Team/Fan Relationships – User Experience as a Function of Sports Marketing

Yesterday I came across a Twitter exchange between several season ticket holders for one NHL team. It started as one Twitter user expressing their displeasure. They had not heard from a new STH account rep after their former rep had left the organization. Several comments later, it became obvious that this was not an isolated incident. The team’s season ticket holders largely feel that there are few to no advantages of being seat holders, not even exclusively related to the service from their reps. Later the same day, my best friend informed me that she would not be renewing her tickets next season (yes, to the same team). She had concluded that the investment she was making was no longer worth the opportunity cost of using that same money for travel.

This set of events presents a vivid example of a critical mistake that can be made by sports marketing efforts in regards to their most devoted fans; a lack of focus on marketing to existing season ticket holders. Let’s take a look at this in the context of User Experience Design (UX for short). There is much to say about UX, but for now, I’ll focus on the UX elements in a marketing plan and how they apply to team retention of STHs. 

1.    Demographic data: Teams cannot lose focus of the fact that, if a fan chooses to become a plan holder, they are part of a sub-demographic of fans that want more out of their game-going experience. Failing to give them perks and service sufficiently higher than the average game-goer ignores this.

2.    Customer Relationship: This is an extremely crucial aspect to maintain in a team’s interactions with plan holders. STHs are the people most likely to go out and bring new people to games, creating more fans… IF they are made to feel like valued partners by the team. In the above example, we see that neglecting this relationship has tangible consequences.

3.    Competitive Analysis: As an entertainment business, teams sell experiences, as do many other industries, including the travel industry. Ticket holders make a considerable investment each year because they have a high appreciation for the game-going experience. But being an STH in and of itself has to be a positive experience beyond the games if it is to keep them satisfied. If it’s not, the team may lose them as a ticket holder to a competitor selling an experience with more value to them. 

4.    Matches Core Messaging: What is the type of message marketed by sports teams to attract fans? They often include excitement and being part of a community. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not lose focus on the fact that season ticket holders still need to be marketed to. In this industry, the same messages that are marketed to get fans in the door need to be taken to a more involved level to keep them. Sure, some sports fans will remain plan holders as long as the average price per game remains competitive in comparison to single ticket sales. But for the majority of them, teams need to invest marketing efforts in the form of exclusive experiences and excellent service. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT neglect your existing season ticket holders.

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