Sports clubs and federations have become clued into the age of personalising the fan journey, understanding their interests, how they engage with the club and more. To do this requires a lot of data from a lot of touch points.
Sports Alliance helps clubs gather and organise their in-house fan data across multiple platforms to help them achieve their commercial goals through improved relationship marketing so fans can be delivered improved services and experiences.
Founded in 2002, Sports Alliance is an international company in many senses, serving over 140 clubs and federations in multiple sports across three continents.
In this conversation we talked to Nuno Mena who is Sports Alliance’s Territory Manager for Portugal & Latin America to learn about the company and how they serve their clients.
There’s so much intelligence that Sports Alliance does for its clients, please break some of the functions of Sports Alliance?
Nuno Mena: “We help create and organise the data management with our toolkit but I’ll break down our functions: first we help with data gathering which all sports organisations do, either small or big, from hundreds of fans into the millions. They all have data that is usable for commercial and marketing purposes.
“Secondly, with that data sporting organisations can establish personalised, digital relationships with their fans, clients, customers or sponsors. They’re able to create and nurture long term relations with their stakeholders. What we do is we collect and unify the data, we have a multi-channel marketing and CRM platform, but we are not a CRM company in essence. We have a data warehouse, where we collect and store all the data and then we build digital/data-driven journeys for each and every club.
“So if you think from the point-of-view where you subscribe for a newsletter or if you buy season tickets. From that moment, whether it’s the first or tenth time you’ve transacted with a club, we have created a data journey. Knowing about a data journey serves several functions which is knowing about your fans, or about growing commercial outcomes or undertaking a digital transformation.
“We also help create a visual look to all of this data, we have business intelligence tools, we use Tableau as one of our tools. As the process develops, we help build deeper and richer profiles and fan segments, meaning that you not only have transactional content like subscribing to an email, buying a shirt or season ticket, or when a fan visits a stadium. Not just transactional data we also gather behavioural and relational information about supporters specific to each club like their occupation or where they live which is relevant as some fans are match-going fans and some non-attendees.”
So tell me about data driven personalisation that can benefit fans?
NM: “What data driven personalisation means is that you as a fan or supporter will receive campaigns, messages, interactions or offers based on your profile. So you’re not going to be sent pregnancy products if you’re a man for example okay!
“A fan wants a better experience, better offers, feel rewarded and feel important. Let’s say you start by buying a ticket or jersey, on your birthday you could be sent a personalised message, which may give you a discount, or prioritisation for an event or money can’t buy experience, that’s a different offering that the general public doesn’t have. These things can drive fan spending whilst creating an even bigger bond with a club or any other sports organisation.
“We have several examples, let’s use Wolverhampton Wanderers, in the Wolves app they have a section called ‘My Offers.’ It’s basically the place where a company or brand can distribute offers based on a user profile. I can be a Wolves fan, living in Wolverhampton, but the conditions for me to receive or not receive particular offers is based on different criteria: if I have a ticket or if I don’t have a ticket for a match. Another one is if I have a ticket and I live 20 miles away from the stadium, I could get an offer from Uber to get a discounted ride for the match.”
Football leagues across Europe have restarted again but I’m curious about the time between March to roughly the start of June. Has it been an interesting cases of using personalised data during the shutdown caused by the pandemic?
NM: “We have a football club where we implemented a Single Sign On. Basically what a Single Sign On does is it unifies all your digital identities into a single digital asset. If you have the club’s web, ticketing, merchandising, TV, mobile app, it unifies your ID and it creates a unique journey and collects data from all the touchpoints at the same time.
“In Belgium and Netherlands we’ve helped do very good campaigns around season ticket renewals. The one thing that was curious to see was that fans kept engaged, they didn’t care too much about spending. Many fans bought ore renewed season tickets knowing they couldn’t attend any matches, not even certain if they’re going to be able to see a match in the next year.
“We developed as we usually do in those markets a personalised URL, personalised web campaigns where each fan receives a personalised URL to renew their season ticket.
“A very relevant campaign that we did was with the Belgian Pro League champions Club Brugge, where they did a ‘VR Bruges’ Facebook campaign, where they mixed personalisation in terms of the data that they already had and the topic was based around, ‘as we are not able to celebrate our championship physically, let’s celebrate virtually.’ So there was a virtual cup, that people could ‘hold,’ they could share that content with their friends. There was also a commercial part where they could buy a special signed shirt from the team. This activation also prompted fans to renew their season tickets. Ultimately it’s about boosting sales of tickets, merchandise and season ticket renewals. But it also highlighted new fans that were not engaged or known by the club. The lesson is this, don’t abandon your fans, keep them engaged and involved with the club and keep communicating with them.”
What’s next for the Sport Alliance? How does the company expand – new territories, new sporting verticals or products?
NM: “There’s two ways we’re going to grow; first it’s geographically, both North and South America are relevant markets for us to focus on over the coming months. In terms of service and product we are definitely growing and we’re establishing what we call a Global Marketing Network. If a brand wants to do a campaign for Portuguese football fans, they generally go to Facebook, they pay and the money stays inside of the social network. The club, the league, the federation don’t see anything in terms of revenue.
“We manage around 40 million unique records from all the clubs and organisations which is a big commercial asset for the clubs. So leveraging our data lets create a way that brands can engage personally with those fans.
“There’s also sales and media buying agents, the ones that work with the brands and clubs. So it’s basically changing the course of the money to the clubs who are the real owners of the data. Digital is ever growing, it’s a massive touchpoint where we want to grow because if we think about our 40 million records, only two million come from digital. Mobile apps, web, client accounts. So what is happening is that a club may have a million plus followers across its social media channels but they don’t know them individually so they need to be converted into personalised, unique records where they know each one of them. That’s one of our interesting challenges.”