For decades, the wagering industry had been dominated by one over-arching trade show—Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and its predecessor, World Gaming Congress & Expo. Recently, however, an established event has risen from the ranks to capture the top spot: ICE Totally Gaming, the annual UK-based exposition that will take place Feb. 7-9 at the ExCeL London. 

Indeed, going strictly by the attendance and booth figures, it appears ICE has outpaced G2E for the title of the world’s largest gaming industry trade show. According the American Gaming Association (AGA), the owners of G2E, the 2016 version of the event, which took place last September, drew 27,000 gaming professionals, a 7 percent increase over 2015 attendance, and more than 450 exhibitors for its trade show floor. Meanwhile, the 2016 version of ICE Totally Gaming, which is owned by UK-based Clarion Events, attracted close to 28,500 attendees, an 11.7 percent increase over 2015, the seventh consecutive year of growth; while the show floor drew 529 exhibitors from 62 nations.

“Clearly I am delighted that we have secured a double digit increase on 2015, which was a record year for ICE,” said Kate Chambers, managing director of the gaming division for Clarion said last February.

Credit for ICE’s recent growth spurt can be attributed to a number of factors—its goal to be the only B2B gaming event that brings together the online and offline gaming worlds, featuring world-leading innovators drawn from the casino, betting, bingo, lottery, mobile, online and street sectors; the decision to beef-up its conference and educational content; the move to the ExCeL London in 2013 which provided additional space and venues for growth and an extremely creative approach to event marketing.  An idea of just how successful this combined strategy has been: the research agency Fusion recently ranked ICE among the elite of UK-based B2B exhibitions. Applying the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a metric which measures the level of customer satisfaction and is used by brands including Apple, Amazon and eBay, ICE 2016 recorded an NPS of +53 among exhibitor decision makers and +39 amongst visitors, figures, which according to Fusion, would place ICE 2016 in the top three business exhibitions to have taken place in the UK over the previous 12 months.

All praise aside, the executives running ICE are far from resting on their laurels. “The most used cliché in the events industry is, ‘you are only as good as your last show,’” Chambers said. “I am very pleased with our performance based on the NPS metric… however, the research program that we undertake after each edition of ICE, is not an exercise in vanity.  Yes, we want to have our customers’ validation of the initiatives and attention to detail that is at the heart of the ICE journey, but I’m as interested in learning about aspects of the customer experience which failed to live up to the standards we set, purely in order to put them right. We have in place a policy of continuous improvement, which means identifying every area in which we can make even a marginal difference and the research program undertaken by Fusion is central to achieving this.”

POSITIONING FOR GROWTH

Based on this report and customers feedback, Clarion has a wide slate of improvements planned for ICE Totally Gaming 2017. To start, the event is re-branding its conference offerings into   ICE VOX, the gaming industry’s newest knowledge-exchange and educational brand. ICE VOX, which replaces conferences, will comprise a program of paid for learning and networking modules which will take place at London’s ExCeL Centre alongside the ICE Totally Gaming exhibition, according to a press release.

“The learning and knowledge-exchange opportunities that are available at ICE are widely recognized as being among the very best in the industry,” Chambers said. “The ability to engage with the industry’s pre-eminent authorities and thought leaders and then meet with the people responsible for creating the very latest on-line and off-line gaming technologies on a show floor is unique to ICE. ICE VOX will retain all of these stand-out credentials at the same time as reaching out to new communities of knowledge hungry gaming professionals. The ICE VOX content team will be introducing dynamic new concepts and approaches which will help re-shape the learning experience for gaming and engage with our stakeholders in a contemporary and compelling way.”

In addition to ICE VOX, ICE Totally Gaming will also continue to offer free to attend show floor seminars on a wide variety of topics. This year’s session topics include:  affiliate marketing; tribal gaming; briefings on Italy, India, Africa and Latin America; gaming regulation; bitcoin and cryptocurrencies; sports betting; diversity in the gaming industry; and a briefing on Japan. 

On the exhibition side, ICE improvements include a new and expanded area dedicated to meeting the specific needs of the land-based bingo sector. Working in partnership with The Bingo Association, ICE Totally Gaming has created the 220-square-meter Bingo Pavilion, a marketing and networking space which will be situated in S9 at London’s ExCeL Centre.

“The Bingo Association’s Members have been regular attendees of ICE Totally Gaming for many years,” said Miles Baron, chief executive of The Bingo Association. “Building on the success of last year, The Bingo Association has worked with Clarion Events to create a more formal space at the 2017 show for members and those working in the sector, creating The Bingo Pavilion: a space for business and networking.”

A similar concept has also been developed to help first time and returning exhibitors maximize the benefits of participating in ICE. The ICE organizing team has secured an additional hall at the ExCeL Centre, enabling new exhibitors to have their own designated home and identity. The new hall will be supported by a dedicated pre-show and in-venue marketing and promotional program.

“We know from our research that one of the most popular features of ICE is the opportunity the show delivers for visitors to meet new, fledgling suppliers with fresh and invigorating ideas,” Chambers said. “The additional space we have invested in means that all first time and returning exhibitors can be hosted in what we are describing as an ‘innovation quarter,’ enabling them to demonstrate their products/services and represent their brand personality in what is gaming’s most popular and prominent shop window.”

From a marketing standpoint, the creative team responsible for ICE Totally Gaming has drawn on the unconventional cultural sources of William Shakespeare and graffiti artist Banksy as inspiration for the campaign in support of the 2017 show. The ICE 2017 ‘World theatre of gaming’ campaign, features a Banksy-style treatment depicting the world’s most famous dramatist, was unveiled at a special photo shoot featuring an ICE liveried London taxi and attended by senior members of the team.

“Each year we place great importance on developing a visually strong creative in order to engage with a global audience,” Chambers said. “The concept of ICE being an international theater of gaming was one of the insights that came out of this year’s post show visitor research and using William Shakespeare, whose work has been translated into 100 languages and who has inspired movies/television shows throughout the world, from India to Italy and Thailand to Tibet, was a perfect fit. As well as the strong international credentials, there are also much closer links, with Shakespeare staging many of his plays at the Globe Theatre, which is just 6 miles from the ICE home at ExCeL. Being true to our brand values, we wanted to deliver Shakespeare with a ‘twist’, hence the contemporary, graffiti style treatment.”

With these and other improvements, ICE Totally Gaming believes the wagering industry will once again choose to go, “…once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” with them today and for the foreseeable future.

For more information of ICE Totally Gaming, visit icetotallygaming.com.