SBJ/Sept. 1-7, 2014/Colleges

Schools turn to FanGauge for deeper data

Ohio State, Wake Forest and Temple are among the schools using a new data-capture tool called FanGauge, which is designed to collect personal information from fans at the stadium.

Most colleges know who is buying their football tickets, but FanGauge will more closely identify who is actually in those seats and other behavioral aspects. The product is being offered by Evolution Sports Partners, a company started earlier this year by former Georgia Athletic Director Damon Evans and his partners, Tracy Howe and Peter Kraft. Kraft and Howe have worked in higher education on recruitment and retention of students, but their venture with Evans is their first sports-focused product.

Ohio State is among the schools using FanGauge.

“Attendance has dropped and schools need the kind of tools that can battle that,” Evans said. “We’re right now making assumptions about who is in the venue, but do we know for sure that the season-ticket buyer actually used his tickets, or did he give them to a friend? Who did the season-ticket holder bring with him?”

By offering fans high-end incentives, such as sideline passes or travel with the team to a road game, FanGauge collects personal information from fans who register to win the prizes. 

That kind of data capture is a growing aspect of fan engagement, especially among pro teams. Sporting Innovations last year went to market with Fan360, a tool that tracks a fan’s spending and social media habits at the game. The tech firm is owned by the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City.

Other tech companies, such as Experience, Fanmaker and Fan-I-Am are in the space with fan loyalty or fan upgrade programs that also capture consumer data, although they each have their own features.

FanGauge, which will be marketed on the stadium video board and by fan ambassadors in the concourse on game day, provides a mobile app that fans can download and use to register for the prizes. The tool asks a fan for name, email, phone, date of birth, gender, ZIP code and any social media handles. Additional questions ask for the users’ favorite sport, how many games they attend, if they’ve ever bought season tickets and if they are a student, alum or fan.

That information is then shared with the school’s ticket and fundraising departments. Evolution’s ticket-link technology identifies who is at the game. 

For fans who sign up outside the stadium, typically through the school’s official website, they are designated as general fans. Either way, FanGauge can help the school identify fans who might be prospects for tickets or donations.

FanGauge underwent a soft launch last year with a handful of schools, including Temple, which signed on midway through the 2013 season. But this season the company has added Ohio State and Wake Forest, as well as some smaller schools.

The product runs anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 a year, and the school contributes the video board spots, the website link and the experiences.

“Social media is great, and fan engagement is great, but we’ve got to be more analytical in our thinking,” said Temple Deputy AD Pat Kraft (no relation to Evolution’s Peter Kraft).

The key is delivering an experience that cannot be accessed by most fans, whether it’s a behind-the-scenes tour or a trip into the locker room or the sidelines. The incentive has to be strong for a fan to turn over that much personal information, Evolution’s partners said.

Each school brands its FanGauge program differently. Temple calls it CherryConnect, as in the school’s official color. Ohio State calls it BuckeyesConnect.

“The key to success is the client’s willingness to promote it and use every marketing outlet to get the word out,” Peter Kraft said. “The better you understand the fan, the better an athletic department can market itself.”

Evans and his partners also have been hired to consult at Toledo on academic and revenue-generating initiatives, a different type of offering that gives Evans and his partners an opportunity to share their experience in higher education.

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