5 (More) High-Value Fan Segments for Sports Teams

With the fragmentation of how fans consume sports and sponsoring brands vying for those fans’ attention, personalized advertising from first-party data is a must for marketers in sports and entertainment. Particularly when the new EU regulation, GDPR, restricts the use of third-party demographics (along with platforms like Facebook) for targeting, it’s crucial for organizations to deploy data collection strategies to inform their campaigns.

We’ve covered six revenue-maximizing audiences for sports teams to target in their marketing and advertising, and now we’re sharing five more we’ve seen teams successfully deploy for ticket and merchandise sales. For each, we’ve included what data sources you’ll need to make them happen, other sources of data that will make your segments more actionable and more effective throughout the year, and how these segments will help drive the bottom line through high ROI campaigns.

Watch our webinar featuring the Florida Panthers on proven ticket sales segments

1) Current/recent season attendance

The fan data you’ll need: Ticketing data from the most recent season.

Bonus: Venue scan data to confirm a ticket (and the ticket holder) crossed the turnstile, fans who have engaged with in-venue campaigns, or fans who logged into your WiFi.

The easiest segment on our list for sports teams to use and perhaps the best indicator that a fan would purchase tickets is a list of fans that have recently attended a game, whether earlier in the season or during last season.

Whatever ticketing provider you use, you’ll have names and emails of people who have bought tickets recently. Your target segments can vary in size and scope depending on your promotion. For a broad promotion to get recent buyers back in, such as an email or remarketing campaign with a 20 percent off discount, you could create a segment of: a) people who have bought tickets to one or more games this season and b) have not purchased a ticket to a game you’re targeting.

If you want to improve or refine your segment, exclude people who bought a ticket that was never scanned into the venue if you have that data available. You can also use WiFi login information, which would capture anyone who has attended a game, but didn’t buy a ticket directly from the venue (e.g., StubHub purchase, attended with a friend). You can also add fans to the segment who engaged with an in-venue Activation (e.g., trivia, contest) that might not be captured by your ticketing provider.

2) Net-new fans

The fan data you’ll need: People newly entered into your database.

Bonus: Exclude fans who have attended a game and already purchased a ticket.

Next, we come to your “net-new” fans, which can  be added through a newsletter subscription, ticket purchase, contest entry, etc. This might sounds like the last segment, but these fans don’t have to have ever bought a ticket or attended a game—in fact, you can exclude fans that have purchased a ticket from campaigns you run to this segment.

How you define “new” will depend on the campaign that this segment is feeding. You could run a discount for fans who have engaged with you in the last month and haven’t bought a ticket, or run an even higher discount for a smaller list of fans who have engaged in the last week. You can also run several campaigns at once to different segments, evaluate their performance, and repeat the campaign with higher ROAS.

3) Mini-plan targets

The fan data you’ll need: Ticketing data on past mini-plan purchases or multiple ticket purchases per season.

Bonus: Fans who have indicated that they’re interested in learning more about mini plans, and additional behavioral data for lookalike modeling.

Between single game tickets and season tickets, you have half season, mini plans or flex plans. For fans who want to see multiple games per season, but can’t justify a full season ticket price, these plans are a perfect option. We’ve seen successful mini plan campaigns pairing the tickets with merchandise discounts or exclusive swag (the Pacers for example offer a 20 percent discount on merch).

To target fans with mini plan offers, the most direct segment teams can use is past purchasers. With tweaked messaging, teams can target people who bought a large number of tickets across multiple games in the previous season that would benefit from a plan with average ticket savings or free merchandise.

Finally, simply asking is an effective way to segment fans into potential mini plan buyers. Survey questions embedded into forms or contest entries like “Are you interested in learning more about ticket plan options?” with multiple options including “Season,” “Mini-plan” or “None of the Above” can populate several segments at once.

Example from Umbel showing season ticket “hand-raisers” segment

4) Family

The fan data you’ll need: Ticketing data on group purchases for theme or past family nights.

Bonus: Demographic data or interest in family brands.

Umbel’s Activation offered fans the chance to win four tickets to Stanley’s Birthday celebration game in exchange for valuable first-party data.

Making your events a focal point for families doesn’t just create happy memories for parents and their kids—it lays the foundation for a relationship with a new generation of fans. This segment will include past purchasers of family packs (group tickets that often include food and beverage) or group purchases at family/theme nights. Secondarily, you can target fans who have engaged with family-friendly Activations. The Florida Panthers ran a sweepstakes for a birthday party with their mascot, Stan, for example, which they could use to segment fans for a family pack sale.

Teams can also identify fans for the family segment using behavioral and demographic data (either provided directly from the fan, from social authentication or, if approved where you’re advertising, from a third party), which can include number of children (that can be used in a campaign to bring the kids to a game if only the parent has ever attended) as well as affinities for “family” brands such as Huggies, Disney Channel, or Wii; these affinities can be useful when you don’t have direct information as to whether someone has children or not.

5) Lapsed buyers

The fan data you’ll need: Ticketing data for ticket purchasers in past seasons (but not the most recent one).

Bonus: Email opens and other engagement factors among that audience.

For one reason or another, fans just stop attending—maybe it was team performance, a loss of disposal income, or their favorite player retiring. Regardless, many of these fans still have a relationship with your team that’s waiting to be reinvigorated. Start with a list of people who have bought tickets in the past, but exclude people who have bought tickets in the last or current season. Your messaging to these fans can tout the arrival of a new star player, updates to your state-of-the-art stadium, or just an enticing discounted ticket package to re-engage them.

Instead of targeting this segment for ticket sales, you can also lead with an “Are you still interested in hearing from us?” email. Fans may have moved, which would make them no longer a candidate for home games, but they could still be candidates for merchandise sales or road games. They could also indicate what level of tickets they would be interested in now, if they’re in a different category than when you first engaged with them. This type of question also helps organizations clean their database of no longer relevant contacts, which is particularly critical for teams that need to be compliant with GDPR.

All of these segments aren’t just a way to sell more tickets—they are a way to get your message heard by the right people, and make fans feel like you understand them. Strategizing how you’ll make these segments more robust will also get you closer to fans. You’ll ask better questions so you’re sending your message to the right people, and you’ll end up creating better content that will compel fans to answer those questions in the first place.

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