When Stanford University kicked off its first-ever Sports Innovation Conference, its focus was as much on how data was driving sports performance as it was on the use of data to drive greater fan connection. Indeed, for marketers in the high-stakes world of sports, the need for data insight in this industry is critical.
While the U.S. and Canadian marketplace focus on the big four of the sports world, there is a significant stretch of the virtual fan bleacher reserved for popular, but smaller, organizations those in the soccer, tennis, volleyball, golf, and other arenas. Of course, England’s Premier League joins the U.S. big four to deliver the top five revenue centers in the sports world. Collectively, that’s an enormous pool of fans that can be smartly mobilized as sports advocates, peer influencers, and event and merchandise consumers.
The key to engaging in this evolving sports marketplace is to better understand, and harness, the use of data-rich marketing tools to connect with the fan and customer.
One of the most overlooked tools for the data-savvy marketer is the personal digital calendar. Advances in data-driven, interactive, calendar-based technology are driving new levels of fan engagement, CRM, and customer profiling at the precise moment fans are most interested in receiving sports information and making a purchase, from the event-notifications function of their digital calendar. Even more promising is the rich array of functions a consumer can make use of once in the digitally-driven marketing calendar: community interaction, social sharing, transactional marketing, ticket purchases, and more.
Recent campaigns such as Major League Soccer’s use of ECAL’s calendar-based marketing drive home the real-world use of fan and calendar interaction in a data-driven marketing world.
Quite simply, calendar marketing, long considered a no-nonsense reminder trigger, is emerging as a powerful consumer call-to-action and consumer data resource that is insight-rich and results focused.
If the key to better marketing returns is a stronger relationship with the consumer, then the ability for brands to live within the life schedule of their audiences, to drive interaction, and learn more may well be the key to long-term marketing success.
Study Reveals Data Divide, Unique Fan Characteristics
A recent study of sports fans’ comparative interactions reveals that sports consumers are as unique as the teams they follow. The findings were extracted from ECAL, based on a subscriber portion sample of 3,000 users in 2016. No uniquely identifying characteristics were released in this study. The results reveal not just differences in sports allegiances, but marketing-critical variances in seasonal behavior, TV watching, level of play, and ticket purchases. That’s a lot of data that social hash tagging alone could never provide. Here’s a sampling of what we uncovered.
Marketing Data Insights about USA Volleyball Fans
- They passionately follow volleyball sports activity across all levels: junior, college, and world championships.
- Volleyball fans closely follow televised competitions.
- These fans are seasonal (summer, major Olympic events).
- Their No. 1 click through is for team information on the team site.
Marketing Data Insights about Major Sports Fans
- These fan only track on the big name sports franchises – and all related events: community, corporate, training.
- They love and follow actual event schedules, but will watch on TV, stream via social, or anything else if they can’t attend the game.
- They follow their favorite major sports year-round.
- Their No. 1 click through is for ticket purchases; team and event news is ranked No. 5.
The transactional marketer take-away: Not all sports fans are created equal.
The data derived from the above calendar interaction research now will drive marketers’ strategies around seasonal messaging, frequency, event reminders, and transactional marketing offers.
Four Tips about Personal Calendar Marketing Strategies
So, how can you turn a calendar into a marketer’s data-command console? The following four tips shed some light on that.
- Cross-tabulate: Evaluate data across silos and campaigns to extract a 360-degree view of the consumer. Be sure to include event-to-event comparisons; time frame: pre-event, live and post; and social dialogue vs. in-calendar.
- Funnel: Where in the funnel analytics do calendar, email, and other elements interact? Where are the drop-offs, and what are the key assists?
- Influencer: Calendar-based influencers are exceptionally critical, as they often drive ticket buy-now decisions. What are the behaviors, and what is your interaction and reward strategy?
- Ask and engage: This may seem elementary, but the calendar is often still regarded more as functional than interactive by marketing teams; be sure to build two-way strategies into your campaign.
So put on your favorite team jersey, crack open your digital calendar console, and use the data from your fan’s rich interactions to smartly inform your marketing strategies.
Patrick Barrett is the founder and CEO of ECAL, which sells a calendar marketing platform and data-driven CRM technology solution, which is used by more than 300 organizations in the sports, entertainment, media, education, retail, and banking industries in the U.S. and abroad.
Edited by Alicia Young