What Sports Can Teach Marketers About Audience Insights

For anyone tuning into an NBA game during the playoffs this year, the endless stream of three-point attempts being launched is ample evidence of how the use of analytics has revolutionized the game over the last few years. Less obvious, but just as impactful, is the role big data has had in behind the scenes efforts of sports franchises. Filling millions of empty seats takes a huge amount of audience data, as well as a deeper understanding of consumer mindset, and sports teams are extremely aggressive in adapting new technologies in an effort to both better understand and more effectively communicate with their fan bases.

While the analytics behind the rise of three-point shots in the NBA is strictly a basketball conversation, the lead generation and customer outreach strategies of team franchises are extremely relevant to the larger marketing community. Here are three ways sports teams are leveraging emerging technologies to more efficiently connect with current and potential customers. 

Optimization Through Geo-Targeting 

A 2016 report by proximity sensor research provider Proxbook found that Beacon technology was used in 93% of MLB parks, 75% of NFL stadiums and 47% of NHL arenas to reach onsite fans through their mobile phones to track foot traffic, advertise seat upgrades, and feature exclusive sponsor promotions. The technology has been a huge success for MLB, as the number of check-ins for the MLB's The Ballpark app increased by triple digits in 2015 compared to 2014, and it's directly driving revenue as well. Geo-targeting has become a successful tool for brands and marketers to capitalize on the mindset of consumers, specifically by understanding time spent in locations, which is a deeper signifier of intent.

By reaching potential customers with relevant messaging on their preferred devices when they’re in or around a store (or a ballpark), retailers can similarly increase engagement when purchase consideration is most likely. 

Dedicated Social Media Strategy

Social channels are becoming increasingly essential for sports brands that are looking to connect with target audiences, as 87% of 13 - 24 year olds use social media to regularly consume sports related content, according to The Whistle Sports Network. 

While there’s no singular best social media engagement strategy, a comprehensive package of audience targeting and optimization allow brands and sport franchises alike to leverage their understanding of consumer mindsets to increase engagement and awareness. For instance, using tracking pixels and lookalike audiences, The Kansas City Chiefs sold $80,000 of combined team merchandise and ticket sales between last Black Friday and Cyber Monday, attributable to a Facebook ad campaign that maximized ad spend by more efficiently reaching the right audiences. Meanwhile, The San Jose Sharks found that video outperforms other channels from an engagement perspective and utilized Facebook Live for a 33X return on ad spend for their SharkPaks ticket packages.  

Unification Equals Clarification 

One of the biggest challenges in sports marketing is creating a holistic picture of the different data sets being collected. An omni-channel landscape allows franchises to track and understand fan behavior across multiple consumer touch-points, effectively tailoring marketing strategies to increase engagement and ticket sales. 

For brands, having all their audience data unified under one platform makes it much easier to actually access the data they’re collecting and make better informed, analytics-driven campaign strategy decisions. 

With all of these solutions, if it’s taking advantage of beacon technology to reach nearby customers, locking down the right social media strategy or centralizing customer information and minimizing data loss or redundancy; the overarching theme is winning organizations are spending just as much time analyzing consumer mindset as analyzing players. Adapting new technologies will lead to a deeper understanding of audiences, offer a more immediate means of connection, and is essential in drawing up a successful game plan, both in the context of selling sports tickets and around any type of brand marketing outreach.

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