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Blog Posts

The Win-Win Proposition

August 02, 2019

Sam Richardson

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Sports teams have an advantage other businesses generally don’t have: an unusually loyal and enthusiastic customer base. But that doesn’t mean they don’t require attention…

Business intelligence and analytics are the new frontier for sports franchises. While it’s become commonplace to use big data to analyze on-field or on-court performance, less attention has been paid to the business side. That’s starting to change. Data is constantly being collected in interactions with fans through ticket and merchandise purchases, mobile ticketing, point-of-sale purchases, in-stadium surveys, websites, and social media platforms. “Gamifying” surveys and providing rewards is another great way to collect information.

READ ALSO: Power-up your Marketing Mix with brand expertise and data science

The next step for franchises is to analyze and integrate all that data and turn it into actionable insights. Until recently, most teams did not have business analytics departments (and many still don’t) so much of the data that was being gathered was not fully leveraged and tended to sit in the data warehouse or CRM system. Now, teams are increasingly recognizing the value of what they have and the need to make better use of it. As for any business, fan (or customer) retention is a critical concern. And while sports teams have a built-in advantage, they should not take fan loyalty for granted.

Data-driven programs can be used to better understand fans and create touchpoints for building loyalty and expanding fan relationships beyond the strictly transactional. These may include customized offers like seat upgrades that reward loyalty (while also growing franchise revenues), and providing newsletters and more personalized communications. More broadly, these communications offer the opportunity to enhance the fan experience with everything from specialized food vendors to stadium entrance and egress.

The newest front in building fan relationships may be the move towards “cashless” stadiums. This is helpful to fans – it reduces waiting times at concession lines, a big source of fan complaints – but it also provides another source of business intelligence. Management can understand what’s selling and what’s not in something like real time. They can test price points to optimize revenues. And, they can see who’s buying what and use that data to generate more personalized offers.

READ ALSO: CX is a game changer – here is why

As elsewhere in the world, data will continue to pour in to sports franchises. But as they leverage this data, teams need to remain sensitive to the special bond they have with their fans.

Sometimes loyal fans can be suspicious of what the team is asking them to provide from a data standpoint. Often, fans don’t understand the bigger business picture – they just want their team to win. To that end, it’s important to be transparent in how and why fan information is being collected, and in how it will be used. By sharing their data with the team, fans can contribute to a much better understanding of their needs.

This approach creates a win-win proposition: fans get a better in-game experience and deeper engagement with their team; while team management builds loyalty, increase revenues and puts the team in the best position to win and the club to grow.

Interested to learn more on how we can help with your fan insights?

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Blog Posts

When Season Ticket Holders Don’t Renew

April 02, 2019

Sam Richardson

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Getting repeat customers is the holy grail of most businesses, and what’s better for that than a sports fan and season ticket holder? Fan loyalty is huge, and for many franchises tickets are hard to come by. In some cases, families pass them down from generation to generation. So when fans stop renewing it suggests something is going seriously wrong.

What does it take to drive these people away? Losing games isn’t usually enough. In fact, some of the worst-performing teams have some of the most loyal fans. For these folks a game is more than a game – it’s a social event, it’s a part of who they are. Most realize that teams will have their ups and downs and they’re willing to tolerate that, even when there’s more downs than ups.

But there are other aspects to the fan experience besides on-field performance, and they can alienate even the most loyal of customers. For management, the question is: how do you identify these issues?  How do you know what’s motivating your fans? What circumstance or combination of circumstances finally drove them away? Answer:  you have to measure it.

Fan Experience (FX) is the new battleground

The reality is that Fan Experience (FX) is the new battleground in sport.  Every sports organization needs actionable Fan Intelligence to compete and to maintain and build loyalty.  Questions management needs to ask (and answer) include:  what are fans saying online and in the stadium? How does that correlate with ticket purchasing?  With stadium behaviors? What are they saying about the food, the concession stand lines, the cost of tickets? And these need to be answered in as close to “real time” as possible.

Today’s CX technology allows sports teams to track fan reactions and the path to purchase across multiple channels and to correlate the data with business outcomes. It provides tools for understanding what works and what doesn’t and for quickly moving that information to the place in the organization where it can have the greatest impact. It has an Artificial Intelligence capability incorporating predictive behavior analysis to anticipate future fan needs.  All of this  reflects a simple principle: loyalty is built when management responds to customer issues – whether that’s at a department store or on the soccer pitch.

