Content and access are the buzz words for engagement now more than ever before. Those words get even more amplified when you factor in high net worth companies and individuals looking for that once in a lifetime experience, whether it is in sports or entertainment. The ROI has to be unique, and it can’t be something that can easily be replicated by others in the space.
One company that is priding itself on the unique is LXL Experiences. Its CEO Mark Riccio, has decades of experience in customer service and has worked with scores of elite brands from his time with the New York Jets, and LXL has looked to him to cultivate and create an elite subscription event service like no other, whether it is spending a night in a suite with some friends…and Mariano Rivera…or hanging with the cats of Law and Order and learning the inner workings of one of America’s most popular shows. The experiences are not for everyone, and the barrier to entry is high, but the model, according to Riccio is taking hold and setting the company apart.
We caught up with him to talk about LXL and the lessons learned with Gang Green over the decades. (His bio follows)
There are many who think the athlete meet and greet is done to death for corporate America, why is this a better mousetrap?
The first thing I would say is we are not the athlete ‘meet and greet’. While spending time with an athlete can certainly be part of an experience, it is only one component – compelling content, premium food and beverage, luxury gifts, and other interesting members are also all part of every experience. And further to that – -sports is only about half of what we do. Part of our value proposition to members is we create intimate and exclusive opportunities to interact with athletes, as well as celebrities across a range of interests – food, music, fashion, and television.
Is there a model you all have set up outside of sport that this follows? ?
There is no specific outside of sport model we follow. With that said, many have drawn a parallel to shared private aviation, or shared luxury vacation models. The key difference between those and LXL is our membership is all-inclusive. Members pay monthly and everything is included, there are no additional costs – which gives the member cost certainty, value certainty, and simplicity.
Coming from a career in the NFL, what are the lessons learned you brought to this business?
LOTS! First and foremost people do business with people, not necessarily a company, product or service – therefore developing relationships is a vital business function. Second, people will pay a premium price, if they receive a premium value. LXL is a combination of these two leanings. Sports teams win or lose – you can’t control that – but you can control the guest experience – and if done right — you create a memory and the guest will never forget how you made them feel. LXL has put a firm stake in the ground around this learning.
What has been the response thus far?
“Ahh, I get it!” That’s how I sum up the response. It’s a new model so I have to walk prospects through it – and once I do, “Ahh, I get it!” is the reaction. So in short, the response has been outstanding. Over and over, executives have been telling me they are looking for a seamless, all-inclusive solution for (client) entertainment that gives them variety and enables them to focus on their business. We take the pain out of business hospitality and that has great value to executives and companies. We do all the work — provide memorable experiences and all of details that go into that — and our members just chose with whom they want to share these occasions.
Anything has surprised you thus far in the reaction of clients?
Yes, two big surprises. First, people do not push back on price – – which I’m admittedly accustomed to. People in NY will tell you exactly what they think, so this lack of push back is a clear indication the price – value comparison matches. Second, people’s surprise when they realize the LXL model in its entirety doesn’t exist elsewhere.
Is this a model that is purely American for sport or can it be replicated globally?
Building and nurturing relationships is not geographically contained, and we believe the LXL membership model is as effective in NYC as it will be in LA, Europe, and Asia.
How have you been able to tie the luxury experience with sport to entertainment? ?
Sports is only about half of what we do. We continue to move closer to other lifestyle experiences: culinary excursions; music of all types; inside fashion; television and movie celebrity interactions. We will always offer sports experiences – it’s in my blood and it has value, but it is clear that businesses have clients with interests far beyond sports. The culinary, fashion, music experiences combined with a healthy staple of football, baseball and tennis experiences is part of our unique value to LXL members.
Is it similar to the customer experience you tried to help create with the Jets?
Yes – without a doubt. People are paying a premium for certain hospitality and sponsorship assets at the Jets. We would remind ourselves regularly getting the deal done was only a quarter of the work. Making that partnership come to life was the harder, more sustainable piece of the business, and I was fortunate to work with some very talented colleagues that did a great job with that.
What teams do the best at taking care of their high-end customers?
The interesting part here is that teams are getting more and more pressure here. Providing more value – aka “taking care of the high-end customer” is now a competitive necessity as opposed to competitive advantage. I’m undeniably partial so I’m going to recognize the Jets. I think MSG has done a good job in reacting to the changes in the marketplace and working to provide more value. Likewise, my experience has been teams in smaller markets have to work harder to maintain that high end customer because there are less of them.
Where would you like to have the business at the end of 2015, and what’s the benchmark for success at that point? ?
We have started signing Founding Members and are only taking 40 in total for the first year. This number will allow us to be nimble, work directly with our members to set the path for growth and deliver the optimal member experience in NY, as well as other markets.
As President and CEO, Mr. Riccio leads the LXL team and brings to it a depth of experience and a deep understanding of the professional sports arena and team business. As Senior Vice President with the New York Jets, he was responsible for all aspects of team and stadium business affairs and overall strategic planning. He directed corporate sales, new business development, corporate partnerships and the merchandise division. Mr. Riccio was also responsible for the New York Jets’ special events, game-day operations and multimedia product. He knows what it takes to create a superior luxury experience within a major entertainment venue or stadium. Mr. Riccio is also an adjunct associate professor at Hofstra University, teaching graduate and undergraduate classes in the Frank G. Zarb School of Business and has served as director of marketing and development for intercollegiate athletics at Hofstra University. Mr. Riccio holds a BA in communications and an MBA in marketing from Hofstra University, and a JD from St. John’s School of Law. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association.