Magic on Ice - The adaptation of a production company’s show during a pandemic
BY NUNO BARBOT, CEO AM EXPERIENCE GROUP | Aug 31, 2021
Yes, it seems like yesterday! And it was…
In March 2020, the Coronavirus became a household term, virtually closing down life as we know it, forcing everyone to stay indoors; to work and study from home and take strict precautions whenever venturing out into the dangerous outdoors for the simplest of errands. Obviously, this resulted in the postponements and cancellations of all public gatherings of any sort, including live performances, our main profit driver.
Perplexed by the consequences of the pandemic, we were clear from early on that we would have very big challenges ahead and that by the end of 2020 presenting live shows, by the end of 2020, seemed to be at risk, motivated by various factors:
- Risk of a second wave with the possibility of a new lock-down.
- Economic risk with possible diminution of audience purchasing power.
- Psychological risk for audience members.
- Legal risk derived from permanent legislative changes impacting the ability to put on live shows that would make our current business model unfeasible.
- Risk of no health treatment or vaccine available until the end of the year as all authorities confirmed that should a vaccine exists, it will not be available on the market before 2021.
- Tendency of families to protect their most precious assets, despite apparently being the least at risk (in terms of new cases and mortality): children.
Convinced that the reality we knew had changed, two alternatives appeared:
- Cancel the live shows in 2020/21 and restructure the company, significantly reducing its structure.
- Create a new business model, based on "in-house" expertise, responding to market needs; making effective, intuitive decisions based on unknown variables that would have value for everyone: employees; customers; partners; shareholders.
I must confess at first, I was tempted to choose the first alternative but, very quickly, various circumstances led us to reconsider.
Why? Because we were going through a truly unprecedented period, and we felt that it required an unprecedented attitude. Therefore, the way forward would have to be to find a new business solution, protecting all AM Experience jobs and not traumatising further our employees who have given us so much over the last few years. It would not be fair to take measures that would affect them financially even though we were not psychologically prepared to do so. A special course of action was required by us that we ourselves did not whether we were up to the task.
In an initial discussion amongst ourselves, we proposed the idea that the way to move forward could be to create a completely digital project with the rationale that it responded to the trends and widespread studies that appeared daily, of being 100% safe for families and with a significantly lower price point.
The business model was restructured by repurposing the previous year's shows, converting them to an entirely digital format, thus responding to the challenge. The whole solution involved minimising the risk and, consequently, the investment.
At the end of March, we shared this plan with the team, who gave mixed feedback. Some people expressed an interest, while others felt hesitancy in believing that the digital product would be profitable, so a working group was created to develop the 'product', something that we all believed was a 'perfect solution'. That became the challenge and the focus for many many hours, many days almost to the point of exhaustion, to design the product... in a process that we felt was the greatest professional experience of our lives, to provide a digital product that encompassed the same level of quality that our audience was accustomed to with AM Experience live shows.
By June we had created the basis of the product, began to define the price, while looking for an IT partner to support us in the development/delivery of our ideas. It was then that one of our collaborators brought to the team a contact who became a true partner; in addition to providing value on the technological side, they started to support us in sales (with a special focus on brands), prices and the product itself, contributing in a very constructive way. Based on this partnership, by July we had fully finalized the product; the brand, the price, and the targets. We developed the content plan and the portal. We also began the sales process and with fewer resources, due to the reduction in marketing and communications. It was then that an interested media partner, who believed in the project, became available. Based on this partnership, the marketing/communication plan was enhanced and the product was now positioned for success.
And yes, it was a success... even before the project was born/ presented to the public. The digital Magic on Ice product is the result of the contributions and high commitment of a team that today still carries the pride that during difficult times such as these, we managed to overcome and counteract the apathy that could invade our soul. Looking back, I can only say that everyone was resilient and brave and that the future can only hold good things for us. I have great confidence in that. I am sure of it!
Personally, this project has been a moment of great personal growth too. Confined within four walls, I felt a great deal of pressure given my responsibility and position. It posed a great professional and personal challenge: of learning how to deal with fear and loneliness; how to trust others and how to cope without seeing and hugging my family and friends. It was in this frame of mind that I challenged myself and once again, confirmed that we are powerless alone but together as a team, we are capable of extraordinary things.
I am very grateful to this talented team. I know that during this process, I have often demanded much of them. There were more questions than answers, but if there was ever a moment to launch ourselves into the unknown, this was it. I am grateful that the team believed in me and together, we launched into the dark, where we found the light that now guides us towards the future.
I AM Nuno Barbot, CEO AM Experience Group