaways. The live streaming experience by Fruity Slots and Hideous Slots in the ‘Affiliate track’ is something I’m looking forward to as well.
The level of speakers in our ‘Emerging Technology, Metaverse and Blockchain’ track is also going to make it one of the more eye-opening discussions the industry has had about this topic.
We haven’t even touched on our ‘Payment Innovation’ track, which kickstarts with a discussion on customer friction, conversion and cost and is led by a group of payment trailblazers.
At this point, I am running into the danger of highlighting almost the entire agenda, so my final word would be that our sports betting, iGaming and leaders tracks remain the pillars of the SBC Summit Barcelona conference agenda. I expect these rooms to be packed as the level of speakers is truly impressive.
SBC: Finally, what advice would you give to attending delegates to get the most out of the Barcelona Summit?
DA: The exhibition floor will have five separate zones to make it easier for the delegates to navigate the area. I strongly recommend still visiting each zone because they all come with a separate networking lounge and can help you meet a bunch of exciting prospects for your business. So my first advice would be to not limit yourself to one specific zone, but rather make the most out of the Barcelona event — it’s our biggest yet exhibition and conference, and the entire industry will be there.
Another piece of advice I would give is to use our SBC Connect app. The app allows you easy access to our agenda as well as the floorplan. You can read about our exhibitors, search by company name and visit the networking section to introduce yourself to the SBC Summit Barcelona audience. You can also go through the list of our event attendees and mark the conference sessions you are interested in as ‘favourites.’
Given the scope of the event, I think it is crucial to prepare ahead of it to make sure that you do not miss out on anything of particular interest. It is also useful to know that the conference sessions will be available on the app after the event.
JW: My best advice would be to thoroughly plan your agenda and bring your team.
I can guarantee there will be times you want to be in two places at once, so having your team join the sessions you cannot attend is a must.
It also will allow you to free up more time for networking. There will be 6,000 people at the summit this year and 200+ exhibitors to visit. I would, therefore, try to make sure you plan your expo and networking activities as much as you plan your agenda time.
One thing I feel is often forgotten about is to try to ask as many questions during these sessions as possible. The speaker faculty this year is the who’s who of the industry, and, sometimes, you get the best insights from the questions after the panel sessions. It also does you the service of making yourself visible at the summit and will make it easier for people to start a conversation with you.
You can’t replicate these types of interactions at a digital event.