Sports teams want to engage every fan that watches a game or enters their stadium, and fan data has become critical to sports teams not only reaching fans on the right channels, but understanding them wherever they might be.
In our new series, we’re going to experts around the world who are using fan data in new and unique ways to enhance the sports experience top to bottom.
This Week’s Expert
This week, we spoke with Sam Doerr, Vice President of Marketing and Sales of The Phoenix Rising Football Club. Doerr joined the team during their first season as the Rising (rebranding from the Arizona United Soccer Club), coming from roles at the San Antonio Spurs and South Dakota State University. He oversees the team’s marketing and sales efforts, but wears many hats. He says, “I could be working on partnership strategy, marketing campaigns and operations throughout the same day. There are always new things to focus on that take the number one spot, but that’s what keeps it interesting and fun.”
In his own words, here’s how Doerr and his team use fan data to create the ultimate fan experience.
What are some of your top priorities?
We are working on our bid for the MLS, so the majority of our priorities feed into that goal: ticket sales, partnerships, operational readiness and so on. With Umbel, ticket sales and partnerships are where we primarily focus, so I’ll focus on those aspects.
What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in achieving those goals?
We have a lot of competition in our market. Between the Suns, D’Backs, Cardinals and the Coyotes we have a pretty saturated market. But it’s not just sports—concerts, special events and festivals are all things we compete with for wallet share.
Also, while soccer is a growing sport in the U.S., it doesn’t have the built in fandom or exposure on traditional media that basketball, football, baseball and hockey see. So, we’re tasked with not only growing our fanbase, but trying to really see and understand who our fans are.
Why did you seek out a fan data solution?
I was exposed to Umbel while I was working with the Spurs. I knew that this could be a solution for us to help grow the fan base and get a clearer picture of who those fans are.
Since we are still a smaller organization and our MLS bid has some organizational requirements, I thought that Umbel might offer a solution as a CRM tool for our salespeople—a bit out of the box for the traditional use case-—but I knew our team would be able to innovate and get creative.
Also, I knew from experience that Umbel’s in-house services would help us leverage the data to more effectively sell tickets—online and with lead lists for our direct sales.
How are you leveraging fan data?
Our primary goal now is data acquisition with the end goal of selling out our games —that’s how we use Umbel day to day. For us this means running Umbel’s Activation campaigns on our social channels and getting our online fans into our system. We promote these organically and occasionally put some dollars behind the posts to ensure that we are getting as many eyeballs as possible.
I firmly believe that this tool can change any organization to be more efficient and strategic across marketing, sales and analytics.
What type of activations are you running to get fans to convert and opt-in to hearing from your team?
Everything from ticket giveaways to merch specials. We find that these activations are also great for social engagement. And the fact that we get data back from them—it’s a no brainer.
Plus, if we’re running a ticket giveaway, we are able to deliver those leads (with the fan’s phone number) directly to our sales team. This has led to us converting fans to ticket buyers at a 10% rate. We can even easily brand the activations and posts to help promote our partnerships so it’s a win-win.
By growing our fan database using these activations and having the engagement strategy—blackout nights, $1 nights, etc. all promoted online— we have sold out our past 6 games. This is huge for any team, let alone a soccer team with an outdoor stadium playing in Phoenix heat in the heart of summer.
How do you incorporate your sponsors into your fan Activations?
So we’ve found that tying in our sponsors into the activations is a great way not only to promote our partnership—important for our MLS bid—but it also helps with converting our fans. For example, we recently ran a giveaway campaign that highlighted our partnership with Arizona Federal. They were our halftime sponsor, and we were able to promote the event, provide extra incentive with a gift card as well as get fans to raise their hand if they are interested in a Phoenix Rising membership. This alone saw a 62% completion rate AND 100% of the people that completed the activation raised their hand for memberships.
That’s an incredible conversion. What type of data are you using or sharing when talking with your partners?
We show them the main dashboard of the Umbel platform as well as any relevant information for cross-promoted activations. But the big things that they love to see is the demographics, growth and other brand affinities of our fans. It really helps to show them not only who they’re reaching, but what’s unique about them.
This is also the same data that we use to pitch new sponsors and partners. I know that Umbel can be used to find those unique and niche affinities, but we are successfully using the data we’ve acquired to show those bigger brands that we have their fans as well. Plus, it helps to know when crafting those activations—we know someone’s a big Amazon fan, so we target them with an Amazon gift card.
Seems like across the board you’re using data in unique ways. What other ways is the data helping you solve some of your goals—especially with the MLS bid?
One thing that we have found incredibly helpful, but is not a traditional use, is to use the data to inform our broadcasting and more traditional media buys. We can see the top shows our fans like and we’re placing commercials during those spots.
Also, we are able to go to the local news stations and show them that we have their audience within our fanbase. We have actually seen an uptick in local coverage just by using and sharing this data (anonymized of course) with those networks!
What gets you most excited about the data?
The biggest thing for me is that this data helps us work more efficiently across the board. We now have access to data that can really move the needle for sales, marketing and partnerships. We can see that certain fans are more likely to purchase family packs over the premium. Plus, when we layer on the affinity data, our sales team and marketing is only more effective in conversations and ad placements.
What’re you you most looking forward to next season?
For me the biggest thing I’m excited about is to see where and how we will continue to grow and innovate. We are scrappy and love pushing the envelope, but when we get approved to join the MLS the pressure to continue that growth and keep serving the fan base, the league and our partners with engaging content and performance will increase. We are set to exceed all goals we set for ourselves for the season so I have no worries that we will only continue to succeed as our team popularity, fan base and stadium grow.