Q&A Alan Adler - CEO of IMX
Former Olympic sailor Alan Adler talks to The Report Company about Brazil’s future, and the change in mindsets necessary to hold onto the momentum created by the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games.
The Report Company: With the World Cup and Olympic Games on the horizon, the huge accompanying infrastructure programmes underway and the pre-salt oil boom, the headlines have been all about whether Brazil can deliver. Have expectations been set too high?
Alan Adler: Brazil will deliver a flawless World Cup and Olympic Games. Delivering is part of our history, but we do it in our own way, which is seriously but with joy. We do, however, have a problem in our cultural DNA that means we have a great difficulty understanding the essence of planning. This is something we have to do better at the federal, state and municipal levels, in our companies and our homes.
There is a cultural aversion to planning here, and the wasting of resources does increase costs, but that situation is improving. Corruption remains a poison in society and investments are needed in education, healthcare and so on, but we are going through admirable changes in the last years.
Brazilians are audacious and they are fighters. Every year we host Carnival, on New Year’s Eve there are 1.5 million people on Copacabana beach and at last year’s Rock in Rio there were 700,000 people spread across the week. We will not just deliver, but we’ll exceed expectations.
TRC: So why the collaboration between IMG and IMX, and why in 2011 and not earlier?
AA: Eike Batista combined the forthcoming World Cup and Olympic Games with his love for Rio and decided to start an entertainment nucleus for the city. IMG had previously been unsuccessful in their attempts to enter the Brazilian market, so they joined forces, and with so little time until the World Cup they decided that, rather than start from scratch, they should buy a company with proven experience in the market. That was my company, Brasil 1.
Our experience comes from hosting sporting events like the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the Megarampa skateboard event and the beach volleyball tournament Rei e Rainha da Praia, but we also had experience in the entertainment world, having organised The Police and Elton John concerts in Rio. One of the first things we did at IMX was to buy a 50 percent share of Rock in Rio – the largest rock festival brand in the world and one, clearly, with its heart in Rio. Everything aligned with what we wanted to achieve.
The venues branch of what we do will see us bidding for the concession at Maracana and Maracanazinho stadiums, along with the Marina da Gloria, which we are already developing into one of the most important venues for the Olympic Games.
Linked to all of these will be our digital branch, distributing content from our events as well as providing a ticketing platform for the whole IMX group. IMG is responsible for the VIP and hospitality seats at Wembley, and IMX Hospitality will follow this model, not just at the Maracana if we win the contract, but across all of Brazil’s stadia and events like Rock in Rio and UFC.
The fourth and final element will be services such as consultancy and talent management. We are working with Ambev, General Electric and Visa on their strategies for the World Cup and Olympics, but we will also help smaller companies that need to develop a strategy to communicate to their customers through sports.
TRC: So looking at all these elements, was it a case of you stepping in to opportunities that other companies simply couldn’t see?
AA: Exactly. EBX group’s dynamic culture has made this possible because it is used to structuring large businesses, strategically positioning itself and leading the markets it participates in. We wanted to make the company a leader in South America, where currently there are none. Our business organisation will be base on solid and long term contracts, generating recurring revenues, making it a unique business case within the sports and entertainment industry.
TRC: How have you incorporated so much in such a short space of time?
AA: It was very hard, but IMG has 60 years of expertise and IMX has the structure and Brazilian know-how to make it possible. You don’t get anywhere without a good team, and we have fantastic specialists in all areas, bringing in people from overseas where necessary. For IMX Hospitality, for example, there was no precedent for that type of business in Brazil. On the digital side we brought in the man who founded the most successful company in that sector here, ingresso.com.
TRC: As a former Olympic sailor, does a successful sportsman make for a successful businessman?
AA: The values and the discipline that you need to be a leading athlete fit the business mould very well too. You need to set clear goals and you have to be devoted, body and soul, to fulfilling those goals. Everything in life is about motivation, learning how to win and lose, but you have to want to win and leave the competition behind.
TRC: IMX will obviously profit greatly from the forthcoming international events, but what do you think will be their greatest legacy for Rio as a city?
AA: I was in Barcelona in the four years prior to the 1992 Olympics and I saw the city change entirely. Each year leading up to them there was another test event and Barcelona was a success. The Brazilian government got it right when it used Barcelona as their example. I went to London, though, and thought that the 2012 Olympics were far ahead of its predecessors. London is an amazing city, the weather was great, the city functioned perfectly and the venues were intelligently built.
The Olympics and the World Cup are the opportunity for our government to take projects that have been forgotten and finally implement them after 20 years of suffering at the hands of terrible, unprepared leadership. The city will be transformed, and fast, not just through better venues and better transport, but through the growth of the Rio brand.
We need these facilities. How can you host an ATP Tennis Tour without a tennis stadium? We will now have one that seats 10,000 people. These structures will be sustainable; we won’t have the white elephants that were left behind after Greece and China’s Games. IMX can contribute directly to that legacy by bringing in the events that will maintain these venues long after 2016.