Kiwi sports clubs run hard with data

Published on the 25/08/2022 | Written by Jake Leong

How modern clubs are revolutionising fan engagement…

While tourism and hospitality stole the business headlines, sport has been a sector among the worst impacted by the pandemic, not only in New Zealand but across the globe. Matches have been cancelled, postponed and even forced to be played behind closed doors. Now, with vaccinations making COVID lockdowns a thing of the past, sport has kicked off with great vigour – but, sadly, a lot of empty seats.

A survey by the Australian Sports Foundation (ASF) found that 43 percent of polled sports clubs had seen a decrease in participation numbers, and a similar decline in volunteering. While it’s clear the pandemic has played a role in this decline to an extent, it seems there’s a deeper-lying issue — fans aren’t feeling a real connection to their clubs.

Pre-pandemic, attending sporting events was a habitual commitment. Being a member of the Warriors or your local Super Rugby franchise meant you’d almost automatically turn up each week at matches to support your team. However, COVID turned these usual routines upside down. Naturally, it will take some time for them to bounce back.

But left unchecked for too long, this lack of engagement, coupled with skyrocketing ticket prices, limited membership incentives and fan participation could greatly diminish along with their love of the sport. To respond, sports clubs are diving deeper into their data to connect with the community and reignite the passion in their fan bases.

Kicking data goals

The most important ingredient of any sports club is its members. Clubs can’t rely on prospective members to simply show up and be converted to paid up subscriptions. They need to employ strategic marketing techniques to attract new members and retain the ones they have, ensuring everyone is receiving the services they expect.

To create a relationship that goes beyond game day, sports clubs must connect with fans on the right channels at the right time. With data shared from fans directly to their clubs and leagues, known as zero-party data, it’s possible to know what makes fans tick as well as the best ways to engage with them.

How do sports clubs encourage fans to share more of their personal information? You know, the “good stuff” that goes beyond names and email addresses, from who they’re attending matches with and how far they travel to watch their team. It’s all about value exchange.

Giving fans what they want

Savvy sports clubs know that it doesn’t always have to be a discount or a red-letter prize that entices fans to share their details. Access to exclusive content and community initiatives can also be the catalyst for zero-party data collection.

According to Cheetah Digital’s report for sports teams and associations, 55 percent of fans are willing to share psychographic data points like purchase motivations and product feedback with sports brands. Even more, half of all fans surveyed say they desire incentives like coupons, loyalty points or exclusive access in return for their data.

Give fans what they want, when they want it to turn an “unknown” audience into a “known” audience. “Known” fans offer a lot of potential in the form of direct revenue, partner revenue, and participation – a solid win for sports clubs.

Who is getting it right?

The Australian Open must be commended for its inspiring method of collecting marketing opt-ins. To capture rich and valuable audience data, Yahoo!7’s channel, Seven Sport, teamed up with ANZ to drive engagement amongst tennis fans with a data-centric sweepstakes.

Published to the Seven Sport website, the sweepstakes gave participants a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ask an Australian Open player any question – the ultimate prize for any tennis fan! To get involved, participants were required to submit their name, email address and phone number, and choose their favourite player who they wanted to have answer their question.

The best question of the day was then announced live on air and was answered by the winner’s chosen player.

In New Zealand, the All Blacks rugby team is a standout in the space for the innovative way it collects valuable audience data and marketing opt-ins. In advance of the Rugby World Cup Final, the All Blacks tested its fans using an image of the All Blacks team, asking members to pick where the real match ball was in the shot, out of several options.

To reward fans for their continuous support, those who entered with the correct answer went into a draw to win a poster signed by the entire All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad. On submitting their entry, participants were required to enter their name and email address, providing valuable audience data for future marketing promotions and communications.

Data for the winning edge

Even though Australians and New Zealanders are some of the most enthusiastic fans in the world and sports like rugby, Australian rules football, tennis and cricket have historically drawn massive crowds; if sports clubs don’t keep their eye on the ball, capturing fans’ motivations, intentions and preferences at scale to provide a truly personalised experience, then they’ll lose. The only way a sports club can remain competitive in this new digital era is by understanding its fan base with data.

About the Author
Jake Leong is Strategic Account Executive for cross-channel customer engagement solution provider Cheetah Digital.

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