Mary Sloss is a marketing expert who blends creativity and insights to bring brands to life. As the marketing director for FanThreeSixty, she oversees the company's brand strategy and market position as the leading provider of remarkable fan experiences fueled by data.
When most people hear the term sports analytics, they typically think player performance. But for companies like us, we actually mean using fan data to ultimately help teams sell more beer, hot dogs and tickets. By mapping a fan’s behaviors from their digital breadcrumbs both in and out of the venue, we lead teams to the entire cookie—the complete picture of a fan. We surface insights that reveal a fan’s distinct behaviors and preferences, helping teams create hyper-personalized experiences that deepen relationships with their fans.
Historically, teams never had to compete for that three-hour window of time once, twice or sometimes three times per week. But with the rise of digital everything and consumer choice, fans are now in control of when, where and how they engage with teams.
And most fans—from casual spectators to die hards—use their phones during live events. Whether posting to social media or checking scores, the mobile device is our second screen while watching games (for reference, over 16 TB of wi-fi data was consumed at Super Bowl 52 according to Extreme Networks).
So while fan behaviors changed, technology advanced and data amassed, many sports organizations remained in analog, leading to a knowledge gap worth $4 billion—the projected value of the sports analytics market by 2022, according to MarketWatch.
Many teams have pieces of fan information scattered across spreadsheets or ticketing data, yet most have not unlocked the value of this information. In fact, they have yet to really go beyond basic ticketing data to increase knowledge about existing fans or to grow their fan base.
For example, we gave a keynote at the USL Winter Summit where our data scientists revealed a $41 million revenue gap. By only using ticketing data for sales and marketing efforts, the league missed connecting with over 12 million soccer fans. And we know missed connections lead to missed conversions, resulting in missed revenue.
So how does a league or team overcome this? It’s simple: go beyond ticketing. Centralizing disparate sources like CRM, social media, email and purchasing data with ticketing data creates a single source of truth for fan insights. From this, teams can then segment fans into audiences based on their behaviors, preferences and demographics, such as first-time ticket buyers or family-fun seekers, to target these distinct groups in ways that matter most to them.
Up Your Game with Fan Data
Actionable insights derived from fan data can have a significant impact on a franchise. It can drive customer engagement both in and out of the venue. By understanding what a fan is most interested in—whether gleaned from surveys, polls or email engagement— teams can better understand what motivates a fan to take a specific action, shaping future marketing efforts.
Data from mobile tickets not only helps teams truly identify who is in the venue, but it also helps teams optimize gameday operations. By knowing when fans enter the stadium, teams can better staff entrances to increase traffic flow. Layer POS data into the mix, and teams can then know which concession areas have an influx of traffic and at what times, augmenting resources to better the gameday experience. POS data can also lead to insights about a fan’s distinct preferences, such as their favorite player or life stage (youth jerseys purchased in venue imply children in the home).
And let’s not forget the impact this data can have on sponsorships. From tailoring sponsorship offerings or promotions to identifying new partnerships, data is the foundation for sponsorship success. Brands today want more than their name on a stadium or on signage. They want to immerse themselves into the gameday experience, helping teams craft emotional, personal experiences that live beyond the game. Fan data can help teams and brands understand what matters most to the individual fan, forming emotional connections that last a lifetime.
Most importantly, this data can be used to drive relationships 365-days-per-year. While it’s important to personalize the gameday experience, people are fans year-round. They crave a connection with their favorite team in the offseason as much as during the season. Fan insights can inform teams about the types of events, content campaigns or special promotions to run in the offseason to keep the team and the upcoming season top-of-mind.
As more fans continue to use connected devices and as venues continue to integrate smart technology into the gameday experience, data will become the true MVP of the game, not the product on the field. From it, teams can produce truly game-changing results that have a significant impact on franchise value.