SAP Center unveiled in San Jose

Photo: Malcom Kimberlin, SAP
Photo: Malcom Kimberlin, SAP

If there’s one thing you can count on Hasso Plattner for, it’s a spontaneous anecdote, deftly-told.

“I had a conversation with Meg Whitman,” Plattner said of a brief encounter he had with the Hewlett-Packard CEO. Plattner was walking Whitman to her car, after some-or-other event that both happened to attend.  “We had a nice chat and I asked her ‘What’s [the deal] with the HP Pavilion?’

Plattner recounts her answer:  “She said, ‘You want it?’”

“And I said ‘Oh!’,” Plattner continued, gesturing to convey that Whitman’s candor took him aback. “I told Meg, ‘I’ll let Bill [McDermott, SAP co-CEO] know. It’s an SAP decision. As part-owner of the Sharks, by law I cannot be involved.’”

“‘I cannot make deals like this, so please …’” Plattner continued, drifting into a feigned, conspiratorial whisper to tie-off the yarn.

Plattner was relating the tale – in that very ‘Hasso’ way – of how he, SAP’s co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, CMO Jonathan Becher, and the company’s Supervisory Board, came to be in an ice-hockey arena that morning, addressing hundreds of SAP employees, a half-dozen local officials, and one furry shark walking around upright, having just rappelled from the ceiling.

Center for sports and entertainment

Such was the scene at Tuesday’s official unveiling of the ‘SAP Center at San Jose,’ a 70,000-seat sports and entertainment venue, home  of the U.S. National Hockey League team The San Jose Sharks and host to  Olympic athletes, Grammy award-winners, and the circus.

Next page: SAP gets naming rights for the next five years

In a multi-million dollar deal between SAP, the City of San Jose, and the Sharks organization, SAP acquired naming rights to the arena (affectionately known to hockey fans as “The Shark Tank”) for the next five years. Under the agreement, the city, the team, and SAP will partner to enhance, improve, and modernize ‘fan experience’ at the venue by using SAP solutions for big data analytics, mobile, and cloud computing.

The re-naming, announced July 9 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, caught the attention of the American sports press and set internet comment-sections abuzz with impassioned reaction from fans. Little did they know that a second event took place on the arena floor that morning – an ‘eyes only’ for local SAP employees.

SAP committed to the community

SAP has a fast-growing presence in Silicon Valley, with roughly 3,500 employees based at four San Francisco Bay Area campuses. As the company’s local footprint grows, so too does its commitment to the community it considers its innovation home-base.

Next page: Strong community focus

An important aspect of that commitment is charitable work and, accordingly, the SAP Center partnership has a strong community focus. To commemorate it, the re-naming event culminated in a volunteer effort on the arena’s main floor.

SAP employees and volunteers from the Sharks Foundation – the hockey team’s community-outreach arm – assembled 125 bicycles for Turning Wheels for Kids, a Bay Area charity that gives bikes to low-income families and their kids to encourage outdoor, active play.

Not only Silicon Valley’s premier entertainment venue

The activity was just the beginning of the partnership’s ‘good work,’ according to says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

“Our partnership with SAP will not only help the arena maintain its standing as Silicon Valley’s premier entertainment venue, it will also provide ongoing funding for critical services provided by the City of San Jose and local non-profit organizations,” says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. “We truly appreciate the investment that SAP is making in our community and look forward to a long and successful partnership.”

As part of the naming-rights deal, SAP will provide the City of San Jose with $1.6 million a year in support of critical services. SAP will also fund the Sharks Foundation with $375,000 annually for the term of the agreement.

Volunteers at work (Photo: SAP)
Volunteers at work (Photo: SAP)

Next page: SAP solutions for big data analytics, mobile, and cloud computing

SAP and the Sharks organization share a joint vision to re-imagine SAP Center at San Jose, and how fans experience it, leveraging SAP solutions for big data analytics, mobile, and cloud computing, setting the stage for the venue to become a showcase for the SAP® Sports & Entertainment solution portfolio, and a living example of the technology leadership and expertise we bring to the sports and entertainment industry.

SAP technology to engage fans and give team a competitive advantage

SAP conducted in-stadium research with hundreds of Sharks fans over a period of several months, and is  using the findings to explore ways the team can use technology  to engage and empower their fans. This might include real-time news alerts for fans; tools for analyzing player and team stats; and mobile options for information, entry, and concessions.

Also, Sharks management is evaluating the new SAP® Scouting solution for its potential to give the team a competitive advantage in evaluating player performance.

It’s a feel-good story all around. The city and the Sharks get money, SAP gets a platform, an actor in a shark suit gets work, and fans can look forward to buying $14 popcorn with their iPhone. Good employees are free of their cubicles and engaged in good work. Good employees like to work for businesses that do good, and doing good is good for business.

Next page:  Hasso Plattner: A passionate Sharks fan

Pranay Kaikini, an SAP custom development solution architect, joined SAP seven years ago. It was his second job out of college and he admits to knowing very little about the company. Back then, it was ‘just a job.’ Today that is no longer: Kaikini enjoys all aspects of working at SAP – the software he develops is interesting and useful, so too is the process by which it’s produced.

Furthermore, Pranay says, it matters to him that he works for a company that considers itself a servant, and not a master, of its community. “There are so many opportunities to ‘get involved’ at SAP – a ridiculous amount really – the case in point is this, today. So much time and effort dedicated to engaging employees in communities and causes can’t be lip-service. SAP is a good corporate citizen, for real.”

A Sharks fan since arriving in Silicon Valley

Even Hasso has cause to be schmaltzy. His connection to hockey goes back to his boyhood in Germany, where he followed the Soviet Union team in international play.

“I’ve been a Sharks fan since nineteen-hundred-and-ninety-three,” Plattner says.

That’s the year he arrived in Silicon Valley to find two former-Soviet hockey greats – Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov – playing for San Jose.  “This was an unbelievable event for me, to see two of the greatest Russians ever playing for the Sharks,” he says.

A forever-fan was born, and twenty years later Hasso is majority owner of the team, and their home stadium bears the name of the company he created.