OP-ED: DATA KEY DRIVER TO SPORT'S SOCIAL FAN-ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY

13 Jan 2022

By: Sport Industry Group

Data ownership is leading rights holders to discover new ways to engage with fans. Sam Windridge, Head of Commercial Development for the cloud software provider CM.com, discusses how the customer data platform (CDP) helps sports properties sell tickets to fans on the social media platforms “they know and love”.


How to protect and then monetise the digital fan relationship is a constant challenge for professional sport’s teams – especially now that more are deciding to take ownership of the millions of fan data points collated during and between live sporting events.  

The role of mobile ticketing and ecommerce has no doubt galvanised the sporting experience, not only for the paying customer but also the rights holder’s bottom line and the way clubs and leagues market themselves to the masses. 

However, while the digital transformation is helping the rights holder to personalise engagement, from the casual viewer to the avid superfan, managing every customer transaction can be hard to navigate without the appropriate infrastructure. 

The role of the traditional customer relations management (CRM) model is changing. The digitisation of sports content is transforming first-party data into a robust customer portfolio which helps the rights holder to segment customer experiences.  

By understanding fan behaviour at a granular level, customer data grants sport with the tools to understand what attracts each individual fan to their venue and acts as a guidepost for bringing them along the digital customer journey.  

Sam Windridge, head of commercial development in UK and Ireland for the cloud software provider CM.com, says that that the integration of a customer data platform (CDP), tailored to the sports club or organisation, goes further in automating the collation of customer data – whether through a direct or indirect customer relationship – and helps make the process much less labour intensive with a greater return on investment. 

“The fundamental differences between a CDP and CRM model, while they are both driven by data, the success of a customer relationship-based programme depends on the collection of first-party data within your business, whereas a CDP works with millions of second and third-party data points to automate the fan experience in real-time,” Windridge explains.  

“Although invaluable to understanding the fan experiences, you can’t physically update that many data points in a meaningful way without a CDP. What a CDP does is automate first-party data whenever someone, for example, scans a ticket to get into a ground, or buys a beer from the retail unit, or messages a chatbot via the mobile app to ask about the upcoming event.  

“For as long as mobile has played a part in the fan experience, all those interactions are sitting in the background and providing rich, clean data that, with the CDP, will help create hyper-personalised messaging for the customer for future events.” 

By taking ownership of customer data in this way, CM.com’s partners are taking the burden of the front-office marketing team to decide how and where to segment their customer-base. With a CRM system, Windridge says the customer relationship is “only as good as the data that you put in”, whereas a CDP collects “rich, applicable data” from all areas of the business through a single, automated process. 

“With multiple touchpoints, every piece of data is current,” Windridge continues. “So, if we were to integrate an automated CDP into the data-collection process, you can begin to decipher what messaging you should send to someone based on their recent experience and activity.  

“We can be quite modular in our approach to different sports teams and properties. As an end-to-end SaaS management solution, we make it very easy for organisations up and down the sporting pyramid to integrate a CDP into their operation.” 

Furthermore, CM.com also works to integrate ticketing into a club’s mobile messaging to fans, including a “complete ticketing journey” through the mobile and social communications tools utilised by the rights holder. 

As a result, Windridge says that sports teams and bodies with a greater source of fan data, including a real-time understanding of how and why they engage with their organisation, are beginning to engage with younger generations directly via the social platforms they “know and love”, rather than leveraging digital media to simply advertise to audiences en masse. 

“If we were to look at skateboarding or BMX, for example, they are more appealing to a younger demographic no longer searching for the ticketing page online,” Windridge expands. “Nowadays, the club and fan can message one another directly via Whatsapp and that in itself provides a much more rich and appealing experience to the younger audience. 

“Go further still, by enabling the sale of tickets via the platforms we know that the fan is using, that creates an interesting opportunity for the sports rights holder operating under a CDP as it not only enables them to market their events via social media but also sell tickets to their events wherever they customers are most active online.” 

And this is changing how sports properties view the fan more generally. While direct-to-consumer (DTC) platforms are giving spectators a stronger voice on the decisions made by the clubs and sports they follow, two-way engagement of this kind also present the rights holder itself a clearer idea of what the fan wants from their sporting experience.  

From the purchase of tickets and merchandise to the types of marketing materials they receive from the club, a CDP also informs the organisation how and when their fans want to receive information about upcoming events. 

“While the communication flow from the club to the fan has always been, and is still, very much one-way broadcast or post announcements, where it’s changing is that people can answer back and offer an advocated opinion to the property,” Windridge continues. “The rights holder now has a decision to either sit back and monitor fan sentiment and reaction, or to jump in there and ask the fans what they want on a one-to-one basis.  

“If you then deploy a CDP that not only provides automated fan data but markets directly to the fan based on their activity, you are therefore able to harvest deeper engagement to converse with people and then work out the best way to monetise that conversation.” 

VisitCM.comto find out more about the company's end-to-end communications solutions. You can also read up on fan engagement strategies via theSport Industry Daily newsletter.