UBM’s ‘Events First’ Strategy Pays Off with 30-percent Revenue Surge in 2015

February 25, 2016

UBM announced last year its strategy was going to focus on putting ‘Events First’, and those efforts paid off, with full-year 2015 total revenues surging 30 percent to $1.3 billion (£974 million) , compared with $1 billion (£746 million) in 2014.

The addition of Advanstar Communications to the company’s portfolio was a boost, with a first year return on investment of 10.3 percent. UBM also sold PR Newswire for $841 million last year, further solidifying its ‘Events First’ strategy.

“UBM has taken significant steps in its transformation in 2015. We’ve integrated Advanstar, announced the sale of PRN, successfully begun implementing ‘Events First ’ and delivered an operational performance ahead of expectations,” said Tim Cobbold, UBM’s CEO.

He added, “Looking forward, UBM is now a focused business with more than 82 percent of revenues derived from events across a range of industry verticals and geographies. Our ‘Events First’ strategy will deliver growth, margin and, we believe, create the best platform in the industry.”

UBM’s annual events in 2015 posted a revenue increase of 35 percent to $811 million (£582 million), compared with $598 million (£429 million) from the year before.

The company’s seven biennial ‘major’ events also performed well, growing by 34 percent, on a constant currency basis, compared with their 2013 editions. 

UBM runs 116 ‘major’ (more than $1.4 million in revenue) annual events, which delivered 86 percent of annual event revenue in the year.

Revenue growth of these major shows grew 5 percent, despite the Furniture China and Sign/LED shows, compared with 3.9 percent (underlying growth adjusted for rationalization) for the portfolio as a whole. 

Advanstar’s events, which are 74 percent of the UBM Advanstar division, grew just more than 4 percent last year, with a major initiative focusing on further integrating the business into UBM’s overall structure.

All UBM divisions, including UBM Life Sciences, were brought under one umbrella in the U.S., as well as changes were made in the management structure.

Simon Foster was appointed Interim CEO of UBM Americas after the departure of Sally Shankland, who previously had the role.

“As he has demonstrated, Simon was well-placed to take this role, combining his 25 years of experience in the industry with specific knowledge of many of the constituent businesses in UBM Americas,” UBM officials said.  

The remaining Advanstar integration (of finance systems and processes, and other business systems) will take place during the next 18 months. 

The acquisition of Advanstar has re-balanced UBM’s geographic presence to be more in line with the global exhibitions industry. 

In 2015, North America accounted for 42.6 percent of Annual Events revenue (2014: 24.7 percent) and Emerging Markets, as a whole, accounted for 40.7 percent (2014: 50.8 percent), with China 30 percent of annual revenues (2014: 36 percent.)

Further honing its events portfolio last year, two of UBM’s events were sold and 47 events were discontinued, as well as the company also added three events businesses in 2015.

The acquisition of Hospitalar enhances UBM’s presence in the healthcare sector.  The show, which is the leading healthcare event in Brazil, is expected to experience good growth despite the weak macroeconomic backdrop.  The acquisition also makes UBM the third largest organizer in Brazil. 

The buyout of the eMedia joint venture results in control of CIOE, a show that has been operating in Shenzhen for more than 20 years and which strengthens UBM’s portfolio in China.

Both events are ‘major’ events while CSTPF, the third acquisition, is a small digital textile printing show in China.

With the sale of PR Newswire, company officials said they would pursue further acquisition activities “that meet our strict financial criteria.”

Looking into the future, Cobbold said, “The Board expects continued good growth (excluding the impact of biennials and ongoing portfolio rationalization) although it remains conscious of the global macroeconomic uncertainty. It also expects further margin progress although this will be offset by the even-year biennial effect.” 

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Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. 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Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.