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Fan Engagement, data management, profitability and strategic branding in sports

As part of the rapid commercialization process linked to professional sports environments, data management operations are purposively added with integrated fan engagement and branding considerations. New and comprehensive fan communications platforms are present in sports leagues and clubs worldwide. Whether focus is on the English Premier League (football/soccer), the German Bundesliga (football/soccer), universities in the US, or individual teams like the L.A. Kings from the National Hockey League (NHL), there is no doubt that what matters for the leagues and clubs is to find a complete fan communication platform, which can help to enhance the league’s or the club’s development and implementation of a customer-related marketing strategy.

There is much evidence that point to the fact that proper strategic fan relationship enrichment is associated with positive profitability margins. In that sense, the postmodern era of sports marketing houses a lot of opportunities to customize communications in a direction that is more personal and thus more effective in relation to engaging with specific segments. For that reason, it may pay off for leagues and clubs to invest in solutions that will update and re-organize customer data on a daily basis to facilitate customer engagement (especially targeted communication with fans BUT also with sponsors). Such solutions may involve data warehousing, campaign management tools to evaluate campaigns or to assist e-mail marketing solutions, and contact management tools to support fan profile generation.

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Photo: An exemplification of fan engagement solutions (source: Sports Alliance).

Why all this focus on data management in sports? The answer is quite simple; there is MONEY flowing from the process of investing in data management if this is done strategically while encompassing fan engagement and branding reflections. Nowadays, the professional sports world is (too a higher degree than earlier) characterized by an interactive business approach, in which a person’s favorite sports league or sports team is eager to interact with the person and learn more about him/her. In that regard, the basis of interaction may be the match day, i.e. every time the person watches his/her favorite team playing a game. With the newest technology, this interaction leaves a footprint whether the person watch the game from the stands, in front of a TV screen, via a computer or a mobile device and through social media platforms in real time. My point is that if the league or the club invests in a solution that can facilitate relevant updates and re-organization concerning data from these interactions then there are priceless opportunities for these leagues and clubs to create and offer better customer experiences. This may be exemplified when customers produce content that can be updated and re-organized in a new form and mass-distributed via in-store, stadium-screen, league or club website or mobile solutions. This way, the solutions definitely affect the financial bottom line of sports properties simply because they help leagues and clubs to activate customers with realism and uniqueness and that builds strong identification levels and loyalty.

Data management in sports is powerful because it provides wisdom to sponsors in terms of what conversations their target audience engage in. The metrics and new technology can also measure valuable KPIs like impressions, geo-location, #trends, click through rates, which improves the capability to determine the ROI linked to customer-produced content. For branding purposes, strategic management working with social media campaigns may see the benefit of integrating such information into broader marketing initiatives to benefit from the marketing momentum tied to social media behavior. Overall, data-driven strategic sports branding campaigns have a passionate and forceful impact on customers. This may be the case when sports properties implement attribution links blended with #trends, i.e. let’s exemplify that Oreo decided to attach specific customer-related links to social posts when they tweeted “You Can Still Dunk In The Dark” during the Super Bowl blackout. Attribution links are good to emphasize a straight link between social content and e-commerce, e.g. if a t-shirt brand would sell t-shirts with Oreo’s tweet. Some technical solutions facilitate this when they allow the club to portray sponsors in direct association with social content, e.g. the L.A. Kings have done that in the team’s collaboration with Toyota.

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Photo: From the social marketing campaign #WeAreAllKings of L.A. Kings, sponsored by Toyota (source: Postano).

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