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The Wanda Metropolitan Stadium: Achieving Iconic and Unique Brand Status in Record Time

The fact that this stadium, inaugurated in September 2017, was chosen to host the final of the Champions League wasn’t only because of its technological advances, seating capacity, or accessibility facilities.

Since the Community of Madrid approved the notion to build a new athletics stadium in 1988 at a location far from downtown, a series of circumstances have made the stadium a brand both iconic and unique, an inseparable part of Spain and Madrid’s identity to the rest of the world.

On June 1, the day of the Champions League final, this icon of a stadium made its debut before hundreds of millions of spectators around the world. For communication professionals, it is worth asking: How is it possible to achieve such a massive impact in such a short time?

Iconic Buildings

In general, iconic buildings which form part of the identity of their home cities – the Notre Dame in Paris, the Big Ben in London, the Empire State Building in New York – have only consolidated their icon status after dozens, even hundreds of years.

Many architecture studios understand this and design their building projects with the foresight, regardless of the circumstances, to create and incorporate symbols that will in the future be universally recognized as icons of the city. It’s a way to associate the architecture studio’s own brand with that of the city.

However, reality shows that it doesn’t usually happen that way. There exists a widespread urban legend which stipulates that great architectural works begin with a simple drawing of a sketch on a paper napkin reflecting the original creative and exceptional idea.  Wanda Metropolitano’s architects never thought in this manner.

Because getting the general public to intuitively associate a construction project from an architecture studio with the city’s greater image is a daunting task, requiring endless hours of conscientious and diligent work.  A task for which, to obtain results, requires sacrificing many ideas that were once drawn on napkins.

For Cruz and Ortiz Architects, each assignment is a unique opportunity. Aspects such as the building type, scale of building to design, budget, country, city or location, among others. are taken into account. All of these are analyzed when starting a design. The most prominent example is the AVE Santa Justa station project in Seville, another of Cruz and Ortiz Architects’ work. This was, in fact, a structure that combined the functional, the innovative and the distinctive. Therefore, there is no textbook method of constructing buildings to attain icon status, the belief of which has given rise to construction projects that on so many occasions end without success.

The Wanda Metropolitano is another example, in which the combination of qualities such as efficiency, innovation, creativity and functionality did actually succeed in creating a truly iconic landmark. In this case, in a very short time.

The Origins: La Peineta

When in 1994 the athletics stadium was inaugurated for the city and community of Madrid, the building was appropriated the nickname La Peineta (the hair comb) for the mere resemblance of its single side tier at a glance with this feminine adornment. What could have been rather “sardonic” at first, in time became its main brand quality in a much more affectionate way, a name close to the heart for the people of Madrid.

Because no stadium in the world had a tier with such a characteristic. Moreover, situated at quite a long distance from Madrid’s city center in a secluded and lonely area, its profile is visible from many miles away.

Madrid’s three time failure in its Olympic candidature (2012, 2016 and 2020) had, however paradoxical, a beneficial effect. It managed to attract the attention of public institutions, citizens, companies, national and international media, about a facility that was intended to be the heart of the Olympic Games in Madrid.

Changes and Enhancements

To overcome this challenge, Cruz and Ortiz Architects made a new design for the “hair comb”, which considered converting a stadium of just 19,000 spectators into one with a capacity of 75,000. Inherent was an important advantage: the base structure was already there, the stadium only needing to be expanded with new grandstands, and adapted to the urban design of the area consistent with the new demands.

Once the Olympic Games were out of the picture, the football club Atlético de Madrid set its crosshairs on the “hair comb” as its future headquarters, taking into account the limitations of the Vicente Calderón stadium in terms of location and age. The club wanted a new stadium that was consistent with its growth in athletic prominence and economic terms.

Atlético wanted reap many of the advantages the new building would offer. For example, in terms of accessibility, its proximity to the M40 highway and the airport, as well as its new direct access to the Metro network.  Other aspects includeded visibility, its iconic image and the lower population density in its neighborhood compared to others in Madrid, which supposedly lowered land costs, among other things.

Therefore, Atlético decided to acquire the property, coming to an agreement with the city of Madrid on the necessary changes in the Urban Development Plan. They comissioned Cruz and Ortiz Architects with the design and construction of the new stadium that would meet the stipulated objectives and fall in line with UEFA’s requirements to host European and world-class competitions.

It’s also a multi-purpose facility, with which to generate additional income streams and increase revenues, through both sports competitions as well as business and commercial activities, cultural events and more. It’s building to be utilized 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A Unique Stadium

The successful combination of all these factors earned Wanda Metropolitano the opportunity to host the Champions League final, generating resounding excitement for Madrid and Spain from a new icon that symbolized this city and country for the rest of the world.  Because in football, there are billions of people who follow with  everything that happens around them with heartfelt passion.

The “end product” that Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos, Madrid institutions, and Atlético de Madrid have managed to position in the world of football in 18 months has qualities that undoubtedly make it different. Its capacity of almost 68,000 spectators, more than 4,200 parking spaces, 142,000 square meters of land area and most importantly a cost of merely 200 million euros, half of what is normal for projects of this magnitude.

The innovative sunshade has been made with resistant and flexible materials such as teflon and is designed in such a way that tension and compression forces are balanced, eliminating additional structures – and costs – for its support. Its flaming wave shape, designed as such for the need to cover the original grandstand and the new grandstands with a harmonious design, is the differentiating touch that gives the stadium its iconic image.

