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Case Studies: Three Examples of CRM and Ticketing Best Practice

Customer relationship management (CRM) has gone from being an embarrassment to a significant opportunity in sport as these three case studies – Cricket, Bowling and Soccer – show very clearly.

Case Study 1: English Cricket

Earlier this year, the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) sent out an e-mail to its fans. It cost a little over £500 to create in terms of research, PR and manpower, but within 48 hours, it had created more than £1 million in ticket revenue for cricket events this summer.

This was the example Steve Elworthy, the ECB’s managing director of global events and marketing, gave at last month’s Beyond CRM Forum in London, hosted by Green4solutions, when asked about the value of CRM to the organisation.

“We are looking at our customers in a completely different way now,” he said. “We want to know exactly how our customers are consuming their cricketing data, and when you see a £500 e-mail bring in more than £1 million in revenue, it’s easy to understand the importance of it.”

Last year, the ECB surveyed 25,000 people to find out how to improve its relationship with cricket fans. The ‘Play, Attend, Follow’ scheme was devised, which is geared towards encouraging fans to be involved with every part of the ECB’s communication platforms – including Twitter (currently around 137,000 followers) and Facebook (615,000 fans).

One of the biggest success stories for Elworthy’s team has been to strengthen their CRM through its Twelfth Man group, an online community for more than 150,000 England fans.

“Twelfth Man is our central hub and a great way to retain fans,” said Elworthy. “It’s free to register, and you get exclusive content and booking priority.”

Through online communities like Twelfth Man, the ECB’s targeted offerings to its community have achieved tangible results. For example, the Investec Ashes Interactive Campaign invited fans to win tickets to this winter’s series in Australia by picking out cricketing terms from an image on Twitter using the #whatzat hashtag.

“Cricket tends to be fairly geeky from a stats point of view, and we generated around 20,000 new pieces of CRM data from the Investec Ashes campaign,” said Elworthy. “There is genuine value right there.”

Case Study 2: Bowling in the UK

To get your customer to stay with you, you have to know how to talk to them. Steve Burns, managing director of The Original Bowling Company, the UK’s largest bowling provider, saw a huge impact from his company’s CRM strategy once it started targeting its customers’ egos.

Old-fashioned, formal e-mails offering bog-standard discounts were replaced with the ‘Know Your Scorecard’ approach, where existing customers could look back on their performances and, more importantly, see how they measured up against their friends.

“We engaged with customers in a language they wanted to hear – coupling a discount offer with a bowling scorecard summary – so they could compare themselves to their mates,” Burns told delegates at the Beyond CRM forum.

Burns said CRM has been a huge benefit to his organisation over the past couple of years, particularly given the nature of tenpin bowling as an occasional activity that many people enjoy: “Our CRM data showed how infrequent people were going bowling, so we started offering discounts on the e-comms, so they would get 50 per cent off if they returned within 14 days, a smaller discount if within the month, and so on.”

The Original Bowling Company operates 44 UK venues. When it trialed a new CRM strategy in 2010, it picked 10 venues and immediately saw an impact on total revenue, which increased from a little over £65 million to just under £69 million in a 12-month period. 

Burns said the new CRM strategy also made day-to-day business more efficient. A dedicated online portal was created, where existing customers could log onto a Facebook page or Twitter feed and exchange personalised information to improve their experience when they arrive at venues.

“You can imagine the amount of time it takes when a mum arrives with a party of 15 kids and the guy behind the desk asks ‘what size shoe is each child?’ Under the new portal, we can send out an invite and ask in advance,” he said.

Case Study 3: Seattle Sounders MLS

Loyalty programmes have traditionally been a tough sell in the CRM market, with customers growing sick of their wallets bursting with discount cards that become a burden after the first purchase. The answer, according to Bart Wiley, vice-president of business operations at MLS (Major League Soccer) side Seattle Sounders, is to constantly evolve your offering from money-can’t-buy experiences to good old-fashioned discounts on food and beverages in the stadium.

Wiley’s key goal was to get fans into the ground early, and get them spending their money as soon as they get in, with gates opening 90 minutes before kick-off. 

“Since we began our loyalty programme last year, we have noticed a $17,000 uptake in food and beverage takings an hour after the gates are opened. Last year, we took $30,000 in that first hour, now it is closer to $47,000,” said Wiley.

As part of the loyalty programme, the Sounders have convinced 25,000 of their regular match-goers to adopt a Sounders’ Match Pass, which can be used to swipe into the ground and also to purchase food, drink and merchandise. “Everyone’s sick of loyalty cards in their wallet, but as we keep on improving our offers, we have noticed a 13 per cent increase in the number of our fans using their Match Pass in the last 12 months,” Wiley said.

“Our data tells us that fans want to pay less for a beer, so we know that if we offer a beer for $5 instead of $9 if they use their loyalty card an hour before kick-off, then they are going to do that.”

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