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XLIVE Interview Series
XLIVE Interview Series -Jonny Greco - Vegas Golden Knights.jpg

Jonny Greco - Vegas Golden Knights - XLIVE Interview Series

This week on the XLIVE Interview Series, we sat down with Jonny Greco, VP, Chief Experience Officer for the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights are the newest professional hockey team to be added to the NHL. The team debuted in the 2017-18 season, and in an unprecedented run made it to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year. We spoke to Jonny about his role within the organization, how the Knights approach experience, what it’s like working for Vegas’ only professional sports team (until the Raiders move from Oakland to Vegas next year) and more. Read the full interview below, and don’t miss Jonny’s keynote presentation from XLIVE 2019 titled, ‘The Four E’s of Experience; educate, entertain, enthuse and evaluate’.

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Jonny.  For those who may not know, can you give us a brief overview of the Vegas Knights, when you joined the organization, and talk a little bit about your role as the Chief Experience Officer?

Thank you! What an honor to be able to meet and collaborate with storytellers and experience makers. The Vegas Golden Knights are the newest NHL franchise and the first ever pro sports team in the entertainment capital of the world. We are now in our 3rd season and it’s been an incredible ride from the very beginning. The creative team I work with is in charge of championing the fan and their experience in “The Fortress”, our home arena. We want to create smiles, memories and also home ice advantage! We do that with over 130 Cast and Crew who are are part of the narrative of fun we try to share with the great fans in Vegas every game, through videos, music, skits, live performances and so much more!

Tell us a little about your background.  How did your career take you to professional sports?

I was always a huge movie guy. Loved how a Spielberg movie could make me feel like I was riding a bike with E.T. on it! When I went to Film School in College (thanks mom and dad for the support!), I graduated and had a few options, and one of them was to interview with The Florida Marlins. I am a massive sports fan as well and never knew until that opportunity came that there was a world where sports and movies and entertainment could all line up together for a memorable experience!

What does ‘experience’ mean for the Vegas Knights, and how is your team’s approach different than other professional sports teams?

LISTEN TO THE FAN. I think many teams in many sports in many leagues do an incredible job with their fan experience. We have great leadership that allows us to try new things, fail and get back and try again. We also have a pretty darn good hockey team, and since we can't score goals, it sure helps when the team you work for is good! Lastly, the city and it’s fans are so enthusiastic about their team and their fan experience, it motivates us to be the best we can and improve every single game. In the end, we honor the fan and the fan’s get to be drivers in the entertainment experience. If we listen to the fans, it helps us all work together and create something we can all be proud of!

Can you give us a brief teaser of your upcoming keynote presentation at XLIVE 2019, ‘The Four E’s of experience’?

Through many different leagues and many different events all across the world, I have been blessed to learn and grow from many exceptional storytellers in front of and behind “the camera.” Through over 20 years of being more lucky than good, through osmosis, I have found that the best creators and engagers of the fans have certain qualities and characteristics we always look to hire, and surround ourselves with. The 4 E’s are a really strong guideline and framework for us to remember how to respect fans and also push one another to tell important stories through Education, Entertainment, Enthusiasm and Evaluations.

Many professional sports teams are seeing decreased attendance on game days, and millenials have greatly been responsible for this change in dynamic.  Can you talk about how the Knights approach gamedays and what you guys are doing to bring people into the arena?

Winning and enthusiasm will bring people anywhere. We are super lucky you have both right now in Vegas. Once people arrive, then you have to engage fully and also keep the conversation going long after the experience is over. I think many teams do an exceptional job bringing great fans in day in and day out, but it is quite a combination of variables to sustain this sort of excitement. I have been blessed to work for last place and first place teams. Many lessons to be learned by both experiences. 2,000 or 20,000, they deserve our best because someone is coming to their 1st ever event. And someone is also coming to their 1,000th. Everyone deserves our best story. 

Vegas is very much a destination city, with millions visiting every year.  When it comes to attendance, fan acquisition, and engagement, do you focus on Vegas residents or is there a push to bring Vegas visitors into games during the season?

Being the hospitality capital of the world, along with entertainment, we would be remiss to not celebrate the amazing tourists and sometimes transient nature of this great city. We want to honor the warm, welcoming nature that is this community, in all we do. That being said, Home Ice Advantage is incredibly important as well, so we sure do love our Locals! We do the best we can to toe the line of this balance for the best fan and team experience.

What types of technologies do the Knights use to enhance experience at events, and are there new technologies which you’re excited about which can further enhance these experiences?

We have a lot of technologies that many other teams have. And in many cases, we have less than some arenas and teams. While technologies are imperative to most experiences in our world these days, what must always be the paramount focus is the story, your “WHY.” How do we create a narrative for the fans, with your brand, your logos, your players, your fans that help engage and energize a spirit and emotional connection to the experience. Expensive technologies can add and supplement this, but rarely is it a sustainable driver for a visceral connection with your fans. The foundation must be the story. Everyday something new and shiny comes out that is inspiring many. We just always want to find the right fit for our show with the mind for story first. 

We use Ross Switcher and Xpressions (for CG) , Evertz (DreamCatcher) for video playback and replay) Christie Projectors for our Ice Projection System… (i can go on and on here)...

Are you excited for the Raiders to move to Vegas next year?

This city has such a passion for it’s teams and the rising tide raises all ships! The NFL is a massive operation who is inspiring and we are excited to have new neighbors down the street to help bring Vegas even more to the forefront as a Sports Entertainment Capital of The World!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today Jonny!  How can people get in touch to learn more?

Thank you! What an exciting opportunity to speak to passionate people about creating memorable experiences. Please feel free to email me at, [email protected] and or hit me up on Twitter @JonnyGreco.

Happy Creating Everyone!

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