Sports Marketing & Predictive Analytics: A Match Made in Heaven (or Iowa)

By February 29, 2012 Analytics One Comment

In their youth, odds are that today’s professional athletes enjoyed the same sports they now are paid to play, only in local parks with friends. They likely woke up on weekends and went out to the closest park, field, rink or court in search of a game. That’s exactly what it was to them—a game.

When sports are more than a game

But that’s before they became professionals. Sports is also a big business that involves many groups—from the owners to the athletes all the way down to the spectators, and in their own way, even people who try to ignore the game play a role. Like in any business, applying predictive analytics—using data to determine how people are going to react to a given stimulus—can enable smarter decisions.

The reasons a team drafts a certain player are typically obvious: to fill a need (or needs). And the reason teams pick certain logos, colors, fonts, advertising campaigns, etc. is actually the same exact reason — to fill a (marketing) need. Research data tell businesses everything they need to know about their clientele. And the more data a business has, the more successful marketing campaigns are likely to be.

Start with goals

If the goal of a team is to boost attendance at its games, it’s going to be more likely to reach that goal if it knows how to entice its customers: the fans. Sometimes it’s a matter of advertising in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it’s a matter of appealing to their sense of community, team pride or even patriotism. And sometimes it’s just plain bribery with promotional giveaways and the like. The more the team knows about its potential customers, the more likely it will be to entice them to come to a game or match … or to become season-ticket holders.

Of course, having a winning team helps. A winning team with an ugly logo, mismatched colors and no giveaways might still entice fans. But putting together a winning team can be very expensive and time-consuming. Not every team can be a contender every year. The cruel irony, of course, is that without the wins, it’s hard to make money without good marketing, which brings predictive analytics back into play.

If the goal is to fill the stands, the first step might actually be new uniforms. Many teams have tried this strategy with great success. A new logo leads to merchandise sales, which leads to chatter in the community, leading to increased interest in the team, followed by a bump in ticket sales, confidence in the locker room and, finally, wins. Crazy as it may sound, it has worked time and again.

Using your data: Going next-level

And once you’ve got people coming to the ballpark, field, rink or court, you can tweak your strategy as needed. Predictive analytics may tell you that a Tuesday home game requires giveaways and a Saturday afternoon game sees higher attendance with family-themed activities, while a Friday night game needs neither of those, for example.

Knowledge is and always has been a great power. And the better a business knows its potential customers, the more likely that business will be to turn that potential customer into a lifelong fan.

Learn more

If you’re interested, read more about Fathom’s approach to predictive analytics:

About Jonathan Levey

Jonathan Levey is an online marketing specialist with extensive experience in local search and mobile website design and development. He has helped create highly functional mobile websites for companies in the healthcare, technology, and manufacturing industries, including e-commerce-ready platforms. A graduate of Indiana University, he majored in sport marketing and minored in business. Prior to joining Fathom, Jonathan served as Director of Promotions for the Lake County Captains, a Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and oversaw the website and social media. He currently serves on the board of trustees for the Business Careers in Entertainment Association and enjoys sports, watching movies, and traveling.

One Comment

  • Stephen says:

    Very interesting article. I agree that trying to understand your customers first or the fans is the key to winning in business.

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