CX program gives better understanding

And this doesn’t just apply to season tickets. Sponsors are looking for better ways to measure their investments in on-field, broadcast and online advertising. They want to know the ‘true’ value – in dollars – of their sponsorship. They want to know how the fans react, and they want to see the numbers. A CX program can provide the framework essential to this understanding.

One recent example illustrates the point. Nepa was brought in by a sports franchise for purposes of sponsorship validation. We used multi-channel research (social media, TV, digital) along with traditional surveying to analyze and measure the impact of sponsorship on fan buying behavior. In this instance we found that the franchise was charging just $100,000 for a sponsorship that was delivering value worth more than $500,000.  A lot of money was being left on the table.

In another instance, our Sports Optimizer platform gave a franchise the ability to directly connect with its supporters and  gather feedback from thousands of regular fans and high value season ticket holders. Through this, we identified new ways for sponsors to interact with fans inside and outside of the stadium. And with real time analysis throughout the season, the team’s business management team could track progress after each home game. The result was a $1.3M increase in sponsorship value and an 18% boost in season ticket renewals.

In the past, teams mostly measured in-game exposure to signage and TV viewership and called it a day.  But now the competitive stakes have been raised.  For many franchises, it’s time to re-think the fan engagement process. A good way to get started is to establish a benchmark from which to measure progress for your organization in all areas including fan experience, retail and hospitality optimization, and sponsorship valuation. This can help identify problem areas and open the door to actionable and revenue-drive solutions.

Blog Posts

Does Your Sports Strategy Rely Too Much on GameDay Tactics?

March 15, 2019

Sam Richardson

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“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Sun Tzu, Art of War

Since starting with Nepa Global Sports, I’ve been fortunate to attend many great professional sports conferences and seminars around the country. I’ve met great leaders, representing the best-known professional sports leagues and teams in the world, and had the pleasure of engaging with some really smart, cool and talented folks.

Sports is fun but it’s a business too, and leagues and teams are like everybody else trying to come to grips with rapidly changing business demands and consumer needs.  So, whether it’s trying to accurately evaluate the value of their sponsorships, monetize social media, engage more fully with their sponsors or better understand their fan bases there’s a need to know more.

Sports business professionals get it. They understand that they need to know what motivates their fans in order to guide the strategic direction and to bring value to their partners, but they have got to put in the time, effort and most importantly, the resources needed to capture this critical information and drive consumer insight.

This may be due to the seasonal nature of sports; all too often, short-term tactical needs seem to take the priority over longer-term objectives. In baseball you would call that an error.

How many sports marketers look at their budgets based on long-term and short-term objectives? Consider:  what resources have you put aside for development, research, insight and understanding, and how much of that is being directed at tactics such as digital advertising or social media? To be really successful you have to measure, and not just once every five years, but constantly and in real time.

It’s all very well finding new fans to come through the turnstiles, but if you don’t know who they are or what your offer means to them, that turnstile effectively becomes a revolving door, churning revenues that have to be constantly replaced.

The sports success franchise that is riding high on the back of a winning streak and great attendance today is a potential headache tomorrow if the team’s management isn’t working to uncover how it can continue to get better by understanding and serving its customers.

In order to be successful over time, it’s estimated that marketers should be investing at least 60% of their resources in long-term brand building, with the remainder in short-term sales activation to achieve the best returns on their marketing investment.

I would guess that most sports marketing teams are probably putting less than 20% of their budgets aside for long-term strategy while fighting the weekly fires of life in seasonal sports by throwing the rest of the budget at short-term tactics.

A recent study from McKinsey on short-term vs long-term resourcing in business, reported the following:

“Among the firms we identified as focused on the long term, average revenue and earnings growth were 47 percent and 36 percent higher, respectively, … Companies that were managed for the long-term added nearly 12,000 more jobs on average than their peers from 2001 to 2015.”

Too many sports business professionals rely on on-field performance or worse still, their instinct or what they have done in the past, to gauge what their fans are thinking and feeling.

“Winning cures everything,” is the mantra. And it’s true, but only in the short term.

Sponsors have a different approach – they’re now looking for better ways to measure investment by analyzing specific KPIs, and they want to know the ‘true’ value – in dollars – of their sponsorship.

