(MINNEAPOLIS – June 13, 2022) – As part of ASM Global’s new strategic convention and meeting space initiative, its U.S. Bank Stadium recently hosted VeeCon, the first-ever NFT-ticketed convention, launched by social media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk. Held May 19-22 in Minneapolis, the inaugural VeeCon, produced by VeeFriends, drew nearly 7,000 attendees from 47 states and 70 countries, of which 83% were first-time visitors to Minnesota, said VeeCon spokesperson Maha Abouelenein. VeeCon generated an economic impact of $21+ million in Minneapolis, according to calculations by VeeFriends.
As the world emerges from the global pandemic, ASM has seen pent-up demand at events produced at its portfolio of 350+ premier venues worldwide. “It’s more important than ever to gather communities together in person,” said Ron Bension, president and CEO of ASM Global, which manages 98 convention centers—including some of the largest and busiest U.S. venues such as McCormick Place, Moscone Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. “Hosting VeeCon offers U.S. Bank Stadium and ASM Global the opportunity to lead these large-scale events back to live. This launch event continues the upcoming business-meeting boom that we are seeing in Minneapolis and worldwide.”
In the last month alone, ASM Global venues have hosted several high-profile events, including the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Connect Marketplace in Puerto Rico and the American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Francisco. Among the largest, the National Restaurant Association Show was held May 21-24 at McCormick Place in Chicago with 50,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibiting companies covering 600,000 net square feet.
"VeeFriends and VeeCon was the culmination of my business and creative passions; this made it special to me to see the first inaugural VeeCon come to fruition here in Minnesota," said Vaynerchuk, CEO and creator of VeeFriends, an NFT project inspired by his desire to build a community around his creative and business endeavors using NFT technology. "I am so grateful to bring iconic figures together to meet the VeeFriends community and speak about topics I've been passionate about my whole life."
U.S. Bank Stadium, home of NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, provided the perfect backdrop for the A-List speaker lineup that included best-selling authors and icons in business, music, art, Web3, sports and popular culture. Speakers who attended the in-person event included filmmaker Spike Lee; actresses Mila Kunis and Eva Longoria; author Deepak Chopra and Mark Manson; Logan Paul; Liam Paine; music artists Pharrell and Snoop Dogg; and sports icons Ricky Williams, Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell and Baron Davis, to name of few.
“We were honored to host the first major gathering of the VeeFriends community,” said John Drum Jr., general manager of U.S. Bank Stadium, which has been operated by ASM Global since its opening in July 2016. “There’s a ‘wow’ factor for attendees and first-time guests when they come into a venue like ours that has hosted Super Bowl LII and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four . It was exciting to maximize the versatility of the stadium for a B2C event like this, and the VeeCon team took advantage of the unique space the venue offers.”
The stadium floor, which typically serves as a playing field, featured the main stage with 3,500 seats, four side stages for concurrent sessions, a five-stories tall Ferris wheel, a batting cage, lawn games, six food trucks and more. VeeCon made use of the entire stadium, building incredible activations in the concourses while using the cabins and club suites to create unique experiences for attendees. The four-day event featured nightly entertainment with concert performances by Wyclef Jean, GARZI, Lian Faz, Immasoul, Lil Polo Tee, Fresco Trey, Miguel.
With state-of-the-art audio-visual technology elements, blackout curtain drapes, and numerous high-end suite and club spaces, U.S. Bank Stadium sets the standard for other venues across the globe. In total, U.S. Bank Stadium features 80,000 square feet of premium event space across six luxury clubs and more than 241,000 square feet of prime exhibition space on the stadium floor and main concourse.
Why were Minneapolis and U.S. Bank Stadium selected for the inaugural VeeCon? “Minneapolis offers a nice, close-knit community vibe that fit the VeeFriends ethos,”
said Abouelenein. “Plus, Gary is a co-owner in three Minnesota esports teams and has a longtime relationship with the Wilf family (owner of the Minnesota Vikings) that goes back to New Jersey where Gary grew up.”
Since it was the first-ever NFT-ticketed event, venue staff were trained on how to verify access through the show app. According to VeeCon, 10,255 NFT tokens, which included access to VeeCon for three years, were purchased before the event. “The stadium has 5G connectivity, free public Wi-Fi capability throughout the venue, and we added additional antennae on the floor to supplement the existing infrastructure,” Drum said. “We are used to hosting large-scale events, like the Super Bowl in 2018, so we have the bandwidth to make sure the tech runs smoothly. VeeCon used the video boards and LED ribbon boards to enhance the main stage set.”
U.S. Bank Stadium and VeeCon worked closely with Meet Minneapolis to promote the event. “We were excited to welcome VeeCon attendees to Minneapolis. These large conventions play a vital role in supporting our tourism and hospitality industry,” said Melvin Tennant, CAE, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis. “The value to our local community is supporting the tens of thousands of workers in our industry through the economic impact of visitor spending. In addition, we anticipate many of these first-time visitors to Minneapolis will return now that they have seen what our city has to offer. We’d like to thank the VeeCon team and our partners at U.S. Bank Stadium for their efforts in hosting this successful event.”