The Wanda Metropolitano is, therefore, an inspiring example for business communication professionals, as we seek to position our clients’ brands as leaders in their sectors with distinctive qualities and competitive advantages.


 

Javier Ferrer
Director of Financial Communication at Proa Comunicación

Artificial Intelligence, A Key Element among the 50 Most Innovative Companies

For innovative companies, the current landscape is still marked by the growing importance of digital technology. In particular, a new BCG report entitled The Most Innovative Companies 2019: The Rise of AI, Platforms, and Ecosystems, reveals that companies that excel in innovation increasingly implement more AI tools to develop new products and services, and improve internal innovation. In addition, they create technological platforms and ecosystems that allow them to take advantage of external innovation sources.

“Digital technology and external innovation have become key factors,” says Ramón Baeza, BCG’s Senior Partner and co-author of the report. “The main challenge for companies will not be to identify and access cutting-edge technological development, which will have to be sought outside of organizations, but to implement that technology within the company itself, integrating it with existing processes.”

As the main conclusion of the report, companies agree that the application of artificial intelligence in their processes is gaining ground. 90% of respondents (2,500 senior managers in the innovation area) stated that their companies are investing in AI, more than 30% expect AI to be one of the innovation areas with the greatest impact on their business during the next three or five years and another 30% give AI a leading role in their respective innovation programs.

The report shows that there is a big difference in the skills that companies have in terms of AI. More than 65% of the so-called “strong” innovators claim to be above the average in this area, compared to the mere 2% of “weak” innovators. Nearly 20% of respondents consider their companies to be “strong” innovators and exceed the average in terms of AI (a group that the report calls “leaders” in IA). Among these leaders, 94% believe that AI is important for the future growth of their companies, compared to 56% of “laggards” (respondents who consider that the capacities of their companies in AI are below the average).

AI will have a substantial impact on business processes, but its greatest potential lies in its ability to develop new products and services that provide large revenue streams over time,” says Michael Ringel, BCG Senior Partner and co-author Of the report. He also affirms that “the ‘leaders’ in AI are already making their way,” noting that, in these companies, the products and services based on AI solutions introduced in the last three years had meant a much higher percentage of sales.

Some 46% of “leaders” in AI declare that products and services based on AI tools represented 16% or more of their sales, compared to a mere 10% among “laggards”. Both agree that AI will gain ground in the future: 54% of “leaders” and 22% of “laggards” expect that AI enhanced products and services will contribute more than 16% of sales in the next five years.

Great Innovators Take Advantage of External Resources

The increasing use of AI is one of the factors that have fueled interest in platforms and ecosystems. The “leaders” in AI claim that they are more likely to turn to external providers for their AI projects. Moreover, some 36% depend entirely on external suppliers and another 48% mainly uses external services or a combination of internal and external capacities. This approach may be helping “leaders” to travel quickly through the AI learning experience curve, since knowledge is still scarce at present.

This year’s report shows that companies increasingly look abroad in search of new ideas. Collaboration models are booming: between 2015 and 2018 the number of great innovators using incubators grew (from 59% to 75%), as well as collaboration in the academic realm (from 60% to 81%) and in business (from 65% to 83%).

“Digital technologies facilitate collaboration platforms and these in turn enable ecosystems that bring together a group of organizations to develop new capacities or offer new products or services, even to promote a new field of science or technology,” says Florian Grassl , BCG Partner and co-author of the report. “However, not all ecosystems are the same. Participants are united by different types of incentives/interests. Of course, one of them is financial, but the knowledge, data, skills and community can be equally important.”

Some ecosystems are mere extensions of traditional ways of organizing and doing business. They tend to revolve around an orchestrator with whom all other participants interact and have established hierarchies and structures. Other ecosystems, including many of those involved in the first phase of R&D, tend to be more dynamic. They depend less on a central orchestrator and more on versatile interactions among the participants.

Since 2004, the Boston Consulting Group has surveyed the top managers of the innovation area from a wide range of sectors and countries on 13 occasions in order to better understand the role and status of innovation in companies.

With the ranking of the 50 most innovative companies, for the first time there have been notable movements in the first five positions on the list. Following the global survey, Apple, which led the ranking in all previous editions, descended to third place, while Google (or its parent, Alphabet) and Amazon rose to first and second place respectively. At the remainder of the top 5 table were Microsoft and Samsung.

Although technology companies occupy nine of the top ten, conventional companies account for more than half the list. Adidas (10th), BASF (12th), Johnson & Johnson (14th) and DowDuPont (15th) are among the top 15 and there are newcomers such as T-Mobile (13th), DowDuPont, Stryker (35th) and Rio Tinto (49th).

Innovative Trends in the Field of Communication

Juan de los Ángeles, founder and director of C4E, shared with the Proa Comunicación team current trends in the field of communication. During a session of inspiration, De los Ángeles underlined the importance of innovation and creativity in devising company strategy, as business become increasingly aware of what is currently driving the market and attracting consumers.

De los Ángeles highlighted the relevance for companies in any sector of being aware of the latest trends to be able to anticipate changes and meet the increasingly demanding demands of their customers. Today innovation is the best tool, also in the field of communication, to continue to improve and offer the market products and services with a clear demand for them.

In his presentation, Juan de los Ángeles reviewed the main trends that mark the evolution of advertising campaigns and communication strategies of companies such as “the power of the ‘mini versus the maxi'” and the application of technology to consumption.