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How to Drive Fan Engagement and Revenue by Activating Fan Data

Six steps to getting more value out of your fan data system.

Many of our clients in the sports and entertainment industry want to better understand their fans so they can drive fan engagement and ultimately grow revenue. And yet, the reality of achieving this goal is often far more challenging than they anticipate. In this article, we’ll share some of the top data challenges organizations face as they try to wrangle all their fan data and develop a holistic view of their fans. Then we’ll walk through 6 steps businesses can take to activate their fan data and drive fan engagement.

Top data challenges for sports and entertainment organizations

Too much data

Along with the growth of digital platforms and technology vendors comes an exponential increase in the amount of data available. The question is not “Can I get access to data?” but instead “What data should I be accessing?” One NFL team we work with had more than two dozen data sources it needed to ingest into its data warehouse.

Common data sources we see with our clients in sports and entertainment include:

  • Ticketing platform for Ticketing Data
  • Salesforce for CRM data
  • Marketo and Google Analytics for marketing data
  • POS data from sources such as Fanatics
  • Custom league sources

While some data sources have common connectors, organizations usually still need to build some custom connectors, plus create a common table across all these data sets to identify individual fans. And this process is never complete; as organizations grow and change, they will always acquire additional datasets they need to ingest and model to continue to understand fan behavior and growth.

No single source of truth

As more technology vendors appear, so too does the number of fan data silos. Teams want a holistic view of their data for timely insights into their fans but are often stuck cobbling together data and insights from multiple platforms.

Lack of resources and skills

Sports and entertainment organizations are often thought of as big brands—yet behind the scenes, they are small businesses with small teams and even smaller budgets. Oftentimes just one or two people compose the data team, and they often lack the technical expertise and/or bandwidth to model, ingest, and manage data from various sources.

One size fits all

Many organizations are guilty of the “one size fits all” paradigm where all fans and contacts receive the same content and messaging. Yes, this approach is better than no marketing at all; however once an organization begins to segment its fans and personalize its communications, it will typically see far better results.

Data trust

All these challenges lead to diminishing trust in an organization’s data. This, in turn, leads to teams creating additional data silos and conducting their own analysis on spreadsheets, further exacerbating the overall data and performance challenges.

6 Steps to Activating Your Fan Data and Driving Fan Engagement

While there are no silver bullets to easily solve these challenges, there are several steps organizations can take to move the needle in the right direction.

Step 1: Build a modern data stack.

First and foremost, it’s critical to eliminate data siloes and develop a single source of truth. Multiple data consumers can then access this single source of truth, thereby improving efficiencies and decision-making across the organization. Spaulding Ridge has helped a number of sports and entertainment organizations build a modern data stack that gives them full control and visibility into their data while centralizing it and making it more manageable. A modern data stack is comprised of a number of tools to help you ingest, organize, and activate data.

  • Ingest your data: We typically work with tools such as Fivetran or Matillion to help organizations ingest or integrate their data from source to target destination. These tools have various data source connectors that are designed to simplify the data integration process and move data from the source into a target destination, such as Snowflake.
  • Organize your data: Once data has been replicated within the target destination (i.e. Snowflake), we then work with data orchestration and data transformation tools like Matillion and dbt to help orchestrate inbound and outbound data flows, as well as create a common data model that data reporting and visualization tools such as Sigma can leverage. We also work with internal teams to understand their business goals and reporting requirements to ensure they are measuring and reporting on the right data.
  • Activate your data: Once the appropriate data models and schemas have been created, this is where an activation tool takes over, enabling teams to easily activate their data to better understand their customers. Some common use cases include the ability to create fan segments, measure ROI, and amplify and drive fan engagement efforts via social channels. The next section covers this in more detail.
Step 2: Segment your customers and prospects.

Segmenting your fans will allow you to better understand how various fans interact with your marketing campaigns and communications. This will allow you to better align your overall marketing strategy with the segments that are performing best and develop new strategies to manage underperforming segments that are still important to the organization.

In our work with clients, we often accomplish segmentation with tools like CensusHightouch, and GrowthLoop. These tools integrate easily with your cloud data warehouse and provide an easy-to-use interface. You’ll not only be able to create custom segments but can also push them back into CRM systems like Salesforce. You can then leverage these customer segments within your source applications for future marketing purposes.

Step 3: Personalize your communications and activities.

Today’s fans have come to expect a personal touch in every aspect of their experience on game day and beyond. Once you’ve established segments, you’ll be able to personalize your marketing strategies and create content and tactics that will better resonate with the needs and wants of that segment. Use your fan knowledge in combination with artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) that can prescribe next best actions. You’ll be able to meet fans where they are with innovative offers and solutions and anticipate exactly what they need at the moment.

Step 4: Modernize your marketing analytics.

Yes, all marketing software tools have some built-in analytic tools to support marketing specific reporting and campaign metrics. However, if an organization really wants to understand the impact of marketing upon its business and growth, it needs to follow a more modern and advanced strategy. This includes creating a single source of truth of all your marketing and customer data within a data warehouse like Snowflake and then leveraging a business reporting and visualization tool like Sigma.

As a key component of the modern data stack, Sigma not only provides the ability to create reports and dashboards directly from Snowflake data, but also provides an easy-to-use interface that allows data analysts and other data consumers the ability to create their own reports, promoting the democratization of data across the organization.

Step 5: Improve fan loyalty and year-round engagement.

It is often easier to grow revenue from existing fans than it is to generate revenue from brand new contacts. Understanding the spending habits and loyalty level of existing fans is a key component to accelerating overall revenue growth. For example, how do you market to season ticket holders to keep them engaged through the offseason? For the most loyal fans, their favorite sports team isn’t just a game-day experience; it’s a part of their life. Being able to identify these people and offer unique experiences and products is a highly effective way to drive revenue year-round.

Step 6: Develop a Fan Golden Record

One typical personalization use case in the sports and entertainment world is the creation of a Fan Golden Record, which involves developing a master customer record with aggregated fan data from across the organization. This allows teams to understand their fans more holistically and create personalized content and promotions to further drive fan engagement. Creating this golden record is one of the best ways to help your team understand your fan base, drive fan engagement, and increase revenue. Explore our collection of resources on data analytics in sports for more strategies and insights.

Using fan data effectively can transform your organization.

Spaulding Ridge has worked with organizations like the Minnesota Vikings, the San Francisco Giants, and many other professional sports organizations to develop fan data solutions, and we can help you get your systems aligned for greater impact. Our team of data engineers and analytics experts can help you build the data pipelines, models, and strategy you need for long-term success. Contact us for a free strategy session to get started.