Expect and Embrace Flexibility

An interview with Philip Blackmon, TurnStyle’s CEO

Who is TurnStyle?

Our company has been around for 17 years, focused on municipalities, arts and culture, museums, zoos, aquariums, and — in the last six or seven years — sports, which has been a tremendous opportunity for us to partner with great organizations, learn more about them, and hopefully impact their world, impact the world itself, and help go through a pandemic, then come out of a pandemic.

As you dive deeper into sports, and specifically premium seating and experiences, what have you noticed lately? What has evolved or even shaken things up?

Premium itself has changed a lot. One of the fascinating parts is how much access there is for everyone. Premium is kind of synonymous with everything that we experience in life. Everybody is looking for different experiences overall, whether it's premium, luxury or just what everyone in society knows as of today. You can really gain access to premium experiences across the board. It doesn't have to be for the ultra-rich or exclusive. On top of that, flexibility has become such a key to it: When do I get it? How do I get it? What can I do with it? Is it only for companies?

Even now with the idea that you can work from anywhere and that you're no longer tied to a physical location, we ask: Where am I today? What am I going to be doing this weekend — and how do I make sure that I get a part to be a part of the team or the brand that I care about the most. or the event or the experience that I care about the most?

What guides TurnStyle into the future of experiences?

One of the biggest things that we learned is that everyone can expect the unexpected. Embrace the chaos. And with that, be really flexible. Every team gave flexibility during the pandemic because we didn't know what was going to happen. We didn't know if we were going to have games, if we were going to have events, if people could come or not come. If they had to back out, what were we going to give back to that fan? What were we going to allow them to utilize or do with those type of exclusivities or non-exclusivities?

What we found is everyone is embracing that flexibility, and everyone's expecting that flexibility. I tell teams all the time to embrace the chaos. The more you embrace it, the more creative you can get, the more likely you are to succeed, and maybe you'll uncover the next great thing in our industry.

Change begets innovation. What projects are you most excited about, ones that are fresh and flourishing for teams?

Our work with the New York Mets has really been transformational. They've been able to attract a whole new base and with that, give experiences back beyond the event itself, be it catch on the field, behind-the-scenes tours, access to club levels that were not previously accessible. With that, you get all these new people to experience the team in a way they've never experienced before. Another one is the Houston Rockets, embracing the idea that people don't care as much about seasonality. They care about when they want to go, how they want to access, if they're available and what friends they want to come with. The Rockets are doing something unique with preseason sales and allowing people to come and pick out games against playoff teams at a time that normally is reserved for not a lot of movement, not a lot happening. With us, the team talked a lot about how this is really going to change the way people think about when to sell and what to sell at that point in time.

At ALSD 2022, you presented a session on automation, another movement with positive momentum in our industry. What did you specifically talk about?

Automation is key to TurnStyle’s platform. I think of it in in a couple of parts. One is upfront, getting to know a customer. We serve a lot of different fans, and being able to know how to surface that one individual and get and create a personal relationship with them is difficult, either due of staffing, the magnitude, or the expectations of the fan now of doing everything digitally. Our platform gives you the technological capabilities to do that at a larger scale, but sometimes even more in depth than you can even personally do.

By using our technology, team can answer questions like: Are they coming with their kids? Do they want the cheapest seats? Do they want the best seats? Have they been before? Have they never been before?

As you learn more, you can explore other ways to give back to them — and to help them know what to expect from a game day. San Francisco Giants is a great example. They have a premium club experience, and one of the biggest things for them was helping people exchange out for the games, figure out what they were going to come to, and then also help them understand what to expect, where to go, and how to find that location.

Now with technology we're able to do that prior to an event, prior to them arriving. The team then can put all their effort back into that personal relationship when they're there. So, ultimately, automation really drives the beginning, the end, and everything in between for our technology.