The Fanatics, The Fairweathers and The Friends

With so much time and money spent by consumers on sports related activities, sports fans are surprisingly hard to reach. Perhaps it’s because (almost) everyone likes some kind of sport. Perhaps it’s because it’s an activity that marketers take for granted. Or, it’s because data in sports is notoriously hard to collect and parse.

At Umbel, we hear the latter a lot.

Sports marketers tell us time and time again that the data is messy, all over the place, inconsistent at best and inaccessible at worst. There’s also a lot going on — injuries, coaching drama, special teams performances that need attention on Twitter, sponsor needs, and of course, the needs of people who purchased season tickets. With all of this and more, it’s no surprise that sports marketers are swamped. To combat the onslaught of ever-changing marketing priorities, they should structure each marketing initiative around three key themes, each of which applies to all people who purchase tickets, whether they are single game ticket buyers or season pass holders.

The Fanatics

These people love your team. They’re obsessed with it. They follow them on Twitter, read about them on ESPN, attend games, play fantasy, and get into lengthy arguments with their friends about the spread on the next game. Fanatics need to be identified, nurtured and loved by your marketing team. You should have a email list of these people ready to go, just in case something major happens. If something newsworthy occurs (i.e. starting running back is out for the season), you should be communicating to this specific group of people before everyone else. Remember, they need to feel loved.

Here’s how to find your Fanatics. Bring any combination of these people to create your list of Fanatics:

  • They follow your brand on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Youtube

  • They obsessively read sports related content (ESPN, SBNation, Bleacher Report)

  • They buy a lot of tickets (>1)

  • They attend away games

  • They pay for upgrades

  • They purchase merchandise online

  • They attended your university (and might be donors)

The Fairweathers

These people love your team in a good year and could care less in an off year. They don’t believe the talk about the “rebuilding year” or that next first round draft pick to fill in a much-needed position. Unlike the fanatics, these fans are not obsessed. Regardless, they’re important and need to be treated as such. But, marketing to these people should be handled differently than marketing to die-hard supporters. Fairweathers may only want to know about your team if the season starts out unexpectedly strong, or if there is a major breaking event that may be discussed at the office the next day (Tom Brady’s suspension overturned). If they’re likely to hear about what happened on CNN the next day, you should email them. It’s important to respect these fans, as they’re important and might one day become fanatics. But don’t send them generic messaging.

Here’s how you find Fairweathers. Build a list of emails so that you can communicate to them selectively:

  • They only follow you on one social medium

  • They read about sports related content on one site at most (ESPN)

  • They only attend home games

  • They only purchase with a discount code or when the ticket includes free parking

  • They don’t buy any merchandise

The Friends

Friends are the hardest to categorize. Are they fanatics? Are they fairweathers? Did they buy on the secondary market? For marketers, everyone who doesn’t fall into a fanatic or fairweather category should be treated as a friend. As a sports marketer, you should have a distinct relationship with this group of people. Build your list assuming that these people have attended at least one game or tried to interact with your team online. They’ve had an interaction and need to be nurtured along their lifecycle. Send them occasional messaging and include language about attending with a group.

Here’s how you find Friends. Build a list of emails so that you can communicate to them selectively:

  • Attended a game

  • Used wifi at the stadium

  • Download your team’s app

  • Did not make a purchase through TicketMaster, Paciolan, or another ticketing system

Sports marketing is hard. There are a lot of demands from ticket buyers, donors, sponsors, and institutions. In addition, the digital media landscape is changing faster than sports marketing departments are growing. To deal with some of these pressures, it’s more important than ever to put the fan first and market to them in a way that truly reflects their relationship with your team.