• Post published:May 18, 2024
  • Post category:Blog

Interview with Naomi Barton, portfolio director responsible for iGB Affiliate and iGB L!VE

Clarion Events scored a massive success with the most recent ICE London and is now shaping a course for the 2025 expo in Barcelona. To learn the secrets of Clarion’s success, Sports Betting Operator Publisher Peter White  sat down with Portfolio Director Naomi Barton.

Could you please tell us about yourself, and your background and experience in the conference and events industry?

I have been part of the Clarion team since 2019 and have worked in the events industry for more than 25 years in sectors as diverse as retail, design, hospitality and gaming. As well as the UK I’ve worked out of Dubai and Qatar managing international teams of event professionals. I’ve run large-scale events in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Spain the Netherlands and of course the UK.

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What aspects of the affiliate gaming family do you enjoy most?

Every sector that I’ve worked in has its own unique set of characteristics and personality traits. The affiliate gaming family as you refer to it is dominated by entrepreneurs. They are ambitious, they have a sense of purpose and they are what I would describe as doers. I regard working in this environment, and alongside such infectious and charismatic personalities to be a privilege.

From a conference- and event-hosting standpoint, what are amongst your key priorities for your delegates, sponsors and exhibitors?

I think in broad terms there are two types of business-to-business expo. There are those that provide an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on the past and reminisce about the good old days,’ and there are those ambitious events which constantly look to the future, and are always asking, why not as opposed to why. Both iGB Affiliate and iGB L!VE have built reputations for being melting pots for new ideas, new thinking, new trends, and for delivering new-to-show tech vendors, and of course, new business opportunities.

The research that we conduct among our stakeholders consistently underlines the importance they place on staying on top of the latest industry trends, networking with potential new partners and clients, gaining insights into emerging technologies, and receiving a diversity of perspectives and experiences from throughout the world. Our ability to consistently meet these core-customer requirements explains the strength of the iGB brand. For example, February’s edition of iGB Affiliate, the last to take place in London ahead of the January 2025 move to Barcelona, rewrote the record books attracting more attendees than at any time in the event’s history.

The figure of 7,295 unique visitors was 27 percent up on 2023 and represented the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth. All of the key performance indicators that we apply came out in positive territory, with the number of exhibitors and sponsors totalling 250 (up 11 percent year-on-year) occupying a total of 13,647 square meters of space (up 16 percent year-on-year). We are also recording our best-ever satisfaction ratings and re-bookings for the first iGB Affiliate in Barcelona are off the scale. So, to answer your question, the ability to always deliver ‘new’ sits at the very top of the agenda.

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Image: Naomi Barton, Portfolio Director responsible for iGB Affiliate and iGB L!VE 

How are you and your team gearing up for this year’s iGB Live, and what plans and aspirations are in the mix over the four days of exhibition from the 16th to 19th of July.

We are in a perpetual state of planning and preparing for what will be the last edition of iGB L!VE to take place in Amsterdam. The show’s relocation to London in 2025 is all-consuming. The plan is to deliver another record-breaking edition of iGB L!VE, which in 2023 recorded a 44 percent boost in attendance, and to bid farewell to Amsterdam in style. The iGB L!VE five-year plan targets over 35,000 visitors and 550-plus exhibitors and sponsors. To achieve those targets we need to first secure another record-breaking edition of iGB L!VE in July and take that momentum forward in a city which is recognized as being the home of igaming.

What have been the key milestones achieved so far with iGB Affiliate?

As the show has grown in size and scale there has been several milestones which I think track some of the changes in the sector itself Covid had a big impact on the industry and the show. Seeing how the industry rallied together gave us a new understanding of the community-based nature of the industry and the role that we play in providing a home for that community.
Last year saw impressive growth both in terms of exhibitor and attendee numbers, and whilst our goals are focused on quality not just quantity, breaking 5,500 attendees was a key milestone, as was exceeding 7,200 attendees in February.
Looking ahead, the next big milestone will be the move to Barcelona, which marks a whole new chapter in our history and one which will deliver a host of new opportunities for all of our stakeholders.

What’s one unexpected shift you’ve seen in delegate expectations or demands in the last two years?

I don’t think its necessarily an unexpected shift but the whole sector is professionalizing as it matures and as gaming becomes more serious about affiliation.
Entrepreneurs have successfully grown and developed their businesses into PLC-traded companies and these organizations are having an impact on the gaming industry. As a result of this we have seen growth in the number of C-level attendees at the show, and they naturally have different needs and expectations based on their business goals. Across the board we hold ourselves to a high and professional standard of execution, at a time when a lot of other affiliate shows are scaling back their presentation standards. For us it’s important to ensure that all aspects of the event experience are considered. Of course, the fundamental objective is to get the right affiliates together with the right affiliate programs and to drive growth. However, we also believe that in an industry which is about quality relationships, quality connections, and trusted insights, that the right professional and creative environment is an important factor.

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How do you see the affiliate sector changing in the next five years and how do you see the iGB events evolving with that change?

If there is one thing that’s certain it is that this industry will continue to grow and evolve. With dynamic changes in legislation and technology it’s almost impossible to predict what those changes will be five years from now but change will always be a constant in this industry. I’m sure we will see new revenue streams opening up with new channels, such as we are seeing with streaming. The industry will continue to evolve and professionalize, and have a greater focus on sustainable play
We are also seeing a move towards larger affiliate networks, and this is already having an impact on the way the industry works and shapes the future. There will of course be new markets opening up as regulations take hold and we expect to see these processes speed up.

No commentary would be complete without mentioning AI or machine learning and the impact of this will totally revolutionize everything we know today. We will also keep an eye on new, immersive, digital experiences and their impact as we see a more seamless merging of physical and digital worlds.
One thing is for sure though, the level of innovation will continue to advance, and as we become more and more committed to sustainable gaming, we expect to see even more value coming into the channel.