Have you given much thought to the lessons you learnt from the 2010 FIFA World Cup As the MD of exhibition, events and display company Scan Display, I have tried to understand how people in this industry behaved during the world cup, and why they behaved in this way.
Below is a collection of insights I gauged from what I saw, and perhaps some lessons that can be taken away from them. In this way, we can be prepared for next time - the Olympics, maybe?
This is what I observed:
The FIFA World Cup is massive. Yes, of course you knew that before it started, but now you know that. No amount of planning could have prepared us; we had to experience it to understand it.
- Tourists' interests:
Despite the scale of this epic event, it wasn't the golden football-shaped egg so many South Africans anticipated. I think this is because tourists were only interested in the soccer. Traditional arts and crafts, cultural tours, and a whole array of other activities, products and services available during the world cup didn't capture large audiences. Only the soccer did.
- Business opportunities:
As a result of the tourists focusing on the soccer, many of the activations for the world cup were unsuccessful. Scan, for example, took on an exhibition project on risk. It was anticipated that money generated from the entrance fee would cover costs and thereafter create profits. Only 10% of the anticipated visitor attendance actually materialised, and as a result the company made a loss. Luckily, Scan had many other projects for this period, from which we were able to generate profits.
- Greedy businesses #1:
I believe we got much of our work because other businesses over-priced their products and services. Quite simply, they were too greedy, and as a result they lost out on the opportunity to do business. A good illustration of this is that during the world cup it was cheaper to hire a marquee from overseas than it was to hire locally, even after accounting for transportation costs.
- Greedy businesses #2:
Companies tried to obtain contracts for which they were not qualified. They branched out into areas related to their business, but in which they did not have direct experience. The overseas buyers were sophisticated, and quickly recognised this. A fair amount of the work we gained was from such buyers who were frustrated by poor quoting and the realisation that they were not dealing with the right people for their needs.
- Time constraints:
One of the biggest challenges during the world cup was that a lot of the activations happened at the last minute. The event was so important that the politics were more complicated than normal. Decision-makers were bogged down by this, and as a consequence decisions were delayed, reducing the time available for roll-out. Therefore, in the weeks leading up to the world cup, we were often sitting with our hands tied while waiting for a go-ahead - all the while losing valuable time for the job in question.
As a consequence, I believe the world cup rewarded bigger businesses who could afford to win - or lose - jobs at the last minute without serious repercussions. They had the capacity to do jobs at short notice, using their own resources.
Smaller businesses, though, risked missing out on last minute jobs because they did not have the necessary capacity, or they banked on work which did not materialise, leaving them high and dry.
Overall, however, I think most South African businesses benefited from the world cup, directly or indirectly. It was a great event for our country and our people.
Not just about the bottom line
I think it's also important to remember that the world cup was not just about the bottom line. Scan was involved in a couple of projects which were not very lucrative but gave us invaluable exposure and experience. We had the opportunity to showcase our company, our skills and our creativity to a new audience.