The NBA, NHL, and MLS were able to resume their seasons by starting with bubble formats and playing in front of cardboard or virtual fans. Soon enough, however, that will change. With the return of fans to live venues on the horizon, professional sports teams are quickly investing in customer data technology to identify more fans and better understand how to service their existing ones.
“The whole industry has kind of been flipped on its head with COVID,” StellarAlgo Director of Sales and Marketing Megan Kurcwal told Front Office Sports. “So the way sales and marketing teams might look this time next year could be very different than how they looked a year or two ago.”
Sales teams will have an increased focus on efficiency in the near future. If a sales leader is giving a lead list to their sales reps, they need to know that it’s going to have a better conversion rate than methods they have used in the past. This is where customer data technology comes into play.
Teams across professional sports utilize StellarAlgo’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) to consolidate fan-specific data and gain predictive insights about their customers and their behaviors. With teams operating with mostly reduced staffs, having a deep connection to a fanbase is going to be critical. Aaron Levalley, SVP of Business Operations & Strategy for the Los Angeles Kings, elaborated on this.
“The future is really understanding customers better and understanding what leads to purchase. We need to be focused on driving higher quality leads to our sales team. We won’t have as many sales executives coming out of the pandemic, so we need to focus on delivering quality. In order for us to do that, we have to understand what is leading to conversion and the full customer journey.”
Organizations with staff that are already comparatively smaller also find significant value in how technology is accelerating their understanding of fans. Los Angeles Galaxy Vice President of Business Operations Thomas Braun spoke to the importance of investing in customer data technology.
“We’re a large professional club with a number of important resources, but our analytics staff is not as large as some of our peers in the industry,” Braun stated. “We work hard and we work with what we have to build out our analytics and our insights. It’s important for us that we work with a third party and StellarAlgo was a company that we connected with early on. There are a number of resources they provide to us that we don’t have the bandwidth to do in house.”
In addition to smaller staffs as a result of the pandemic, fans will also find themselves becoming much more careful with their money. Braun lists this as another reason for investing in technology that can boost conversion percentages.
“I believe it’s important for clubs to be investing in these tools.” Braun said. “Having more insights about our fans is as important as ever. With potentially less discretionary spending, we need to be mindful of revenue generation and the value these insights bring.”
Once potential ticket buyers are identified, the key to converting them becomes personalizing messages and content. Data gathered from a CDP makes this process significantly easier.
“Marketing teams are doing an amazing job personalizing content for their audience,” Kurcwal said. “But you need the right tools to help really scale personalization, and that’s what teams are moving towards. They’re wanting to personalize each outreach to get the best engagement – from emails, to digital campaigns, to sponsored sweepstakes. I’m seeing teams want to go further in how they personalize content, so that if I’m an Arizona Coyotes fan who doesn’t live in-market, for example, I will still be engaged and nurtured to my full potential as a fan, without necessarily getting blasted with a season ticket sales campaign that is irrelevant. Teams now have global fan bases so ticket sales can’t always be the end goal in terms of conversion, which is why teams are looking to understand their many diverse fans segments, and how best to activate each audience with the data available.”
Some teams may decide to shy away from making these types of investments due to the economic effects of the pandemic. However, making this investment now can allow teams to gain an advantage over their competitors. The Arizona Coyotes recently partnered with StellarAlgo to take a step forward with their software and digital stack.
“We want to be an organization that leads the space in terms of technology and innovation. That takes a little investment,” Coyotes VP of Innovation & Strategy Sam Doerr said of his team’s investment. “The reason we feel so strongly about it going forward is we firmly believe that coming out of the pandemic, the competition for the consumer entertainment dollar is going to be tougher than ever.”
One thing is clear about the future of sports from here on out: the margins for error are smaller than ever. As a result, the data derived from a deeper understanding of fans is more important than ever.
“We’re really excited to dive into this data to not only generate new revenue, but also create more avid fans,” Levalley concluded.