One of the big issues that’s top of mind right now for all businesses is the ability to innovate around meaningful customer experiences. Not just because they lead to customers who are ‘delighted' (bow to Tony Hsieh at Zappos) – but also because they drive massive loyalty and lifelong engagement.
My guest today is Stephen Revetria who, as President of San Francisco Giants Enterprises, is on the cutting edge of curating and developing new fan experiences. Stephen was the first to experiment with blending entertainment activities alongside the typical sporting event way back in 1999, when the team ownership tasked him with solving the conundrum of what is now known as ‘fan engagement.’ 20 years on, his approach is now the gold standard for sports teams worldwide.
Stephen is also board chairman of Meeting Professionals Intetnational, sits on the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Travel & Tourism Advisory Board. and is on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Travel Association. We talk about getting sports turned back on and the massive initiatives taking place from global players in the travel and tourism industry.
We also dig into how he got started in the business – chartering luxury yachts in San Francisco Bay! We also discuss the key tenets of fan engagement and the importance of leveraging physical real estate to drive these goals.
Finally, we talk about the invitation that Stephen received, among other global sports leaders, to sit with Pope Francis to discuss principals that fans globally feel about sports, ranging from compassion and respect to empowerment, balance and joy.
Stephen Revetria oversees the strategy and vision of Giants Enterprises, which is dedicated to the curation and development of new ventures complementary to the San Francisco Giants Major League Baseball franchise. Currently in his 21st year, Revetria is focused on the creation of larger-than-life experiences for millions through increasing overall visibility and the strategic creation of new revenue streams and business endeavors.Under Revetria’s leadership, Giants Enterprises has received international recognition for the execution of its programming during the 2007 All-Star Game and the 2010, 2012 & 2014 World Series, including, the Official World Series Galas and downtown ticker-tape parades among others. He also played an integral role in the development and creation of the first dedicated full-time events team at a Major League venue.
A Bay Area native and graduate of University of San Francisco, Revetria has extensive experience in planning, advising and fundraising for civic affairs. He is dedicated to countless local initiatives with the goal of improving, enhancing and developing The City by the Bay. As a passionate business, hospitality and event professional, Revetria has forged invaluable partnerships on the local, national and international levels to further the mission of Giants Enterprises and San Francisco as a premier destination for events, meetings and travel.
Mr. Revetria is Chairman Elect, Meeting Professionals International and also currently serves as a Member of the U.S. Department of Commerce Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. Appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Revetria’s role is to advise and counsel on issues and concerns that affect the U.S. Travel and Tourism industries.
Additionally, he also currently serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Travel Association, the leading force that grows and sustains travel to and within the United States. Revetria has combined the world of sports, travel & hospitality in an innovative effort to lead the San Francisco Giants to the forefront of these intersecting industries. Through Revetria’s proactive leadership and foresight, the Giants have created a strategic model for other Professional Sports Teams and Destination Marketing Offices to replicate - paving the way for growth between sports and travel sectors to drive additional visitation.
Revetria is also an avid supporter and Allied Member of the Hotel Council of San Francisco. The Giants have co-sponsored numerous Hotel Council events and hosted the annual Hotel Heroes Special Event Night at Oracle Park, which includes an on-field ceremony honoring award winners. The Giants also support the Green Industry Council and the newly-created Women in Leadership Forum.
Revetria takes a holistic approach to the industry in promotion of his staff to participate in local and national association work. His steadfast loyalty and belief in prioritizing association volunteerism and active participation has directly resulted in his employees becoming Presidents and integral board members to local meeting associations. As a result, Giants Enterprises fosters a culture that stresses professional development and industry involvement. From 2014-2015, Revetria served as chairman of the San Francisco Travel Association, where he presided over the board of directors and executive committee. In this capacity, he directed and guided policy at all meetings involving partners of San Francisco Travel, the executive committee and the board of directors. San Francisco Travel’s mission enhances the local economy by marketing San Francisco and the Bay Area as the premier destination for conventions, meetings, events and leisure travel. Acting as a specialized economi development agency, San Francisco Travel works to promote the destination worldwide while ensuring that tourism, the top generator of outside revenue into the city’s economy, is kept in the forefront as citywide decisions and policies are made.
In October 2016, Revetria attended the inaugural Sport at the Service of Humanity Conference arranged by Pope Francis at the Vatican. The invite-only global conference convened leaders and influencers from the world of faith, sport and business to discuss the interconnectedness of Faith and Sport. In order to turn the idea from concept to reality, the Vatican invited a select group of individuals representing various stakeholder groups to develop strategy, shape the agenda and provide ideas to bring the concept to life.
