The Numbers Game: Big Data and the Business of Sport | Shaping communications – 10.1 The right content

The process of identifying the type of communication or media content that will attract the attention and enable the engagement of sports fans is another manifestation of the segmentation approach discussed in Chapter 9. Demographics and transactional data will, again, be a starting point, but content segmentation is as much about what consumers like as about what they do or who they are. This means attitudinal data, social media metrics and web browsing become much more important identifiers of preference.

This is arguably the field in which digital data has greatest potential, given the direct relevance of the information being collected to the task in hand – finding out what people like and then giving them more of it – and its comparative ease of collection.

For example, using a cookie and pixel tag strategy, Mississippi State University was able to profile and segment more than 500,000 fans during a single five-week period of the 2014 college football season. It then began tailoring the school’s interactions with them accordingly.

As with other segmentations, targeting content can work on a comparatively simple level as well as through more detailed analysis.

Major League Soccer (MLS) reports success in e-mail marketing through segmenting its recipient base with just two dimensions and serving up one of only two variations of its This Week in MLS newsletter as a result.

The factors that determine the version of the email newsletter a fan receives are how their information was acquired – for example through web registration or a competition entry – and the ways in which they respond to the MLS communications they receive.

The two variations of newsletter then e-mailed out to them are:

• A static version promoting three nationally-broadcast matches, sent to subscribers on whom data is most limited

• A personalised version based on the league’s knowledge of the recipient’s club affinity and geolocation, which features imagery and information tailored according to these variables.

E-mail response rates, MLS says, increase by 39 per cent when the personalised e-mail is sent ahead of the generic one.

This campaign plays on one of the most important themes of content marketing in that it uses responses to past communications to inform the focus of future ones; it constantly monitors fans’ interest in the content it is feeding them, and uses that data to create a better offer next time.

“When you send an e-mail campaign, you can analyse the results to inform the strategy of your next e-mail campaign. When you put content on your website, you should be constantly tracking Google Analytics to identify which content is working and which content isn’t, what the user journey is like, where they come on and where they drop off.” Fiona Green, Director and Co-Founder, Winners FDD

“We will analyse the hell out of how many things were published, when, by whom and on what subject; how the audience reacted and on which platforms they did so. We then take all those filters and mush it all together to come up with a very clean view of what the output is and what is actually working, and therefore as a result what an organisation ought to be doing.” Richard Ayers, CEO, Seven League


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