Like many offices in Las Vegas last spring, the employees of PlayAGS were wearing their Vegas Golden Knights paraphernalia every day and watching the team’s games every night, reveling in the Golden Nights improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals.
Las Vegas had definitely caught hockey fever, not surprising considering the Golden Knights were the first professional sports team to be based in the city.
“I’d never experienced anything like it,” said Julia Boguslawski, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of investor relations for AGS, a leading designer and supplier of electronic gaming machines, table products and interactive solutions for the global gaming industry. “All the Las Vegas-based gaming manufacturers had ‘wear your Knights jersey to work days’ and bought tickets for their employees. At AGS, multiple members of the executive staff were season ticket holders, and the energy in the office was just fantastic. It was electric.”
The regional excitement surrounding the team was such that executives at AGS were exploring ways to tap into it to help promote both the company and the team. The original thought was to create a Golden Knights/AGS tee-shirt to offer as a give-away during one of the team’s home games. When they brought the idea to the Golden Knights, the team was receptive, but thought there was the potential for a bigger strategic play than a one night tee-shirt offer. The two sides got to talking and when they were done, they came up with an arrangement that was much, much more substantial—a multi-year corporate partnership, the first ever formed between the Golden Knights and a gaming equipment supplier.
“The National Hockey League [NHL] modified its rules [regarding business arrangements with gaming entities] when we came to town,” said Jim Frevola, senior vice president and chief sales officer for the Vegas Golden Knights. “For the last few years, teams were able to take casino partners under certain guidelines and restrictions. This has changed yet again with the legalization of sports betting, in which teams are allowed to participate. The NHL has had a progressive out when it comes to [the gaming industry], and a lot of other professional sports leagues are now following suit.”
“Adding the fastest-growing gaming equipment supplier to our roster of team partners is a big milestone for our organization and we couldn’t be more thrilled about partnering with AGS,” added Kerry Bubolz, president of Vegas Golden Knights. “AGS has a renowned corporate culture and expanding global reach, enabling us to connect our brand to their employees and customers in Las Vegas, across the country and around the world.”
The leadership of the Golden Knights also liked AGS’ stance on strong community relations in the Las Vegas marketplace. “We like partners that give back to the community and are aligned with our core values of teamwork, embracing change and doing things that make our constituents proud,” Frevola said. “The way AGS modeled their business is really important to us because it was in line with our core values. We are all about this Las Vegas community and we know AGS is all about this community, and that is the foundation for our program together.”
AGS is also bullish on the community relations potential of the deal, and sees a commonality between itself and the Golden Knights.
“AGS employees have been huge Golden Knights fans from the team’s inception, and we are excited to take our support and love for this team to another level as corporate partners, working together with the Golden Knights and other corporate partners such as Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, Station Casinos and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, to name a few, to truly demonstrate our mutual obsession with the game,” said David Lopez, president and CEO of AGS. “Like the Las Vegas Golden Knights, we are ‘Vegas-proud’ with our worldwide headquarters in the Las Vegas Valley. And there are other similarities—we are relatively new players in the gaming supplier space and we have certainly been underestimated. Both AGS and the Golden Knights formed strong teams, came together quickly under a set of unique core values and have never lost sight that winning is all about a cohesive team and character-driven culture.”
Shared experiences aside, there is also a practical aspect to the Golden Knights/AGS partnership. From AGS’ perspective, the centerpiece to this arrangement was exclusive sponsorship of the new “Play of the Game” feature at every Golden Knights home game on the videoboard, as part of its community outreach and employee engagement programs. The AGS Play of the Game will replay and highlight a key moment from each home game, have its own dedicated webpage on the Golden Knights website and be posted on the team’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“Play of the Game was a new feature we came up with together,” Boguslawski said. “The Knights really liked our button logo and the company tagline ‘Obsessed with the Game.’ When they suggested co-branding Play of the Game, we loved it since it would be highlighting the best moment of the game. We also really liked the exposure—we’re aggressively recruiting and hiring and needed to elevate our corporate brand in the region, and David [Lopez] thought Play of the Game was a great opportunity to do that.”
Along with the sponsorship of the Play of the Game at all 44 Vegas Golden Knights pre-season, regular-season and any post-season games, AGS will provide a title-night sponsorship and partner with the team and its ambassadors to promote the sport and the Vegas Golden Knights’ passion for the Las Vegas Valley through the company’s outreach with not-for-profit community organizations.
An added bonus to this partnership—the Golden Knights provided AGS with a host of support elements for the announcement of the partnership at last month’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. These elements included:
- The Golden Aces promotional team and four-person Drumbots drum line to open G2E 2018, and then parade through the show floor to the AGS booth;
- Multiple guest appearances by the Vegas Golden Knights mascot, Chance the Gila monster;
- A G2E lobby sponsorship with a step-and-repeat for photos; and
- Vegas Golden Knights/AGS-branded merchandise, including hockey pucks and tee-shirts, that were distributed at the AGS booth.
More importantly, AGS was allowed to display two Golden Knights promotional concepts—a Golden Knights-themed slot game on the company’s large format Big Red cabinet and animated Vegas Golden Knights-themed roulette signage. Both proved extremely popular according to Boguslawski, with Station Casinos committing to the roulette signage and numerous operators inquiring about the Golden Knights centric Big Red; so much so that AGS, with the help of the team, has begun talks with the NHL about acquiring a limited use license to produce the concept for the Las Vegas market. “We used the show to gauge customer interest in the Knights-themed Big Red cabinet and it was very good,” Boguslawski said. “One operator even wanted to purchase the promotional machine we showed in the booth to put directly on their slot floor. We’ve received a lot of goodwill from bringing the Knights to G2E.”
The Vegas Golden Knights have also been very pleased thus far with their AGS arrangement. “AGS has been a partner that has embraced the relationship from the beginning,” Frevola said. “I commend them for their outreach and outward approach to launching this relationship... I think it is a refreshing look on how to kick start a partnership.”