Presenting Abu Dhabi as a global sports and entertainment center

What are some of the innovative sports and entertainment experiences you have brought to the region?
We are very proud of our contribution to the growth and recovery of the entertainment and sports industry in the UAE. Collaboration is key to any successful event, and we have worked closely with a range of stakeholders such as the Executive Affairs Authority (EAA); Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi); Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Miral, Abu Dhabi Motorsport Managemen, Etihad Airways, Mubadala and global partners such as Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and more to produce a range of phenomenal events over the past 14 years.

John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment
John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment

Some of our highlights include Abu Dhabi Showdown week and the Fight Island series, five FIFA Club World Cups including 2021; Mubadala World Tennis Championship and the hugely popular Yasalam After-Race concert series, which accompanies the annual Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yasalam was truly the industry pioneer in this space, as the first city-wide entertainment festival paired with a Formula 1 event, bringing together AAA (adult album alternative) artists, regional talent and more, in the emirate for the final race of the F1 season. every year.

Hosting three UFC Fight Island events in the space of seven months, including the first event with fans in attendance since the start of the pandemic, demonstrated Abu Dhabi’s willingness to welcome visitors and underscored its ability to host major international events in compliance with the highest global health standards. and security. With Abu Dhabi Showdown Week and the Fight Island series, we’ve helped DCT Abu Dhabi bring some of the biggest names in UFC to Abu Dhabi in a safe and secure environment.

During the first Covid lockdown, we hosted the region’s first virtual concert with artists from across the UAE including Freek, FAFA and Mo Flow which paved the way for some exciting new content we are working on. . We have also partnered with AD Gaming to launch a series of virtual esports, featuring four popular events. Another innovation we’re proud of is the launch of our “Regional Artist Spotlight” platform, which was designed to support GCC musical talent after the entertainment industry was impacted during the pandemic. Regional Artist Spotlight is an ongoing initiative, promoting content from artists who do not have access to the scale of promotion that international artists would enjoy. Our goal is to help this regional talent to become known to a wider audience.

The launch of the Regional Artist Spotlight platform was quickly followed by another innovation when Ain Dubai opened in October 2021, where we had our first RAS sessions, with our regional artists performing on the main stage during weekend celebrations. Another milestone for the RAS platform was having the artists on stage during the Yasalam After Race 2021 concert series. They opened for AAA artists, heating up the crowds, three of the four nights. We aim to do the same again at this year’s edition in November.

How has the company helped raise Abu Dhabi’s profile as the region’s sports and entertainment capital?
Abu Dhabi offers a diverse mix of cultural, sporting and entertainment attractions catering to all preferences, and we have contributed to the success of the emirate by organizing over 400 major events across live music, sports, cultural events as well as events of national significance. Collaboration is key and we have had great success working with government entities and stakeholders to help cement Abu Dhabi’s status as the region’s sports and entertainment capital. We are constantly exploring new opportunities with our stakeholders and partners and are considering combined programs to increase the length of stay for visitors coming to Abu Dhabi for specific events. Currently, a visitor can schedule activities that span multiple days, across multiple genres and interests, including concerts, museums, arts and culture, lifestyle and sports.

What do customers want in terms of entertainment today, and how have their expectations changed since the Covid-19 pandemic?
Since the pandemic, we’ve learned a lot and we can all do more in the digital space to improve the fan experience. and stakeholders. However, nothing can replicate the thrill of live in-person experiences when it comes to entertainment events. Fans crave the feeling of attending live events even more after not being able to experience them for a while; diversifying our offers and being able to provide a unique and premium experience is essential for the success of our events. Ultimately, the most important thing for the entertainment industry is to engage people while continuing to showcase Abu Dhabi and the wider region’s capabilities, and all it has to offer.

Any challenges you are facing or are facing because of the pandemic?
There is no denying the challenges caused by the pandemic. The global events industry has been hit hard, and we were not spared. Covid-19 has changed events and entertainment landscape, but it’s about knowing how to react and adapt. Thanks to our agile business model, we have been at the forefront of the region’s response, adapting quickly to continue to deliver events during the Covid era and take the lead post-pandemic. We have maximized the opportunity to scale our virtual entertainment offering and digitization of content to respond to the accelerated consumption of digital platforms during the pandemic. And our teams worked tirelessly to ensure health and safety protocols were in place at all of our venues, including Etihad Park and Etihad Arena. Throughout the lockdown, we worked closely with the Abu Dhabi authorities to ensure that once restrictions began to ease, we were able to bring the return of live, in-person events back to an environment sure.

Tell us about the company’s diversification strategy. How are gaming and esports part of it?The development of new technologies has presented different ways for event organizers to reach their audience. The game has seen a huge increase in recent years in the region. We saw the opportunity to capitalize on the growing trend and support the vision to create a gaming center in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. We worked with our partners AD Gaming to launch a series of four esports events to grow the regional gaming ecosystem. The series gave regional esports talent a platform to develop their skills against some of the best players in the world.

As strategic partners of Abu Dhabi Gaming, we have organized events around four extremely popular games: Dota 2, PUBG, Fortnite and FIFA. The Dota 2 MENA Cup event won gold in the “Esports Event of the Year” category at the recent SPIA Awards. It was a proud moment for us, as it was our first gaming award and demonstrated that we can deliver innovative events and our strategy to continue diversifying our offering. Our diversification effort has also seen we return to Dubai in 2021 and early 2022 with our work on Expo 2020 Dubai where we have worked with organizers and stakeholders on a range of live events throughout the Expo season, which earned us the award for “Best Live Entertainment Programming for Event Production”. in the Middle East”, alongside our partners HQWS and The Fridge.

Tell us about your collaboration with AD Gaming, and how it aims to propel the UAE to the forefront of esports in the region?
As mentioned, our strategic partnership with AD Gaming is a collaboration to transform gaming in the region with the ultimate goal of fostering and growing a regional gaming ecosystem right here in Abu Dhabi. This partnership is part of our goal to continue to introduce innovative solutions and provide must-have experiences for residents and visitors. This is an exciting development for area entertainmentthe entertainment industry, and this is another example of how Flash Entertainment is working to improve the region’s entertainment landscape and provide a platform for regional talent. The partnership draws on AD Gaming’s knowledge and our extensive experience in delivering exceptional events. It lays a solid foundation for the Abu Dhabi esports and gaming community to test and develop their skills against global esports stars.

What is your outlook for the region’s gaming and esports sector in the coming months?
The global gaming industry is growing at a rapid pace, it is on track to exceed $200 billion by 2023, and Abu Dhabi is at the forefront of this growth. Industry reports suggest there are already 100 million gamers in the Middle East and 73% of the UAE population are gamers. Governments in the region are hugely supportive of the development of the gaming industry, and our partnership with AD Gaming is the next step in creating a thriving gaming ecosystem for the region.

Nearly half of the MENA region’s population is under the age of 25; they grew up as digital natives and gaming is an integral part of their lives. So there is a great opportunity for organizations like ours to capitalize on and create exceptional events and platforms, together with our strategic partners, for young regional talent to shine.

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