Personalization shoots and scores! Connecting online and in-venue experiences in sports

22 Jun 2017 | By Perry Solomon

Sports teams and the venues where they play are desperately seeking ways to attract Millennial audiences. Baby boomers, who have formed the core audience of live sports attendance for years, are aging, leading to a major marketing push to get younger audiences into stadiums for live sports. These younger audiences have different expectations – driven by their expectation of connectivity, convenience and control over how they spend their entertainment dollars. According to a recent survey, 56% of Millennials who attend live sports said they are looking for “more than just a game”, expecting an experience which understands their interests and preferences and offers choices to make the game more exciting and social. And, personalization provides the way to make those pre- and post-game experiences more engaging and build customer loyalty.


Venues are bringing technology (and data) to the game 

In response to changing attendance demographics and preferences, sports and entertainment venues are investing in technology, services and expertise to allow them to innovate in how they serve their customers before, during and after the game itself. These investment areas include: WiFi (to enable high-bandwidth connectivity); beacon technology (to provide awareness of presence, location and proximity); connected high-res displays (to provide interactive, engaging displays); venue ERP systems (to balance supply and demand); analytics/data software (to aggregate, process and make decisions); retail POS systems (to leverage data to enable offers on-site); and in-venue scanning systems (to facilitate ticket collection, merchandise sales, and customer service).

These investments enable the tremendous growth of user data, and the hardware and software systems to enable real-time collection, processing and actioning of that data. However, for these venues, the relationship with the user often begins when he or she enters the venue and isn’t refreshed until the fan returns for a future event; as a result, there is a missed opportunity to connect online and in-venue behavior to enhance that in-venue user experience and to create a 360-degree view of the customer and their passions.  Connecting these data sets can enable creating a single view of the customer and leads to personalized user experiences in-venue and across the digital channels used by fans to build, maintain and share their passion for their favorite teams and players.


Building a real-time, actionable user profile

A key element to enable personalization is a unique user profile, updated in real-time as the user interacts with content and experiences before, during and after the game. Through the creation of individual user profiles, which enable the synching of online user data from visits to affiliated websites and apps, and offline and in-venue data from ticketing, CRM and ERP systems, teams and venues can understand where the fan’s passions lie, what behavior drives attendance at live events, how to drive deeper engagement among fans in-venue, and to ensure that memories of the fan’s experience at the game is incorporated into marketing activities with the fan for the team and its sponsors long after the final buzzer has sounded.


Personalization can be a game-changer for sports teams 

Personalization can increase revenues by converting attendees into a team’s most passionate fans. Here are a just a few examples:

A Nets season-ticket holder at the Barclays Center, when entering the arena and firing up the venue app, is recognized, and by leveraging knowledge of what articles, highlights and statistics the fan has read and viewed on the YES Network website, a press conference video he watched through the Fox Sports GO app, and the Nets team site, these can be used to create personalized entertainment packages for consumption in the venue app, as well as offers for merchandise and opportunities to meet the players post-game (a special for the most loyal fans).

A casual fan arriving at MSG to watch the New York Liberty may have also visited the team’s website to find out more about her favorite player and watched a past game and some “behind the scenes” video of her favorite player on the MSG GO App. By having a single view of this fan and her interests, MSG can send an alert for a special game-day jersey offer and send highlights of her favorite player, which she can then post to her social media accounts. If she has to leave the game early, as she is walking out the door, she can be prompted to get highlights delivered when the game ends and a chance to buy discounted tickets when she next visits the team website.

And, for a first-time fan for a Washington Capitals game at the Verizon Center, attending for the first time with a group of friends sitting in a lounge area, a Happy Hour special and some funny video clips to share with her friends during the first intermission, can be offered, and a series of follow-up reminders in the weeks that follow with pictures and highlights from her first trip, can lead to additional ticket purchases and a chance to buy a jersey from her new favorite player, Alex Ovechkin.  


Personalization across the sports ecosystem

Personalization enables opportunities across the sports ecosystem. For teams, with their in-venue apps, personalization enables the bringing together of data about fans’ interests and in-venue behavior to deliver complementary content, statistics, concession and merchandise offers, follow-up after event attendance. For regional sports networks, featuring a strong local presence and broadcasting games for multiple teams in a market, personalization presents opportunities to connect with fans during game, and deliver personalized highlights and data, based on user interests on media platforms. For sponsors, personalization allows marketers to connect in-venue but also after the event, based on knowledge of fans’ passion for sports and receptivity to marketing messages. And, for ticketing partners, especially as teams start to white-label ticketing applications, there is the opportunity to create personalized offers, combining tickets, merchandise, and access to exclusive events (practices, player events, beyond games themselves).

To find out more about opportunities like these, come talk with the Cxense team at the Hashtag Sports conference June 26-28 in New York City.


About the author

Perry Solomon is VP of Strategic Development at Cxense. He has extensive experience launching and scaling businesses at Time Inc. and News Corporation, and as an outside partner and advisor to media, entertainment and communications companies including Comcast, Disney, Hearst, News Corporation, Reed Elsevier, Time Warner and Viacom.

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