Showcasing Abu Dhabi as a global sporting and entertainment hub

Presenting Abu Dhabi as a premier global sports and entertainment hub

What innovative entertainment and sports experiences have you brought to the region?
We are very proud of our contribution to the growth and recovery of the UAE’s entertainment and sports industries. Collaboration is key to any successful event and we have worked closely with a range of stakeholders including the Executive Affairs Authority (EAA); Ministry of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi); Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Miral, Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, 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 create a range of products to produce phenomenal events in the last 14 years.

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

Some of our highlights are Abu Dhabi Showdown Week and Fight Island series, five FIFA Club World Cups including 2021; Mubadala World Tennis Championship and the ever-popular Yasalam After-Race Concert Series that accompanies the annual Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yasalam was truly the industry pioneer in this area, as the first city-wide entertainment festival linked to a Formula 1 event, bringing AAA (adult album alternative) artists, regional talent and more to the emirate for the final race of the F1 season each Year.

The hosting of three UFC Fight Island events in a span of seven months, including the first fan-attend event since the pandemic began, demonstrated Abu Dhabi’s willingness to welcome visitors and underscored its ability to host major international events within the highest global health standards and security. With Abu Dhabi Showdown Week and the Fight Island series, we’ve supported DCT Abu Dhabi in bringing some of the UFC’s biggest names to Abu Dhabi in a safe and secure environment.

During the first Covid lockdown we hosted the region’s first virtual concert featuring artists from across the UAE including Freek, FAFA and Mo Flow which has paved the way for some exciting new content we are working on. We’ve also partnered with AD Gaming to create a virtual esports series featuring four popular events. Another innovation we’re proud of is the launch of our Regional Artist Spotlight platform, designed to support musical talent at GCC after the entertainment industry has been hit during the pandemic. Regional Artist Spotlight is an ongoing initiative that promotes content from artists who do not have access to the level of promotion that international artists would. Our focus is on helping these regional talents reach a wider audience.

The launch of the Regional Artist Spotlight platform was quickly followed by another innovation at the opening of Ain Dubai in October 2021, where we held our first RAS sessions, with our regional artists performing on the main stage during the weekend celebrations. Another big milestone for the RAS platform was having the artists on stage at the Yasalam After Race Concert Series 2021. On three of the four nights they opened for the AAA artists and heated up the crowds. We want to do that again for 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 tastes, we have contributed to the emirate’s success by hosting more than 400 major events featuring live music, sports, cultural events as well as events of national importance. Collaboration is key and we are having great success working with government agencies and stakeholders to solidify Abu Dhabi’s status as the region’s sports and entertainment capital. We are constantly exploring new possibilities our stakeholders and partners and are exploring combined programs to extend the length of stay of visitors coming to Abu Dhabi for specific events. Currently, a visitor can schedule activities spread over several days, across different genres and interests, including concerts, museums, arts and culture, lifestyle and sports.

What do consumers want today when it comes to entertainment and how have their expectations changed since the Covid-19 pandemic?
We’ve learned a lot since the pandemic, and there’s more we can all do now in the digital space to improve the experience for fans and interested parties. However, nothing can replicate the thrill of in-person live experiences at entertainment venues. Fans still crave the feeling of attending live events even more after not being able to experience them for a while; Diversifying our offerings and being able to deliver a unique and premium experience is paramount to the success of our events. Ultimately, the most important thing for the entertainment industry is to excite people while showcasing Abu Dhabi and the capabilities of the entire region and everything it has to offer.

Are there any challenges you are facing or facing due to the pandemic?
The challenges caused by the pandemic are undeniable. The global events industry has been hit hard and we have not been immune. Covid-19 has changed events and entertainment landscape, but it’s about how you react and adapt. Thanks to our agile business model, we have been at the forefront of the region’s response and adapted quickly to continue hosting events during the Covid era and taking the lead post-pandemic. We have maximized the opportunity to further develop our virtual entertainment offering and digitization of content to meet the pandemic’s acceleration in the use of digital platforms. And our teams have worked tirelessly to ensure health and safety protocols are in place at all of our venues, including Etihad Park and Etihad Arena. Throughout the lockdown we have worked closely with Abu Dhabi authorities to ensure that once restrictions were eased we were able to bring back the return of on-site live events in a safe environment.

Tell us about the company’s diversification strategy. To what extent are gaming and esports included?The development of new technologies has offered event organizers different ways to reach their audience. Gambling has seen a huge increase in the region in recent years. We saw an opportunity to capitalize on the growing trend and support the vision of creating a gaming hub in the UAE capital. We’ve worked with our partners AD Gaming to launch a series of four esports events to expand the regional gaming ecosystem. The series provided a platform for regional esports talent to hone their skills against some of the best players in the world.

As a strategic partner of Abu Dhabi Gaming, we have hosted events around four hugely 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. This was a proud moment for us as it was our first award in the gaming field and showed our ability to offer innovative events and our strategy to further diversify our offering. Our diversification efforts also looked like this We are re-entering Dubai in 2021 and early 2022 with our work on Expo 2020 Dubai where we have worked with organizers and stakeholders on a number of live events throughout the Expo season, resulting in our being awarded the “ Best Event Production Live Entertainment Programming won at the Middle East’ together with our partners HQWS and The Fridge.

Tell us more about your collaboration with AD Gaming and how it aims to bring the UAE to the forefront of esports in the region?
As previously mentioned, our strategic partnership with AD Gaming is a collaboration to transform gaming in the region with the ultimate goal of nurturing and growing a regional gaming ecosystem right here in Abu Dhabi. The partnership aligns with our goal to continue to introduce innovative solutions and provide memorable experiences for residents and visitors alike. It is an exciting entertainment development for the regionentertainment industry, and it’s another example of how Flash Entertainment strives to enhance the region’s entertainment landscape and provide a platform for regional talent The partnership leverages AD Gaming’s knowledge and extensive experience in delivering exceptional events. It creates a solid foundation for Abu Dhabi’s esports and gaming community to test and develop their skills against global esports stars.

What are your prospects for the gaming and eSports sector in the region in the coming months?
The global gaming industry is growing rapidly, it is on track to surpass $200 billion by 2023 and Abu Dhabi is at the forefront of driving that growth. According to industry reports, there are already 100 million gamers in the Middle East and 73 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates are gamers. Governments across the region are providing tremendous support for the development of the gaming sector and our partnership with AD Gaming is the next step in creating a thriving gaming ecosystem for the region.

Almost half of the population in the MENA region is under 25 years old; They grew up as digital natives and gaming is a big part of their lives. Therefore, there is a great opportunity for organizations like ours to leverage and create exceptional events and platforms in collaboration with our strategic partners to allow young regional talent to shine.

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