The Charlotte Hornets Look to Increase Fan Engagement with SAP/Phizzle Partnership

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By: Zach Seybert, @zlseybert

SAP and Phizzle have partnered with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets to provide the organization with a holistic picture of their consumer and fan data to maximize revenue and to enhance their fan experience.

I was fortunate enough to speak with co-founder and CEO of Phizzle, Ben Davis about Phizzle/SAP and where he sees the Hornets partnership going and options for further growth.

In the ever-evolving world of social media and digital marketing, the ability to quantify the data surrounding fan engagement at sporting events has become a competitive landscape. These events (games, annual events such as the draft, etc.) are not only broadcast on television, but can also be streamed on a mobile device or computer (commonly referred to as a third screen), which increases the number of potential viewers and media impressions. If a fan cannot watch a game live, they can follow along on social media since there is more than likely an official account for each team, tweeting in-game updates and news, not to mention the thousands of fans likely tweeting, checking in on Facebook, choosing the perfect filter for their Instagram and uploading snapchats to their story so all of their followers know they are at the game. All of this information, or data, is now being utilized by sports teams, professional and amateur, and when quantified can be used to increase revenue thus powering the business of sports.

Phizzle's platform has provided the Charlotte Hornets with data solutions that the franchise had previously not been able to utilize. Photo via twitter.com.

Franchises are looking to capitalize on all of the information out there and positions dealing data and business analytics are a hot commodity, especially in the analytics age of the sports industry.

Enter Phizzle.

According to the company’s website, Phizzle is an engagement automation software company, delivering the fan engagement platform designed to consolidate, analyze and act on multiple data sources. The platform’s data aggregation capabilities, innovative data visualization tools and social listening solutions provides sports properties and brands the ability to gather and analyze digital, social and real-world fan engagements. The company currently powers more than 8,000 mobile, social, digital and data integration campaigns, daily, which essentially means that when you are casually scrolling through your Twitter feed, you are likely to come across a Phizzle campaign.

Earlier this week, Phizzle announced the availability of engagement automation as a SAP-preferred partner solution. This platform provides a single ecosystem solution to identify, engage, analyze, market and monetize an organization’s customers. It combines marketing automation, social media management, mobile marketing and business intelligence into one product to be used by customers, including SAP, Twitter and Madison Square Garden. The platform leverages the power and scalability of the SAP HANA platform, along with robust business intelligence and data visualization solutions from SAP, according to the company’s press release.

“Partnering with SAP gave us a huge advantage to be able to utilize their infrastructure and apply it towards sports,” said Davis. “Sports fans are the most demanding customers; they want to be connected to their teams all the time. They want to be rewarded for their loyalty. They want to be ingesting content all the time.”

This set the stage for a partnership between SAP/Phizzle and the Charlotte Hornets, which was announced today. By using Phizzle’s FanTracker™Application program interface (API) and data management solutions, powered by SAP HANA®, the Hornets will have a real-time, cross-channel data profile for their 9.5 million fans. By utilizing this software, the Hornets have identified that more than 50 percent of their fan records were duplicates and have aggregated more than 25 million fan and consumer interactions. This information saved them more than $1.5 million and 10,000 hours of consulting, while adding additional revenue in ticket sales.

Many sports franchises have had trouble knowing what to do with all of the data accessible, including the Hornets. With Phizzle’s FanTracker API and algorithm, phz.io Middleware and phz.io Best Practices for SAP HANA, the organization can access current and relevant behavioral data on each individual fan, including sentiment, purchase history and interactions across an omnichannel landscape, according to the company’s press release.

Davis echoed this sentiment, “We saw a lot of teams were having challenges because all of their data was being silo’d, so it was difficult to understand who their fans were. Teams had to really look at fan behavior across every channel in order to truly understand their fan.” When I asked him about where the idea for Phizzle came from he said, “There was no solution that did that, so we felt strongly that if we could be successful in sports, we could take that technology and use it anywhere [other industries].”

Phizzle CEO Ben Davis. Photo via phizzle.com.

“With 50 billion devices capable of connecting to the internet, sports teams are challenged with making sense of massive data quantities, but with SAP HANA, the Hornets can achieve a single fan identity across a diverse landscape and understand their fans in real time,” said Frank Wheeler, region vice president and general manager for SAP Sports and Entertainment North America.

When I asked Davis how he sees the partnership with the Hornets evolving and expanding into the NBA, he said, “It [the partnership] is really just the tip of the iceberg as there are still more channels that we are looking at integrating into this platform. It really took a forward thinking team like the Hornets to pave the path into the NBA, NFL, NHL and even college.” The software allows its customers to essentially predict fan behavior and provide the right content to the fans.

In terms of expansion, Davis said, “If one team has success then more teams will follow. The Hornets were one of the first teams to adopt CRM (customer relationship management), so they are following the same path of being market leaders and early adopters.”

Phizzle is clearly making waves in the sports industry and will be a game changer for teams who utilize the platform.

“I think we’re the only company that has technology that can automate the consolidation of fan profiles from multiple data sources and change the profile to reflect the mood, sentiment, and purchase behavior and do it in a very efficient way,” said Davis. “I haven’t seen anything else out there that has that capability. The solution is very easy to use and implement and I think it is going to help teams not only sell tickets, but also increase the value of their inventory around sponsorships and marketing partnerships.”

With the announcement of the partnership with the Hornets, I was curious as to whether or not we would see more announcements of partnerships with professional teams. Davis said the company was in discussions with a few other NBA and NHL teams, but the big challenge is proof points.

“It is a big step. It changes your business. It empowers teams to create and drive their internal business processes and workflows, so I think teams want to move in this direction but without any proof points, teams are jumping in the blind. Success with the Hornets will allow teams to take that chance.”

For more information, including the number of partnerships Phizzle has within and outside of the sports industry, visit their website here. To stay up-to-date on the waves Phizzle is making in the digital analytics industry, follow them on Twitter.