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Volume 22 No. 44
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‘It’s about expanding your fan base’

Michelle Andres
Senior vice president of digital media and broadcasting, Baltimore Ravens

In 1998, Michelle Andres was the special assistant to the Orange County chairman (Orlando’s equivalent of a mayor) when a friend encouraged her to look into an opening the Orlando Magic had in its communications department.

“I was terrified — I knew nothing about pro basketball!” said Andres, who majored in political science at Furman University and holds a master’s degree from the University of Florida in political campaign management.

She was the Magic’s communications and government relations manager for the next seven years, a period when the club was trying to stabilize its game-day attendance and to gain public support to replace its 11-year-old arena. In 2004, she was put in charge of the franchise’s newly formed interactive marketing department.

“This was before social media existed, so we were just surveying fans and crunching [Ticketmaster’s] Archtics data.”
In late 2006, she took over the Baltimore Ravens’ digital strategy and quickly folded database management into her duties.

The team was paying for access to Nielsen Scarborough and Turnkey Surveyor data, she said, but did not have any staff dedicated to analyze it. The Ravens’ success in ticket sales — the club has sold out every home game in its history, a streak of 173 straight, including the playoffs — made her efforts to invest in an analytics unit “a tough sell,” Andres said, a problem faced by many of her NFL peers.

“Let’s be honest, basketball and baseball have a lot more issues with putting butts in seats than football, so I would expect those teams to address it more quickly. But most teams realize now that database management is not just about selling tickets. It’s about expanding your fan base beyond your local market, and about working with current and future business partners to collect meaningful data.”

With the business intelligence operation now under her purview, the Gainesville, Fla., native has two analysts who report to her, and sometimes calls on number crunchers from the football operations side, depending on the project. She also is looking to hire a staffer with a master’s degree in analytics or a related field. That, she said, is one of the biggest challenges for her and her counterparts.

“Five years ago, when it was all about social media, it was tough to find young people who had gone through a related curriculum. Now graduates have degrees in interactive media, but we are finding that it is really difficult finding the right person.”

— David Broughton