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Interview: Elevating the fan experience with Beewan Sports

Images: Beewan Sports

Images: Beewan Sports

Ahead of TheStadiumBusiness Design & Development Summit in Manchester on December 6-7, we caught up with Rob van Rijswijk, Managing Director at Beewan Sports Experience, to discuss the company’s ongoing projects in the Netherlands and the importance of elevating the stadium experience for guests…

TheStadiumBusiness: For people unfamiliar with Beewan Sports Experience, can you provide an overview of the services you provide?

Rob van Rijswijk: “With Beewan Sports Experience, we craft captivating environments tailored for sports clubs, events, sponsors, and die-hard fans. We aim to enhance the overall sports experience, leading to extended visits and increased visitor numbers and revenue streams for our clients. 

“We synergise a diverse range of skills and disciplines encompassing concept strategy and development, spatial, digital, and experience design, as well as project management, production, and realisation. Combining all these services ensures that we deliver turnkey projects relating to fan experience and engagement on match days and non-match days.”

TSB: How did the company form and how has it expanded over the years?

Van Rijswijk: “Beewan has been actively involved in developing experiential concepts for sports stadiums, clubs, and venues for over a decade. These are akin to the exhibitions and experiential environments we’ve previously collaborated on with our sister company Beewan Livecom – spaces where various stakeholders converge.

“The inception of Beewan Sports Experience as a distinct entity came about in response to a query from the director of football club MVV. They sought to understand our unique strengths in the realm of sports. This inquiry served as the catalyst for the creation of the Beewan Sports label in 2021, a brand specifically dedicated to the sports experience market.”

Skyboxes at Sparta Rotterdam
Skyboxes at NEC Nijmegen

TSB: Which teams/stadiums are you currently working with?

Van Rijswijk: “In the realm of sports experience design and build, we’ve collaborated with various teams and stadiums, including but not limited to NEC Nijmegen, Ajax Amsterdam, Roda JC Kerkrade, Sparta Rotterdam, MVV Maastricht and Excelsior Rotterdam.

“Currently, one of our most significant projects is the stadium of Cambuur Leeuwarden (main picture), which is being constructed as we speak. We are responsible for all sports experience spaces such as the main entrance, supporters’ home, skyboxes, business lounges, players’ lounge and two restaurants.

 “Our expertise extends beyond traditional sports experiences and hospitality projects within stadiums. We also specialise in crafting innovative concepts for temporary sports experiences and fan event pavilions.”

Main entrance at Cambuurstadion
Fan zone at Excelsior

TSB: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect business and how has it impacted your work moving forward?

Van Rijswijk: “Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we successfully established connections with various stakeholders from different clubs and venues. Our goal was to explore opportunities to enhance fan engagement and boost revenue.

“Simultaneously, we were actively exploring virtual and hybrid experience providers and platforms within our digital division. This strategic endeavour allowed us to seamlessly incorporate our findings into the sports experience concepts we were crafting for stadiums.”

TSB: Does the company solely work with clients in the Netherlands, or do you have partners in other countries?

Van Rijswijk: “Since we frequently collaborate with international breweries and hospitality partners, our opportunities in the international arena regarding stadium experiences continue to grow. The insights we’ve gained through these partnerships are translated into a broader range of international experience concepts.

“We have several prospects on the horizon related to the Olympic Games in Paris, where we can collaborate with French partners, which we’ve had the chance to connect with during trade missions.”

TSB: What are the most exciting trends you are witnessing in the stadium sector? 

Van Rijswijk: “In addition to trends and innovations in safety and digitisation, which have broad appeal not just within stadiums, there is fortunately an increasing focus from stadiums on the multi-functionality of spaces and innovative hospitality and experience solutions. This focus aims to enhance the time visitors spend in and around the stadium, also on non-match days, ultimately leading to significant revenue growth opportunities.

“In the Netherlands, we also see the trend of sustainability and circularity with requests from football clubs and stadiums to use circular materials or a sustainable approach when designing or building new projects.

“We are responding to this trend by, for example, establishing a restaurant in the Roda JC stadium composed of 70% circular materials. Furthermore, sustainability is a guiding principle within the new Cambuur Leeuwarden stadium project.”

Restaurant at Roda JC

TSB: What are the current challenges in the sector?

Van Rijswijk: “The primary focus for a club is still placed on the field, which makes sense from the club’s perspective. However, by also paying close attention to the needs and experiences of the audience, ranging from business club members and skybox owners to suppliers and supporters, you can connect even more people to your club, all of whom contribute in their way to your success. Additionally, a significant challenge always remains that (athletic) setbacks can have a direct impact on the appeal of the club or the stadium.”

TSB: What are Beewan Sports’ ambitions for the next five to 10 years?

Van Rijswijk: “We aim to expand our insights to the international stage, where, in addition to attractive experience and hospitality projects for football clubs and stadiums, we can also create fan concepts for various sports and events. This allows us to continue connecting strong brands, clubs, and fans together.”

TSB: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Van Rijswijk: “At Beewan, we go beyond creating sports experiences and hospitality designs – we bring them to life. Our journey begins with defining the core identity of a sports venue, setting the stage for enhanced fan experiences, extended stays, and increased revenue.

“Central to our approach is the concept of multi-functionality, the key to unlocking the true magic of sports venues, even on non-match days. We look forward to meeting the industry in Manchester in December!”

Meet Rob, Beewan and 50+ projects at TheStadiumBusiness Design & Development Summit in Manchester in December…