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Volume 21 No. 35
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How MLS uses analytics to drive business

Charlie Shin

The most successful companies in the world understand and serve their customers better than their competitors. Whether it is to deliver content, sell a product, or provide an experience, these companies typically leverage data and analytics to enhance their consumer offering. They have also demonstrated that a consumer-centric strategy and the ability to leverage business intelligence are integral to long-term success.

 

At Major League Soccer, we are on a continuous journey to understand our fans. As a result, our fan insights, combined with our data and analytics capabilities, serve as a foundational resource so that we can make informed and data-driven decisions. Whether it’s to develop a new marketing initiative or commercial opportunity, we have the capability to provide support to all areas. And while getting to this point has been a journey, it has been marked by key milestones along the way:

 

Strategy and planning: We have emphasized a fan-centric approach, leveraged consumer segmentation, and developed league and market-specific insights to identify growth opportunities.

 

Infrastructure: We implemented a leaguewide customer data warehouse and data management platform to deliver a holistic view of fans across all touchpoints. In addition, we established a fan panel that allows us to engage with fans and capture key insights across many areas.

 

People and culture: The league reorganized and brought together our fan, data, insights and planning teams. This group drives the fan-centric culture across the league and clubs.

 

The most notable element of our progress to date has been the ongoing support from our executive team and owners. They saw the long-term value of investment in this area and have provided resources when the payout was not immediate. Due to their vision, we have now reached a point where we have multiple examples of how leveraging data and analytics has been used to drive organizational objectives.

 

Enhanced fan addressability: The data management platform greatly enhances our understanding of known and unknown fans across MLS’s digital ecosystem. The efforts have improved the ability of the league and clubs to segment, target and engage our fans. As a result, we improved the efficiency of our media buys for this season.

 

Improved fan targeting: Following the execution of a consumer segmentation study, we developed a regression model using the demographic information from third-party appends and transactional data from our customer data warehouse to match our current fans into target segments. As a result, we applied the model to personalize “This Week in MLS,” our weekly e-newsletter, with content that is most relevant to each target segment. Overall, the model improved our ability to reach fans and deliver personalized and relevant experience to our supporters.

 

Drive revenue and fan engagement: Utilizing the enterprise-wide data in our warehouse, we executed an analysis of the league’s primary ticketing data and identified leaguewide and market-specific opportunities for growth. One example is development of a statistical model that analyzed and ranked home games based on true market demand and fan motivations for attendance. This helped our clubs identify new plans to improve attendance and pricing.

 

Support league partners: Through a partnership with Electronics Arts, we performed an analysis of how MLS fans were engaged with the EA FIFA game. We learned that there was a correlation between the level of EA FIFA game participation and MLS fan engagement. As a result, we worked with EA and our clubs to develop initiatives to drive greater MLS game play.

 

These are just a few examples of how a fan-centric approach and our commitment to data and analytics have helped support our league and clubs. As we look to the future, we are excited that the infrastructure, skills, and team we’ve developed will be central to driving continued growth of our enterprise.

 

Charlie Shin is vice president of data and analytics for Major League Soccer.