Customer Information Management

Ready for the game

Data provides winning business strategy for sports teams

In the stands, a football fan cheers as his team takes a half-time lead with a last-second pass to the corner of the end zone. A few moments later, the still-grinning fan receives an email from the team, telling him the jersey of his favorite player, which he’d been clicking on for a couple of weeks on the team’s website, has just gone on sale. He’s alerted to a nearby concession stand where he can buy the jersey — and given directions to a restroom with the shortest line — so he can be back in his seat by the time the third quarter starts.

Such scenarios are taking place or being planned at sports venues around the world. Sports teams, which have long used analytics to improve their performance on the field, are now finding new data approaches to create a winning business strategy, as well. “Marketers have a finite amount of money available, so using existing customer data that one can trust, enriched with other data sets, can ultimately provide greater insight about your customer. Greater insight equates to having more targeted discussions and deeper levels of engagement,” says Jeff Goldberg, global product marketing leader at Pitney Bowes. “Rather than just reacting to what fans want, you can anticipate what they want.”

That’s the ticket — data

One professional basketball team, for example, crunches data about the behavior of season-ticket holders. This might include how often they use their tickets, use the team app to check stats or how recently they contacted a customer service representative with a question. While such actions might not reveal much in isolation, taken together they may allow the team to predict which season-ticket holders are planning to renew, downgrade or cancel their tickets. This insight enables the team to craft a personalized sales program to address concerns without spamming fans with unwanted offers.

To pull together these disparate pieces of information, sports teams are turning to centralized data management tools — technology that enables teams and companies to aggregate, cleanse, enrich and analyze customer data while allowing different people at the company to view the data in unique ways depending on their needs.

Just like a third-base coach signaling to a base runner, fans give teams plenty of data clues about their preferences. Their digital trail might include the team’s merchandising website, the league website and comments they make on social media sites.

Some sports teams are launching loyalty cards that alert them when a fan enters the stadium or arena and what type of drinks, food or souvenirs that fan buys. Teams are also generating data using bar-coded tickets and through team apps fans download to their smartphones.

One professional soccer team developed an app that allows fans to stream live video of the game from several different angles and rewind the action. At the same time, fans can earn loyalty points by playing trivia games on the app and predicting what will happen on the field. This improves the experience of attending the games, but also gives the team lots of data to help sell hot dogs, tickets to future games and other items.

The soccer team now aggregates what had previously been 20 separate data silos and puts them into a single fan profile, allowing the team to better understand fans’ preferences. If a fan posts a positive comment about the team’s goalie on social media during a game, the team might send an email to the fan about purchasing an autograph session with him.

Consistent experience

Data management systems are able to gather both structured data (like sales information) and unstructured data (like social media chatter) together, providing a unified view of all the fan’s interactions with the team.

“Customers expect a consistent experience, regardless of whether they are using their mobile device, the Internet or another channel to reach you,” says Andy Reid from Pitney Bowes’ global product marketing department. “Unless you have a consistent view of your customer across all your data, you can’t provide a satisfying customer experience.”

Using the information goes hand in hand with teams Wi-Fi-enabling their stadiums and arenas to appeal to connected fans. During games, some teams are even sending out messages allowing a fan in the nosebleed seats to buy a better seat that has gone unsold — with the price dropping as the game goes on. The result: a happier fan and more incremental revenues for the team. That’s a winning strategy in everybody’s playbook.

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