4 Secret Ways The Most Successful Sports Teams Are Using Data

Long gone are the days of a professional or collegiate sports team hoping for a winning season in order to sell tickets.

Or the days of counting solely on a mascot or cheerleaders to provide in-game entertainment. Or delivering value to sponsors by using attendance numbers to justify impressions of their outfield wall sign.

The rise of big data and fan analytics has rendered all of these things obsolete in a short amount of time. With app downloads, beacons, WiFi, transactional data and social media interactions, teams are able to learn more than ever about their fans – and they’re expected to deliver on these insights in return.

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Teams and leagues have been investing in analytics talent and software to help them manage the daunting task of turning data into dollars. Organizations that had a single CRM analyst four years ago are now employing teams of six or more to manage business strategy and analytics.

While the possibilities are endless, here are four ways that successful sports teams are using data to drive business outcomes:

1.) Dynamic and Predictive Ticket Pricing

Teams like the Orlando Magic and Northwestern University Wildcats are using data to sell both season and individual game tickets. Using predictive analytics, teams can determine which season ticket holders are most likely to renew or be upsold based on engagement and behaviors they’ve taken throughout the season. Teams can also use dynamic pricing to take into account factors like day of the week, weather, opponent and promotional giveaway items to determine demand for a game, dynamically change prices and ensure that they get maximum ROI. While a winning team will almost always improve ticket sales, teams can be less reliant on their on-the-field talent to sell tickets and more reliant on their data all-stars.

2.) Sponsorship Engagement and Reporting

It can be challenging for teams to prove ROI to their sponsors – especially when big brands spending big money expect big results. However, data is making this increasingly easier for sponsorship departments. There’s been an increase in sponsorship inventory that has more direct relationship to ROI – advertising on mobile apps and websites and interactive engagement tools where brand interaction can be measured and sponsors can see exactly which fans are engaging with their brand. Teams can also use data to measure brand affinities to see if their fans have a developed a greater affinity for a sponsor over time.

3.) Understanding and Marketing to Fans

Marketing Rule #1: Know your customer. It’s been fairly easy for teams to get basic demographic info on their customers from past ticket purchases, but an increasing amount of data collection points now allows teams to understand their fans on a much deeper level: their specific behaviors in the venue, buying patterns, brand affinities, social media habits and preferred engagement methods. Another big mystery solved by dating is not only knowing your ticket buyer, but who are they buying ticket for, as well. Smart teams know that they need to use these insights to communicate with fans on a personalized level and to create models of their best fans in order to find new ones. And while ticket sales data might tell a team a little bit about the person who purchased the ticket, WiFi and beacon technology can help them understand who is actually sitting in the venue — the guests of the ticket buyer or the people who bought those same tickets on a secondary market.

4.) In-Stadium Engagement and the Fan Experience

The antics of the Phillie Phanatic might still be amusing, but teams can no longer rely on furry mascots alone to create an engaging experience for their fans. From in-seat concession orders via a mobile app to push notifications with customized content and special offers, fans are now expecting an engaging experience at the game. All of this engagement then provides data which can be used to take the fan experience — and the team’s concession and merchandise revenue – even further.