The Low Down on the Upper-Level Premium Lofts

As new premium products are cropping up, Tumua Tavana, SVP, Client Experience for the Utah Jazz and Smith Entertainment Group, LLC knows that the best way to education clients is to let them live in the experience they would purchase.

This transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

Could you give an overview of your organization structure to the table?

I am our Senior Vice President of client experience overseeing our premium experience. I work very closely with Chris Bailey, Senior Vice President of Business Development. We host a lot of people with Chris in a sales and business development role. My team is charged with retention and curating experiences. Our synergies work best based delivering on client desires.

With new premium spaces cropping up – largely based on client desire – a need for an education of these new premium option follows. Can you explain this?

We put ourselves in client’s shoes, asking “How does this evolution of my experience find value in order for me to continue to want to come back? What am I looking to purchase?”

We then look at what we can curate that doesn’t existing within our building.

We have really built out a lot of Premium spaces here in Utah.  We've continued to renovate because we're hearing from our clients. We want a different identity for each of our club spaces or a renovated brand-new space, like in our Lofts in the upper bowl, because we had such a demand on suite rentals.  

We imagined spaces in between club seats and suites. Clients tell us they really don't need a club seat for four people, or that they don't need a suite for 24-32 people. They are looking to host, maybe, a group of 8-10. That helped to dictate that the upper bowl was an opportunity for us to create spaces that we may have a need for that we don't have a space for here within our arena.

It really is listening to our clients, potential prospective clients. How can we fill the need of what they're looking for? And even going even more granularly, perhaps a client may like their lease now, but need something else in year seven, for instance.  

Also, we listen to others within the league and what they've done as well as a lot of partners within our market, who are lease partners, and who have been in those spaces and lived in them for the 90-plus events. They give us great feedback, and that makes us better.

How exactly how you are educating the client on the new opportunities? Do you give a psychological and physical education of sorts?

Our approach is consistently earning someone's business, whether they are a new client or client who's been here for 10 to 15 years. Anywhere we can overeducate and give a variety of options – whether it's in renewal or in a potential new sale – we do. We love to bring people to our building. Images are wonderful, but actually viewing what you would live in this space is better.

We're really proud of the pitch of our arena. It's very steep, but also every view from within our building is awesome.

We hear two things. One, “I love where I'm at but what other options do you have?” Being able to give someone a tour of the spaces that they may not even know about is a really important function of what our team does.

Two, “We’ve loved our suite space, and want to even expand the business that we do together. What are the other options within the building?” If they don't need another group space that fits 24 people, we can showcase additions to our club spaces.

Particular to the new inventory that we've built out, is our active Lofts up on Level 6. Traditionally premium and the top of the upper bowl don't go hand-in-hand, or at least that’s the perception of clients think, but people also want to be more social than they've been before. So taking them up to a loft, having it fit anywhere, from 6-10 people helps them! Actually going up there and hosting them so that they can see how they would potentially host their clients up there has been, in our opinion, kind of a game-changer of someone's decision-making.

We have a client with four seats in our lower bowl in our Toyota Club. He loves his seats, and typically purchases a suite rental six to eight times a year. We said, “Since the price point of a lease is maybe too high, why don't you come and look at our loft? You could really use as a like an employee benefit.” He didn’t want to go up there be up that high. We asked him to trust us, spend one hosted event night up there. He ended up using it for the NBA All-Star Game and expressing to sign a lease up there!

It's not rocket science. We hear what the person is saying and then we go up there and experience it with them so that we can really functionally live in maybe what some of their pushback points are.

Our Lofts has been an expansion piece that really was dictated off client need. We still offer a premium experience that we’re very proud. You have a host that greets you, a club space in which you have a full hosted bar, amazing food that we work very closely on with our salted honey team. And then you have a space that has a view of the game that we worked closely on design with one of the lead designers here in Utah on. It's a really nice premium seat that has a couch and a drink rail and all of your food displayed within your Loft. Where the perception of Premium is not in the upper bowl, once you go up there and live in it, we've seen a lot of interest in hosting in over-educating people up there.

So full-court press for Food & Beverage up there?

We made the decision at the beginning of this year – since this is a new space – that we would go all out for every night.

We have a full menu of options, skimping on nothing. They’re living in the experience that they would purchase.

From the hosted bar, to all-inclusive snacks and desserts, their Loft gets the same full menu as that of a rental or even a lease. We want them to live in the experience that they would then live in in real life with their clients.

Maybe even we’ll amp it up a little and bring gifts and take him on a whole tour of the spaces and then host them. With Covid largely in the past, we are able to host events at full capacity.

Nevertheless, we certainly have invested a lot of time and effort in collaboration with our marketing team, to make sure that if we have to send anything that it is displayed well.

Specially, what are your clients desiring?

We are living in a great situation in Utah. The state continues to grow, our market continues to be invested in our team, the entertainment interest here is still very high.

And so, Chris Bailey and I have just gotten more strategic. We look at our best premium inventory and what could be leveraged more for partner usage. We also look at who is purchasing premium inventory, and which renewals are potentially coming back. We ask how we are going to utilize this inventory in a partnership deal potentially or when a client could spend more money.

Moreover, we listen to how can we make our experience better, and how we use this inventory to really fit the greater business needs in Utah. We’ve utilized a lot of our premium inventory in new partnership deals.

For instance, if we look at the new Corner Suites, we’ve asked what is the best use case of that, what are longer term deals, what If they're leveraged in larger partnership deals. What inventory have we gotten back potentially, and how is that best used?

The NBA All-Star Game was hosted at your venue this year. What learnings came from the event?

I was super excited to host All-Star. We really started by getting granular. It's a huge collaboration with the NBA. And one thing I learned is that I love watching other people use our spaces. That was interesting to see what additions they made, or what signage pieces they add, or how they situated their furniture differently than how we normally use it. They used this for this, or they decided to make it more space vs more tables, more highboys.

The experience that they were curating in our spaces was interesting to see, as well as even our Loft space. Our salted honey partner used that as a hosting space to where there was visiting ownership up there. And so, it's really cool to see your spaces reconfigured.

I took away a few things from that of, like hey, maybe we should add signage where the NBA put it or we should add more directional to help get to certain spaces. It’s really helpful to see someone else do in your home space.

I also think that on the flipside of that, we do a really good job. I think we were really well organized. I think it helps to read re-emphasize that you're doing a really good job in that the experience you curated.