When Season Ticket Holders Don’t Renew

By Steve Livingstone | April 2, 2019

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.

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.

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.

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