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CRM and the world of sports

I read the SearchCRM.com article It's a brand new ball game, and would greatly appreciate any advice or information you have with this area. I currently have the opportunity to put together a CRM proposal for the Orlando Magic and was wondering what would be the best route to approach this. I understand that CRM is a great tool for sports teams to take advantage of but it has yet to make the growth into this industry. The focus of the CRM I am considering is for the sales and marketing side of the Orlando Magic office.
Sports is almost unique in the CRM world because it is one of the few venues that actually engenders loyalty from its customers in the true sense of the word. A UK firm did a study that found that 83 percent of fans stay loyal to the first team they rooted for. I can attest to that having been a diehard Yankees fan since I was six - suffice to say a LONG time ago! That means that you both have to think through how to solidify and enhance that loyalty, but don't fall for the trap that sports teams often fall into - which is that the only customers they have are the fans. That isn't true. Fan loyalty programs, while critical to a sports strategy are only part of a CRM strategy. For example, the Norwich City Canaries, a UK football team, realized after they did a significant amount of data capture on their casual fans and their seasons ticketholders, that they have multiple customer segments - the fans of course were one group. But they had corporate customers - the kind who bought skyboxes for business purposes; they had catering customers - those who used the facilities for weddings, parties, etc. but weren't necessarily big Canaries rooters; and finally merchandise customers who might or might not be fans - like a grandparent who bought a Canaries sweatshirt for their grandkid but know nothing about the Canaries or football - UK style. There are many other customer segments - e.g. the media who provide such lucrative revenue sources; agents, the players, the vendors and suppliers, business partners etc. So be careful in your studies on the customer. Be alert to who they are and don't be generic.
Additionally, I would remember that the competition for most sports teams is geography, not other teams in other cities. For example, the Arizona State Sun Devils who have a great CRM program have to compete with the University of Arizona, Phoenix Suns, and Arizona Diamondbacks among others for Arizona sports dollars which most people see as discretionary income. They don't compete off the field with other PAC-10 teams. On the field, of course, its another matter. But remember what might sound like a truism. What goes on on the field is entirely distinct from what goes on off the field. All the implications are critical to CRM as a business initiative. Finally, characteristically, you have to strip the aura of a sports team for the purposes of a proposal. As much as I love the Yankees and see them as a huge entity, much of that IS Aura and Mystique. They are a $280,000,000 enterprise, smaller than many of my clients. They may feel divine to me but they are a midsized company in a big venue of other midsized companies. They need to be thought of as that midsized company. I hope that helps.
This was last published in March 2004

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