Customer Experience

The New Playing Field: Create Fan Engagement with First-Party Data

Customer Experience | July 17, 2018

I’m from Indiana.  And with my heritage comes a natural predisposition to college basketball.

Now maybe it’s not all geography.  It certainly isn’t athletic prowess.  But perhaps my preference to watch college hoops between November and March has something to do with how my college of choice has turned me from a passive advocate into a “fanatic”.   Perhaps I’ve become addicted to watching ESPN, reading forums, and buying team inspired menswear because someone, somewhere, has realized that by maximizing fan engagement, you can drive higher lifetime value.

I think I realized I was a fanatic when at halftime my face was shown on the big screen at half court yelling at the ref for what I felt was a really bad call. That was a little embarrassing.

Perhaps I’ve been an effective outcome of good marketing.

When I think about my personal ‘customer journey’, I recognize that I’ve given my alma matter ample insights into my preferences.  They understand my age, where I live, when I graduated, what degree I (barely) attained.  They know what events I participated in.  They understand what type of content I consume, the offers I take advantage of, and how often I attend games in person.  And maybe, they have realized that by leveraging this data, they can build a bond with me that will allow me to give back via philanthropy and merchandise that maximizes my return to the university.

Of course, none of this is possible unless you can capture and harness the data about the fan.  You need to curate, analyze, and leverage your data on fans to determine what ‘persona’ they most resemble.  You need to run algorithms on this data to determine what offers each type of fan might respond to.  And you need to map the fan journey to understand the stages of fandom, and what a typical fan goes through over their lifetime (at the present time, I think I’m peaking out from maniacal into strongly supportive).

These practices and terms have been used by B2C marketing organizations for years to drive the ‘next best offer’ and ensure that you don’t leave a shopping cart abandoned.   But the astute professional sports leagues—the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL—all have real opportunities to better engage with their fans using the omnipresent digital technologies that are part of our daily lives.

Professional sports today has opportunities to drive fan engagement, and ultimately revenue, that go far beyond attending the live experience.  In fact, game attendance in many instances is stagnant—there are just too many other ways to consume the content of the event. The good news is that the majority of these new ways to consume content leave a digital trail and provide data that allows teams and leagues to measure fan engagement, preferences and patterns. 

The leagues and franchises that are able to capitalize on all of this fan data, and use it to power smarter, more engaging marketing campaigns will have an unfair advantage. Knowing who is a fan, what content they consume, and how they consume it unlocks unprecedented insights into how to drive more of that behavior.  Similar to how Facebook and other social platforms have optimized user engagement by giving you a reason to interact, sports franchises can use the same tactics by leveraging their data to drive more fan engagement.

If you’re looking to increase the value of your franchise—whether collegiate or professional—capturing and using your fan data is your best offensive weapon.

Just don’t put my face on the jumbotron at halftime.

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