Detroit Pistons: Using Data To Give Your Emails (And Planning) An Advantage

The Challenge

A National Basketball Association game is fast-paced, with the score changing rapidly over 48 minutes of actual play. How, then, to maintain an email program that would have to be updated many times during games to make it as current as possible? Jason Scott, director of eMarketing with the Detroit Pistons, was tasked with finding out.

The Execution

Working with Movable Ink, the brand tapped into an application programming interface (API) to build out the framework. Emails pull from the website. On average, the team creates six videos per game throughout the year. With 41 games, that’s a lot of content. The website is always being updated. 

Scott said he and the other person working in his department can build an email in 5 to 10 minutes. “And we don’t have to proof anything,” he told MediaPost’s Email Insider Summit in April 2018, since it has already been proofed by being on the website. (Here’s a link to the video presentation.)

When someone opens the email, no matter if it is right after it was sent or weeks later, the content will always been the most recent, so they will always see the latest news, even mid-game. On the day the Pistons traded two players for Blake Griffin, the team had a game to play that night. All creative had to be updated, from the opening video to all 1,200 monitors in the arena, all the flyers, graphics had to be reprinted and the email had to be updated. Last on the list for priority was email. 

But all the players listed in the email are generated from the NBA’s API, so those two players’ names were already taken off team, and Griffin was added. “I didn’t have to do anything, which was great, Scott said.

After the email is opened, it puts out an image request, and an image is generated based on things like CRM data, the website or API.

Scott said anything the NBA Game Day person is tracking, his team leverages. The Game Day email goes out to all ticket holders and is one of the most highly engaged. There are a lot of reopens, which is attributed to people leaving the game early but wanting to see the latest score. The Google Map in the email shows live traffic going to and from the game. It is one of the most clicked-on links of any email and accounts for nearly 28% of all clicks in the email. It also displays the next three home games with a link to buy tickets, thereby generating revenue.

When a person signs up to receive Pistons emails, they get an image of a jersey with their last name on it and a “welcome to the team.” As the first touch point, it has led to a 14.2% decrease in the number of unsubscribes. It also gets a lot of social praise. A next step, Scott said, will be to get people to buy actual jerseys with their names on them.

One of the newer emails involves B2B prospecting. Since every season ticket holder has to go through the sales team, it likes to wine and dine those people. But how to know when someone is available? The email team created a trigger-based invitation that would work for about a month out. As someone progresses through the funnel or a rep feels they are ready to be invited out, they can add them to the campaign and it will trigger out, updating games in real time. The brand saw an almost 8% lift in the number of RSVPs.

The Results

  • Time saved per email is 2+ hours (88 hours for the season)
  • 47.6% lift in mobile engagement time
  • 16.4% lift in ticket revenue
  • 14.7% lift in clicks
  • 6.7% lift in click-to-open rate
  • 17% lift in conversion rate in the merch email
  • 14.2% decrease in unsubscribes
  • 7.7% lift in RSVPs to prospecting email
  • Minimized photo, logo, statistics errors
Key Takeaways
  • Personalization keeps email targets engaged.
  • Program emails to highlight the most current news.

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