How to reinvigorate a traditional event?

It is April 2018 and we are preparing the next edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) that has been re-designed to reinforce the 6 decade old tradition. A high stakes event; a multi-million Euro production and a TV audience that easily exceeds 180 million viewers. A travelling circus that has to be planned in one year by a not necessarily experienced country’s broadcasting company. A representation of European performers who attempt to win the competition in each participating countries in order to be their country’s representative in the European Contest. The winner gets worldwide attention and recognition and the winning country hosts next year’s edition.

A contest which evolved from a talent competition to a piece of European culture and cultural heritage. The function of the event evolved from entertainment to competition to a symbol of european unity. Talent shows like ‘Idols’, ‘The Voice of …’ and ‘… got Talent’ have completely flipped the landscape. The European Broadcasting Union ‘Eurovision’ as the owner of the European Song Contest figured that the concept of European Song Contest could easily be hijacked, copied or changed dramatically. Many commercial broadcasting networks are trying to establish European initiatives that could potentially harm the ESC.

Switzerland won the 2017 edition of the European Song Contest and next to the glory and success of the Swiss contestants, the SRG SSR Swiss Broadcasting Corporation stood for a major challenge. The Swiss are known for their perfection and their design so the pressure was high to make it outstanding. The EBU declared at their 60th anniversary of the ESC that the event should carry on for at least another 60 years and the invitation for a re-design of the successful ESC was made. Switzerland took on the challenge and Geneva, as the headquarter for EBU, the momentum for the redesign was there.

The SRG SSR wanted to redesign the ESC and did research on how to design events and came in accross the Event Canvas. In fact their search led them to the Event Model Gallery where a number of designs of previous Song Contests where found, sketched by different enthusiast who took the initiative of documenting how that event created value. Also the organizer of the 2016 edition shared their design through the Event Model Gallery, however there was no ‘Event Owner validated’ canvas available at that moment. This was excellent material the Swiss believed. The starting point of a new design, reference from previous editions and a grid that eases the strategic discussion with the other 73 member organisations of the ESC.

Even better, the Event Model Gallery had also a number of big live television production events documented in their repository. The Superbowl and the latest Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were really ground breaking new productions that were in the minds of the Swiss. Right off the shelf they could use the experience and design of these major events. Additionally they found a listing of practitioners and experts available in the Event Model Gallery which included several Swiss professionals certified in this business of event design using the Event Canvas.

After the selection of an expert who could facilitate the SRG SSR and the EBU to redesign their pinnacle event, a group of 12 formed a taskforce and worked on a redesign. Using the 10 step process layer behind the Event Canvas, they immediately quick progress. Defining stakeholders was not all that easy, a longlist was created quite quickly, the discussion was about making the short list but moreover about whether or not to include the non-viewers as a stakeholder group. Many did believe that existing stakeholders where sufficient, but a group of people believed that if this contest needed a redesign, the design should be for more viewers than the current group.

The decision was taken, the new design should entail a strategy to deliver value to more people than the existing group of loyal viewers. This was a crucial decision that opened many doors and raised lots of challenges. Extensive empathy mapping was the next job. Luckily the EBU and their member organisations have lots of data which gives information on different stakeholders and their behaviour. That helped to validate the persona’s in the different stakeholder perspectives. Important was that all member organisations conducted a survey in their country targeted on the non-viewers. That brought interesting perspectives to the table.

After finalising the design which took the better part of several weeks, six prototypes were presented to the EBU Assembly. The discussion was about data and desired outcomes and which prototype would lead to these desired outcomes. Using the deicision criteria defined in the 10 step process, it was clear and a quick unanimous decision was made on which Event Canvas Prototype for the ESC would be selected. The winning prototype has been worked out in detail and is now in full production.

All contestants now travel across Europe to perform together at local concerts where the European fan base is built and pre-selection done. Off-line and on-line is combined, the momentum is more spread than one week at earlier editions, contains more live events and more revenue generation for the musicians and member organisation. Estimated audience is now far over 250 million this year and top musicians are queuing up to be their country representative for the upcoming ESC edition.

Fingers crossed for EBU and SRG SSR with the delivery of this revolutionary redesign using the Event Model Canvas and inspiration from the Event Canvas Gallery.

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