Sports have always been a symbol of hope that brings people together by giving them a common cause to root for even in turbulent times. We saw millions of sports fans and teams around the world completely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic as seasons were paused, tournaments canceled and stadiums left empty. However, even without a way to see their favourite teams and players in person, sports fans moved towards other channels and digital communities to share their passions.
The fan demand to stay connected with their team is still strong, and sports brands and marketers are exploring new ways to keep fans engaged and connected no matter if they’re back in the stands or behind a screen. To reach audiences in new ways, professional sports organisations are looking to leverage data to understand what kind of fan experiences people want and grow their fan communities across the globe. Here are some of the ways sports marketers are using data in creative ways to keep fans engaged year-round and develop a winning customer data strategy.
1. Create Special Fan Connections with a Single Source of Truth
The fan experience doesn’t stop during the off-season. From conversations on social media to purchasing team paraphernalia for friends and family to streaming old games and highlights online, the fan journey is multifaceted. People move between different channels, devices and locations and every interaction forms a unique story. In order to understand the full context of the relationship between fans and their team, sports marketers need to have a holistic view of everywhere people are engaging with them in real time.
Creating a seamless experience for fans at scales depends on integrating all of your content and data within a unified digital experience platform (DXP). With circumstances changing every day, organizations also need the flexibility to deliver things like stats, news coverage, game schedules and streaming video all in real time.
Technology like a customer data platform (CDP) provides this critical look beyond the stadium by unifying all sources of data into a single profile. With the power of identity resolution, businesses can enhance these data points and have a more accurate view of who their audience actually is. A CDP unites data across all platforms from e-commerce to web traffic to ticketing systems to create a single source of truth.
When you’re dealing with a massive global fanbase, having a way to automate and identify important insights from mountains of data is essential. With the power of AI and machine learning, a CDP can help teams expand their presence and scale their reach without increasing the size and workload on their own marketing teams.
2. Reward Superfan Loyalty with Personalised Experiences
True sports fan loyalty has no limits. Millions of people will tune in to root for their favourite team week after week, even if they haven’t won a championship for decades. Oftentimes, team loyalties are passed down from parents to children for generations. By gaining a deeper understanding of fan data, sports teams and franchises can reward this loyalty with targeted promotions. For example, if someone is a member of your online fan portal, holds season tickets or is regularly starting discussions with fans and players on social media, sports marketers can reciprocate their passion by offering them exclusive content about their top players or sending them access to limited merchandise bundles.
A CDP also makes it simpler to build out hyper-segmentation strategies to reach groups from different backgrounds. You can avoid over-messaging fans with irrelevant content like advertising local game times and ticket giveaways to fans on another continent. Perhaps you want to run a campaign for people who have purchased a child-size jersey in the past and may be looking to upgrade to a new size in the next year. Designing these customised experiences will help sports brands keep those crucial relationships strong no matter their current rank on the leaderboard.
3. Explore Digital Opportunities and Attract New Sponsors
While every sports organization lost revenue from ticket sales as a result of COVID-19, the pivot to digital has opened new opportunities to increase fan involvement and participation in new ways. Even a large arena only represents a small fraction of the hundreds of millions of people who are following the action online.
A CDP brings together customer interactions both online and off to give a complete view of a customer’s purchase history in real time. This means that employees selling merchandise at a gift shop or after a game can offer the same customized customer service as your e-commerce store. By gathering and analysing data about where fans are engaging most, brands can invest more in interacting with these communities through things like live chats, polls or contests. Organisations can use their knowledge of past trends and preferences to learn how they should be interacting with audiences in this new world, such as creating more content focused on safety and player status.
Similarly, as sports brands learn more about fan preferences from their purchases and interactions, they can use this customer intelligence to identify the most relevant sponsors and affiliations. If a large portion of your audience is older women, for example, this could mean reaching out to popular brands within this demographic to advertise on stadium billboards. Or if your team suddenly has a massive boost in popularity in Latin America, there could be a great opportunity to partner with a local vendor.
Even though the upcoming games may look different from what they’ve been before, the love of the game is just as strong as ever. Start embracing the change with a fan-focused approach to customer data.