Creating the Ultimate Fan Experience with Trent Morton

Sports teams want to engage every fan in every way, whether it be watching a game online, on broadcast, or in the stadium, or following their favorite teams and players on social channels. To do this, data has become critical to sports teams for understanding who fans are and how to best convert and delight 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 Trent Morton, Vice President of Marketing of the Dallas Stars. Morton has been with the Stars for 12 years. He oversees all the team marketing efforts, from getting backend systems up and running to ensuring that everything from social media ads to emails to traditional media are all telling the same story about the Stars. He is always looking for ways to improve and emulate what is being done by other teams. “We’re always looking around our League and other leagues, and a lot of what we do is based on the best of what others are doing and vice versa.”

In his own words, here’s how Morton and his team use data to better understand their fans and help drive revenue.

What are your top priorities?  

I’m not a sales guy but everything needs to funnel down to revenue—sponsorship, ticket, suite, and even merch. So backend organization and reporting is key to our success in seeing how and where we’re making a difference to that revenue growth target. For my day-to-day, it’s really working to “expand the tent” and get more and more people to be fans of the Stars. Growing that fanbase is getting more people doing anything from following social media, interacting with content on our website to converting those interactions into ticket purchases. All that leads to getting people to interact with our brand one way or the other.

What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?

We are very new to the space of data and some of the systems we are currently implementing. We’re going to have to find and make the time to figure out the best way to utilize the technologies and tools (like Umbel) we have. We don’t know exactly how to best use all the data we have access to. You can read use cases, but the “best way” isn’t firmly established and what is best for one team isn’t necessarily best for another.

With data, I’ve come to see that we need to be acquiring more, getting what we have cleaned up and sorted so we can make reasonable decisions with it. I hope to have it all organized, set, and a plan in place in the next 6 months—while being very intentional with what we want the data to answer and help with.

Speaking of data, how are you thinking about using that data to enhance your fan experience?

One thing we are excited about is to see how we can replicate what the Blues did with theme nights. Being able to target to fans that are not only fans of your team but also fans of the product you are tying into a theme night is a big deal. We didn’t do this last season, but it is something that we are going to be doing with Umbel this coming season—college nights and Texas Rangers night are already in the works!

Very exciting! Is the data helping you start or inform those partnerships?  

The data is helping in making a case for some of those theme nights. For example, last year we wanted to have a Texas Rangers night, but our team was unsure if this was something we wanted to pursue. I was able to go in and see that within our fanbase, 40% also have an affinity for the Rangers.

Not only does this data help build that partnership, but it shows that there is a revenue opportunity here if we continue to cross-promote with them—fans love to see their favorite teams interacting with one another.

Speaking about what your fans love, what else have you discovered about your fans?

We really want to see who our fan is. The Umbel Activations give us an easy way to get that information directly from the source—either through Facebook or survey questions. Eventually, we hope to have 50,000-60,000 profiles with this robust first-party data so we can really drill down into our fans and their level of engagement (and ticket purchases).

We also try to ensure that those Activations are tied to players or items that we already know our fans love. An autographed jersey giveaway really helps organically boost those fan acquisition campaigns and stays on brand.

Incredible! How do those impact, if at all, the bottom line?

With those Activations, any hand-raisers for packages we send directly to the head of sales for direct follow-up. We also import people directly into our email system who have raised their hand for Dallas Stars Insider list. So far, with those leads generated we can attribute at least $70,000 in revenue for package sales—which we were very happy with.

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What’re you most looking forward to next season?

This coming season we are going to be more focused on single-game ticket Activations and lead generation with the Umbel platforms in addition to the theme nights. Personally, I’m really excited to get a handle on the data and presenting it to our sponsorship department. For me, that means growing the database and getting more of the first party data and appending it with the other data sources we have. I’m excited to see how that data and my team can turn that into supporting the partnership team to sell more sponsorships to new clients.

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