So how do you continue to grow your brands, provide value to partners and guard against complacency? The answer is surprisingly simple. Do the research!

Longer term sports organizations need to identify and optimize their fans’ path to purchase. And they also need to provide sponsors with a true valuation of what their sponsorship is worth in the eyes of consumers.

Fan Experience (FX) is the new battleground in sport and every sports organization needs actionable Fan Intelligence to compete. If you’re curious about how your organization’s fan experience measurement stacks up and how to take it to the next level, I’d love to talk with you.

We can start with a simple assessment.  It just takes a few minutes and you’ll receive an immediate analysis and a free copy of Nepa Sports “Cultivating FX measurement” eBook, based on decades of experience working with teams at all stages of maturity.

Click here to start your assessment.

Blog Posts

Why Investing In Fan Insights Is a Smart Play

October 24, 2018

Sam Richardson

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Sports fans are extremely passionate and typically quick to give you their thoughts about a certain player or team. However, many sports teams and organizations do not capitalize on this passion and generosity by asking their supporters about the experience of being a fan. As a result, fan experience suffers and leads to less engagement and profitability.

In recent years, professional athletes have adopted a much more scientific approach to their training and conditioning. To stay competitive, professional sports organizations should do the same with fan insights. Here are the reasons why teams should listen and act on fan experience.

Better Fan Experience, Better Ticket Sales

In the sports world, poor sales performance is often attributed to team performance or the efforts of the sales team. But we know from other industries that the customer experience matters to customer acquisition and retention. Gameday fans have many critical moments of truth with sports brands as they park, buy concessions and much more.

Is every member of the team behind the team contributing to satisfying the fan and optimizing the fan experience? How do you know if everything is going smoothly to ensure that your fans have a great experience that they want to share with others? The answer to these questions will help drive sales through repurchase and recommendation.

Just like a coach reviews game footage, continuous fan experience insights can uncover the real reasons behind poor sales performance. Often, it’s not just the sales executive who fumbled.

Better Fan Experience, Better Gameday Revenue

Fan Experience not only keeps the turnstiles turning – fan engagement also drives spend at the merchandise and concession stands. It’s not surprising that a key factor to minimizing gameday sales are the length of lines – but it’s also a big stadium cost driver to manage the crowds. Fan Insights provide powerful value in assessing where best to allocate those resources and what is the optimal level to capture the most value from attending fans.

Sponsors Love Fan Insights

Professional sports teams are diversifying revenue streams – with some making over 50% of their revenues off the field. Sponsorships are now a major source of club income and the market for sponsors has become increasingly competitive.

Just like any other form of media, sports sponsorships are more valuable when the buyer knows exactly what they’re getting. Adopting principles from other industries, leading sports clubs are adopting insight-based selling methodologies to win more sponsorships and increase the value of existing ones. Check out how Louisville City FC used fan insights to increase the value of their sponsorship assets by over $1M.

Why Aren’t Teams Utilizing Fan Insights?

We’ve helped many clubs that hesitated to invest in a known need for fan insights to overcome these common hurdles:

  • Financial – Sport Insight has been controlled by a small number of expensive firms, so many sports marketers have a wrong perception that fan insights are out of their reach.
  • Priority – Even when traditional resource allocations are providing diminishing returns, some sports marketers are hesitant to invest their staff’s time in understanding fans’ needs.
  • Business Cards – There are a small number of fan insight companies out there (as we mentioned above), and the need for fan insights is often stymied by not knowing where or how to turn.
  • Fear of Knowing – Listening to fans takes courage and opens the door to unpleasant feedback that might upset senior management or ownership.

It’s extremely important to get over these obstacles in an age where expansion teams are shaking up leagues and fans have more ways to engage and interact with teams now than ever before.

Through improved ticket sales, merchandising, gameday revenues, and sponsorship values – an investment in fan experience insights could end up being your most valuable player with the investment paying for itself.

Fan insights are within your reach – Nepa’s Fan Experience Platform, Sports Optimizer, uses proven technology and expert staff to provide actionable and holistic intelligence at a much more reasonable cost. We assist you through every step of the process and help pinpoint areas for FX improvement.

Our veteran consultants can help you deepen understanding of your fanbase and improve renewal rates, optimize gameday revenues and bring in extra sponsorship value. Read a full case study here.