SBJ/October 24-30, 2011/Opinion

How to revolutionize team communications with ticket buyers

I find it interesting to follow ticketing and marketing trends, tracking their progress and watching them evolve over time. We are reaching a tipping point where changes in technology and consumer behavior are coming together to allow teams to personalize fan communications with unmatched one-to-one marketing opportunities on a massive scale. Teams with the ability to adopt new marketing strategies and create innovative CRM, social media and e-commerce programs that are all aligned will be in a great position to drive more revenue and increase fan loyalty.

The foundation for one-to-one marketing is a powerful CRM system that captures every interaction between a fan and the team. This creates a deeper understanding of each fan by tracking not only past purchases, attendance patterns and ticket usage, but also personal preferences like merchandise, food and beverage consumption, the fan’s favorite player, and more. Adding layers of information into their database, and extracting it with a CRM system, enables teams to define how to communicate with each fan through a unique, tailored message and therefore opens unmatched new revenue opportunities.

Social media is a rapidly evolving technology that is ripe with opportunity for teams to engage on a personal level with fans and leverage the power of Facebook to connect with fans and sell tickets. Advanced applications such as fan-gating, which requires a fan to “like” a Facebook page to unlock a ticket presale or unique content, are proving the power of social commerce. A great example of a thought-leading institution using this technology is the University of Michigan. It created a Michigan Football fan-gate offer that required its fans to “like” a certain page to unlock a ticket presale code, which tracked more than $74,000 in ticket sales in a single day.

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg reveals changes to Facebook that can affect how fans interact with teams.
Recently, at the Facebook f8 developers conference, changes were unveiled that will dramatically affect fan interaction with teams and how they share their passion with their friends. The biggest change was the switch from “profile” to “timeline.” Now, fans will use Facebook to create an online scrapbook of their lives, and teams have the opportunity to be a page in their book by developing customized applications fans can opt-in to. The benefit for teams is that these applications can be leveraged to mine more detailed fan information than has ever been available before to create personalized campaigns. Imagine creating unique ticket offers based on fans who tailgated at a game or who watched last week’s game on television. These interactions will create new segments for teams to build social commerce campaigns to sell more tickets and merchandise. This also allows for teams to tap into the viral marketing power of Facebook to reach more potential future fans via these postings. This is just one of many ideas I discussed with Facebook recently at their headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

Retargeting, combined with social media and mobile, can help sell more tickets.
As more personalized marketing strategies arise, it will also become increasingly important to have a cohesive multichannel marketing message. Combining social media, e-commerce and mobile campaigns into a consistent multichannel message will yield untapped opportunities. To give an example, let’s look at a trend that is gaining significant traction with many sports teams, called retargeting. Essentially, retargeting is the ability to target online ads to fans who browsed the team’s website, segmented out by the event viewed or purchase behavior. The Ottawa Senators, for example, leveraged a retargeting campaign last year that generated more than $280,000 in gross sales and yielded $48 in revenue for every $1 spent by targeting fans who viewed specific games but did not buy initially.

Now imagine combining retargeting campaigns with social media and mobile marketing to extend your message and sell more tickets. For example, a team might create a social media offer, which drives fans to the team’s website to purchase tickets. Subsequently, if some fans visit the page but do not purchase tickets, they would be retargeted with an offer to buy tickets to the next game. Conversely, if the fan makes a purchase, that person is then able to share the event with friends via a Facebook Connect module on the order confirmation page. Friends who purchase tickets then attend the event together and “check in” on Facebook via smartphone, which has the team’s Facebook app on it, and the event is recorded on each person’s timeline.

I also think there is a meaningful opportunity to leverage one-to-one marketing with season-ticket holders at the time they are renewing their seats. Innovative teams are now customizing their renewal experience with PURLs, or personalized URLs, during the season-ticket renewal process. This is a powerful way to convert season-ticket holders and tailor messaging to each fan. The Philadelphia Flyers this past season created a personalized 3-D video tailored for each season-ticket holder that highlights the benefits of renewing their tickets. To complement the personalized website, the team delivered automated, personalized email campaigns based on action or inaction with the season-ticket campaign. The Flyers campaign achieved a 93 percent conversion rate from season-ticket holders who viewed their personalized website.

Now let’s take this concept a step further. In the future, I imagine teams will leverage one-to-one marketing strategies to create personalized landing pages for all fans based on their profiles, preferences or interactions with the team. The page could include customized offers to renew, buy a package, or purchase single tickets bundled with merchandise. These offers would be based on purchase history, preferences and engagement with the team’s Facebook application. Subsequent dynamic multichannel marketing messages could also then be delivered via email, social media, mobile, or online advertising, tailored specifically to fit the fan’s profile.

It’s an exciting time for those in sports business. Organizations able to leverage new technologies to communicate on a one-to-one basis with their fans will increase customer satisfaction and, by virtue of that, earn more revenue per fan. When fans win, teams win.

Dave Butler (DButler@paciolan.com) is CEO of Paciolan.

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