In July 2018, Giants Enterprises hosted Rugby World Cup Sevens at Oracle Park, marking the first time this tournament was held on American soil. The tournament featured 40 teams from 28 countries, making it the largest rugby event ever to be held in the United State. Over the course of the tournament, more than 100,000 fans poured into Oracle Park, making it the highest-attended rugby event in U.S. history.
Revetria has been involved in the meetings and events industry since 1992 and recently served as Chairman of the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Foundation, which held the 2003 & 2015 World Education Congress (WEC) in San Francisco. He co-chaired WEC in both 2003 & 2015, overseeing the 2015 Opening Night Celebration at Pier 48 which won an ILEA Live Esprit Award for “Best Event Produced for a Non-Profit”. The MPI Foundation fuels the advancement of its membership by providing professional development and career opportunities through grants and scholarships, a longtime passion of Revetria. His strategic role within the MPI Foundation has helped propel the industry forward through championing innovative research and industry initiatives that support the strategic mission of MPI.
Revetria has won numerous industry awards as well, including but not limited to: MPINCC Sponsor of the Year (2002-2003), MPINCC Hall of Fame (2011-2012), MPINCC President’s Award (2006-07 & 2008-09), MPINCC Supplier of the Year (2004), MPI Foundation – 3rd Place Fundraiser (2011-12), MPI Foundation US Council (2009-11). Additionally Revetria’s leadership has garnered numerous group honors - Gala Awards, ILEA Esprit Awards and GMIC NCC Facility of the Year (2012-13 & 2016-17) - for Giants Enterprises. In August 2018 he was awarded Hotel Council of San Francisco’s Peter Goldman Award of Excellence.In September, Revetria was named one of the Top 500 People in Events by Bizbash and one of only seven individuals named in the Sports & Arenas category.
Revetria sits on the University of San Francisco Board of Trustees and helps to shape the direction of the University’s highly respected Business Administration, Hospitality Management program. Through this program graduates develop into the hospitality business leaders of tomorrow by working in partnership with San Francisco’s leading hospitality firms and organizations. A well-structured internship requirement of 800 hours in the industry provides students with invaluable hands-on experience. By developing a unique internship program, Revetria has hired more than 60 interns to Giants Enterprises and consistently pulls from the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State Hospitality Programs. He also helped conceptualize the Pat Gallagher Fellowship Program, which rewards a USF Sport Management Masters student with a year-long, rotating internship within the San Francisco Giants organization.
Revetria lives in San Francisco with his wife, Elizabeth and their two children.
Wanted to be a hospital administrator or yacht chartering...so jumped into chartering luxury yachts and creating experiences for people on the water
Came across Giants in 1999 just as Giants were looking for someone to create unique experiences for fans
This was a moment in time when no teams weren't focused on the intersection of sports and entertainment; Giants were first team to do so
No other teams were at this stage of evolution so he couldn’t benchmark with other teams on how to innovate; since then, Stephen has helped a lot of teams develop their fan experience model
How he mitigated risk in first couple of years of building the new model around fan experiences
They adapted and innovated around things such as food, i.e. leveraging local food artisans at the time was very innovative
The value of getting. tourists to come to a game was a big learning; working with tourism and travel orgs, plus the city officials and MLB
Bringing technology into the experience has the been the single most crucial factor
Fans want to experience a brand in their own way, i.e. play catch with a player on the field; he’s in the "Yes" business - whatever it takes for fans to feel a part of the team and have unique experiences
Behind the Scenes moments are big hits for fans – fans are very curious about what’s happening behind the scenes from groundskeeper to players
Bring snippets of their lives into the fan experience
And, brands (sponsors/partners) want to associate with these real behind the scenes experiences
During and post-COVID: Stephen sits on CA Governor’s Task Force and at the federal level is a member of the US Travel Board - getting people ready to build confidence with getting back into travel and live events is Job #1; he's working on that roadmap with these orgs
Turning sports back on:
Broadcasting revenue is a key factor
The ballpark does a lot of opening and closing Moscone convention ceremonies since they can host thousands at the park
Have more events at the ballpark that are non-sports-related than sports-related
The power of buildings and real estate for sports teams:
Turn the area surrounding parks into entertainment destination
Lengthens fan experience with the team
What’s next for hospitality and US travel industry:
Likely take a few years to get back to normal
Bringing people back in a meaningful way
Work with with Pope Francis:
Helping to tie faith and sports together regardless of beliefs
Developed principals around compassion, respect, trust and love, empowerment, balance and joy — these are traits that people feel about sports
His key resources:
Meetings Means Business Coalition
Big fan of entertainment news websites and arts
Sports Business Journal daily recap