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Scaling Data and Digital Assets to Scale Revenue



Man U fans from 1950s



Intro


In Kieran Maguire’s book Unfit & Proper Persons, the finances required to grow a football club are spelt out in detail. As one would assume, the costs of running a football club jump dramatically as you climb the leagues.


Sports teams typically utilise their stadiums with live games for a small percentage of the calendar year, approximately 5% if you base on 2 home games a month over a 9-month season. That puts into context how long a stadium facility will be unoccupied. Tottenham Hotspur are a great example in

resolving this dilemma, with the hosting of NFL matches and numerous entertainment events.


Each club has different operational challenges that may prevent the stadium from being fully utilised, which makes the commercialisation of digital assets such a vital area of focus.


Knowing your audiences


To build a strong and genuine connection with any fanbase, sports organisations need to understand

what makes them tick.


You can look at traditional, transactional behaviour such as ticketing. For example, have they been a

season ticket holder for over 30 years in the same seat? Can they only attend midweek games? How

price sensitive are they?


In an ideal world, datapoints from retail, partnerships, memberships from different systems will be

connected to allow personalisation strategies to flourish and communicate appropriately. Using a

data warehouse or a flexible CRM system is a good starting point, budget depending.


A nice report from Deloitte from a few years back highlights the need to focus on differentiators, which can only be effective if you understand your audiences.



Dortmund football fans


Collecting data and interacting with the fanbase


As well as transactional data, behavioural data from both digital and physical assets (e.g. time spent on the club website), will further enhance a club’s ability to interact appropriately with the fanbase. Mckinsey state that organisations who leverage behavioural insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth, and more than 25% in gross margin.


There is a good explanation of first vs zero party data from Infront, who identify gamification as an effective way to collect information on fans, without the repetition of a traditional survey.


That’s not to say surveys don’t have their place. A first-time visitor to a club whether that be through

a stadium tour, match, or business event, can provide invaluable feedback on the facilities, the level

of service and what they would be looking for in terms of experience. Converting new fans into long-

term supporters and ensuring that they are retained is vital for any sports organisation to become

sustainable.


New channels are appearing all the time, with WhatsApp and the use of polls having the potential to garner extra information on what supporters are looking for. There is also the traditional method of outbound telephone calls to the fanbase, for example when clubs are dealing with ticketing and

hospitality sales, to gather feedback and place in CRM.

Deloitte highlight the importance of controlling your own data, with the potential incoming of an

independent regulator, as well as the withdrawal of gambling sponsorships for Premier League clubs.



Boca Juniors fans


Rewarding Loyalty


From experience, membership scheme strategies within sports organisations tend to focus on discounting products such as ticketing and retail, or to use as a waiting list when tickets for games are

in high demand.


The question here would be whether it is commercially viable for discounting products to a group

who already pay regular pricing for such products.


Loyalty instead could be rewarded with memorable, money can’t buy incentives, or using commercial partners to facilitate prizes that focus away from the club e.g. holidays, days out, or even something as simple as a free coffee from the local barista. Looking outside of sports, companies such as O2 with their longstanding Priority app should serve as an example of how to reward loyalty. Who doesn’t enjoy a free weekly bacon roll!


Real-Life Examples


Charlton Athletic have recently announced a strategic partnership with FootballCo, who specialise in

affiliate content. Identifying relevant audiences from within the club would in theory help Charlton in acquiring relevant sponsors and partnerships, through FootballCo’s relationships with brands.



Charlton Athletic have recently announced a strategic partnership with FootballCo


LOSC Lille and WSC announced a partnership that will push the club’s audiences to increased content

through the use of WSC’s AI video content solution. Increasing the club’s digital inventory should help to satisfy their commercial partners, as well as receiving increased supporter feedback through the production of relevant content, potentially bringing in new audiences.


Back in 2020, Everton and Salesforce shared that a personalised approach helped to boost season

ticket renewals. Using Salesforce’s marketing cloud, becoming more personalised led to higher renewal rates and a reduced campaign cost.


Conclusions


The more zero party data any sports organisation can own, the better they can understand what their audiences are looking for, which in turn will help better facilitate conversations with potential commercial partners. On the pitch performance will naturally dictate traditional revenues such as

ticketing and broadcasting, so efficiency in process and connectivity to bring in key insights and new

ideas will serve as a complimentary revenue stream in leaner periods on the field.

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