Magazine article CRM Magazine

CRM Scores for Sports Franchises: In a Multibillion-Dollar Industry, Teams Aren't Playing around When It Comes to Connecting with Fans

Magazine article CRM Magazine

CRM Scores for Sports Franchises: In a Multibillion-Dollar Industry, Teams Aren't Playing around When It Comes to Connecting with Fans

Article excerpt

When it comes to managing relationships with customers, many sports organizations are looking at third and long. Two out and nobody on. An overpowering Soviet-era gymnastics team and a biased East German judge. (You get the idea.) Despite the size, scope, and revenue involved in both professional and amateur sports markets, franchises operate like mid-sized businesses, and they've traditionally made similar-sized investments--and similar missteps--in the management of customer relationships, says Paul Greenberg, president of 56 Group. Also like their midmarket brethren, franchises have only just begun to learn the importance of extending their brands and experiences beyond the hollowed halls of America's oldest stadiums.

"The industry is worth billions of dollars," Greenberg says. "We're not just dealing with fans filling seats. There are products, TV contracts--and all of this is part of CRM initiatives."

Until recently, franchises have used CRM products mostly for basic outreach to keep fans informed of promotions, schedules, and team events (email distribution, ticketholder customer databases, and fan clubs and loyalty programs). But it's crucial that teams establish a two-way relationship with their fan bases to receive feedback and input. "It's important that franchises pay attention to their fan base to uncover patterns such as purchasing habits," says Chris Forrest, customer service coordinator for the WNBA's L.A. Sparks. "With that sort of information, franchises can start offering their fans more relevant promotions, expanding their fan base at the same time."

These basic best practices are now being extended to franchises' third-party networks. The perfect example is Ticketmaster, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp. "By integrating their data with Ticketmaster, franchises are working with up-to-date, unified data that enables them to adjust their marketing messages faster than retooling a ticket drive on an annual basis," says Chris Charron, an analyst and vice president at Forrester Research. "They're receiving the data to create targeted messages based on their fans' history of interactions with their team instead of relying on a media outlet to send a generic message."

Yet CRM is about more than just selling tickets to the game. While teams are catching on to some areas of CRM, many haven't yet cleared all the hurdles. "There's a lot of stuff going on, but what [many teams] perceive as CRM is only fan loyalty and marketing programs," Greenberg says. …

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