Q&A: Gareth Griffiths on the power of live experiences

A look into Virgin Media O2's exclusive Kylie Minogue concert

On Wednesday, 27 September, we had the privilege of attending a remarkable event, courtesy of Live Nation and Virgin Media O2 — the electrifying Kylie Minogue concert held at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

This global icon graced an intimate gathering, treating the audience to an array of tracks from her freshly released album Tension, featuring hits like Padam Padam, Story, and the eponymous title track. This exclusive performance was meant to be a special treat for O2 customers and lucky Virgin Media broadband subscribers who secured tickets through a Priority ballot from O2.

Jim Campling, President of Live Nation UK’s Marketing Partnerships, commented on the event for MediaCat Magazine: ‘When it comes to building game changing, long-term customer loyalty, Priority by O2 is without question a fantastic example of how to do it brilliantly well. Last night’s O2 Priority gig with Kylie Minogue is the latest example of how the O2 Priority team is going above and beyond to reward and say thank you to their customers. Over 100k people entered the ticket ballot for this show, reaffirming the passion and affinity their customer base has for live music. It is truly extraordinary. 

As a longstanding partner, we’ve had the privilege of working closely with O2 since 2005 on Priority Tickets and across the Academy Music Group venues. The O2 Priority gigs with Wizkid, Sam Fender and Kylie Minogue have all been held at our O2 Academy venues (O2 Forum Kentish Town and O2 City Hall Newcastle respectively) and have been a great way to build out our partnership and work together in new ways. Last night’s amazing show at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire gave fans a truly immersive experience. We’re looking forward to the next one.’

On that night, we met Gareth Griffiths, Director of Partnerships and Sponsorship at Virgin Media O2. He explained how exclusive Priority gigs represent their commitment to granting Virgin Media and O2 customers exclusive access to some of the world’s most renowned music stars, and he shared with us insights about music partnerships and Virgin O2’s latest endeavours in the world of entertainment.

Your role involves managing partnerships and sponsorships. Can you share some of the most innovative and impactful partnerships Virgin Media O2 has engaged in recently, and how have they contributed to the company’s overall strategy?

Launching The O2 in Fortnite in 2021 was really innovative. Having the world’s number one entertainment venue inside such a huge gaming platform, with live performances from Easylife, took our venue partnership with AEG to a whole new audience.

Our England Rugby partnership is now 27 years young, so we continue to innovate there, particularly with the Red Roses, the England’s Women’s Team, and of course, our Priority presents shows working with Live Nation and Academy Music Group. As a company, Virgin Media O2 believe in the power of live experiences and encouraging our customers to see what they do with connectivity and technology. Our partnerships go right to the heart of that strategy.

Virgin Media O2 has partnered with Live Nation for this exclusive Kylie Minogue gig. Can you tell us more about the collaboration and what it means for both companies and the audience?

This is our fourth Priority presents show now working with our partner Live Nation. We create exclusive gigs, at O2 venues, available to O2 and Virgin Media broadband customers only via Priority – our customer loyalty programme. We have been long-standing partners with Live Nation going back to 2005. We have 20 O2 Academy venues together, plus a huge Priority Tickets programme, so we’re always looking for new ways to innovate. These Priority presents shows are part of that and have been a huge success.

We started with WizKid at O2 Forum Kentish Town in 2021, then Sam Fender at O2 City Hall Newcastle in 2022 and announced Lewis Capaldi at O2 Academy Glasgow in the summer of 2023, albeit that show was postponed. The engagement from our customers and demand for tickets has been huge, so we’re definitely looking to do more.

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, how does Virgin Media O2 leverage partnerships to stay ahead of the competition and deliver unique value to its customers?

We have huge reach and scale. O2 and Virgin Media combined have 50% of UK homes as customers, so our owned channels, being able to communicate directly with our customer base, who are music fans, is unrivalled. We can reach customers via their mobile phone or TV, through our 400+ high street stores and our 21 venues. We have excellent first-party data and a long history in UK music, so we’re able to make sure our customers have access to the very best live experiences.

Virgin Media O2’s Priority program offers exclusive experiences like the Kylie Minogue gig. How do you see this program evolving in the future, and what other exciting opportunities can customers look forward to?

Priority is evolving all the time, particularly across live. We’re huge believers in the live experience, so we’ll continue to develop unique experiences across the whole gig journey, from ticketing through to the live arena. The onset of digital ticketing has really helped progress this, so there’s evolution in this area for sure.

Tonight’s event with Kylie Minogue is a great example of offering unique experiences to customers. Can you tell us more about the thought process behind selecting such exclusive events and how they align with Virgin Media O2’s brand identity?

It was important for us to create a live experience that only we could do through Priority. We have a very unique relationship with Live Nation in terms of the scale of our venue estate. We have 20 O2 Academy venues right across the UK, and they’re key parts of the local community in which they operate. So exclusive shows, at O2 venues, for O2 and Virgin Media broadband customers evolved from our Priority Tickets artist campaigns. 

Are there any upcoming partnerships or initiatives that you can give us a sneak peek into, which will further enhance the customer experience with Virgin Media O2?

We have more Priority presents shows planned in 2024, with some really exciting artists. We also launched the Virgin Media Gamepad at The O2 this summer, which has been an unprecedented success, so this will continue to go from strength to strength.

Featured image: Gareth Griffiths, Director of Partnerships and Sponsorship at Virgin Media O2

Andrea Buzzi, Former Content & Social Media Editor at MediaCat Magazine

Andrea’s experience includes digital publishing, marketing, comms, media relations and editorial, working for companies such as Italian Publishers Association, Gruppo Mondadori and Condé Nast in Italy. She joined MediaCat Magazine at the start of 2023 after her second (and hopefully her last) move to London. In September 2023 she moved on to work for a fashion magazine.

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