Vancouver customer intelligence software company Vision Critical has launched a new solution called the Sports Fan Council, designed to help its sports business clients glean insight from fans to increase engagement and improve the offering that sports organizations give to fans.
Vision Critical already counts among its clients the New York Knicks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Australian Football League, so the new sports-specific platform seems custom-designed for them.
“Sports teams face very different business challenges than other industries,” said Kobi Ofir, chief technology officer of Vision Critical. “We designed Sports Fan Council so that teams can strengthen fan engagement, optimize ticketing offers, increase the value of corporate and media partnerships and leverage fan creativity to generate new merchandise opportunities—all by asking precise questions and performing valuable analysis that will drive better business decisions and results.”
The Sports Fan Council emphasizes fan engagement strategies like quizzes and surveys, and so also provides sports organizations a means of gathering input from fans and learning more meaningful strategies for fan engagement.
Savvy marketers quickly realize that engagement is a two-way street. Rather than just using the platform as a listening device, sports organizations can tap into fan creativity, which might propose radical, commonsense changes to ticketing systems, merchandising, design and outreach strategies.
The sports market, according to Price Waterhouse Coopers, was worth $56.9 billion in 2013 and is forecast to grow to $70.7 billion by 2018. Gate revenues for live events remains the largest segment of that revenue pie, but media rights revenues have been slowly and steadily closing the gap in recent years.
Obviously, though, the sports business is facing the same set of challenges that mainstream media is currently struggling with, namely how to retain market share which is constantly being eroded by customers increasingly becoming comfortable in a multi-channel, non-broadcast world, consuming media when, where and how they feel like it.
Sports enjoys an advantage that broadcast TV and newspapers don’t, however, which is its live nature.
Whenever futurists float the argument for cord-cutting, suggesting that mass defection from cable TV is imminent, and that it’s happening already, their enthusiasm is always frustrated by the same obstacle: sports.
As long as people watch sports on a screen, generally a TV, cutting the cord will be difficult. It’s an easy choice for most people to choose an over-the-top service like Netflix when it comes to scripted drama, but you’ll have to pry the remote control from the cold, dead hands of most TV sports viewers before they join the tech revolution, because cable TV remains the only place they can get their fix for the foreseeable future.
“In the past year, the Knicks Fan Panel has been used to better understand everything from our fans’ music preferences and the types of entertainment that drive in-game engagement, to the kinds of food and beverages they want served at games,” said Steve Sherman, vice-president of consumer insights for the Madison Square Garden company.
If understanding fans’ music preferences seems like a trivial detail, think again.
Listening to the music choices at sports events, you get the impression that music stopped in 1991. It’s a great soundtrack if you’re a white dude who graduated high school in the late 1980s. For everyone else, not so much.
Recently, P.K. Subban, defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens mentioned that he wouldn’t mind hearing “a little old-school Michael Jackson” in NHL stadiums.
Hopefully, sports clubs listening to their fans might finally change at least that.