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.
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.
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.
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