Photo credit: Sacramento Republic FC
It’s no surprise that lifetime fans is what every sports and entertainment organization strives for. There’s many ways to calculate customer lifetime value (CLV) – tenure of season ticket members being one of them. Season ticket memberships are not only the most efficient way for the teams to sell inventory but also account for half, if not more, of an organization’s ticket revenue. With a growing number of entertainment options, it is more important than ever for organizations to create personalized experiences for fans in order to retain those season ticket members while also working to grow their overall number of FSEs, including smaller game plans.
One team that is finding great success in nurturing and retaining their package members in recent years is the Sacramento Republic FC. Their Sales and Service team has spent the last year working on a new data-driven renewals strategy under the leadership of Senior Director of Sales and Service, Ted Glick. Glick is no stranger to professional sports, having grown up wanting to ‘chase the dream of following in his [father’s] footsteps and making a difference in the world of professional sports’ as he put it. It should come as no surprise that having been through seven seasons in the industry – three with the Philadelphia 76ers, twice with the New Jersey Devils, and now wrapping up his second with the Republic FC – Glick has seen all sides of the renewal process – both traditional renewals and auto-renewals – and shares with us his best practices. Glick’s leadership has helped lead the Republic FC to it’s best renewals campaign to date with a 25% increase in Season Ticket Members heading into their 2020 season, two and a half months before the team’s recent MLS announcement.
When it comes to renewals there are two main methods sports organizations use to renew those valuable season ticket members every year. The traditional model sees sales and service staff launching a renewals campaign and reaching out to season ticket members over the course of a 4-6 week period. This model forces teams to operate in an almost hand-to-hand combat mode to get the attention of each and every season ticket member one by one. Teams using this model operate under the assumption that they’re starting with 0% of FSEs renewing and working to increase those numbers. Conversely, the more recently adopted method is the auto-renew model, which has grown in popularity over the past decade Using auto-renewals, sales and service teams start from the assumption of 100% renewals and work back as season ticket members opt-out during the renewals period. Each model has its advantages and risks. Whichever model your organization uses, there are tools available to identify those fence-sitters and less-than engaged fans.
How do you set your team up for success?
While often left to the end of the season, a good renewal strategy starts in-season as changes in fan behaviors are identified. Automated insights via tools such as a Customer Data Platform allow organizations to easily track and accurately assess the engagement level for each season ticket member, identifying those who are at-risk. In discussing why his organization chose to invest in a Customer Data Platform and the benefits of segmentation and predictive analytics, Glick offers, “We needed to align ourselves with where the sports business is going, not where it has been. We invested in the StellarAlgo CDP so that we could make the right decisions at the right time and, in particular, speak to our fans when they wanted to be spoken to. We are able to determine which season ticket members we needed to call, which we needed to invite to member-only events, and which ones we needed to do seat visits with, all with a 2 person service team. That is massive!”
“We needed to align ourselves with where the sports business is going, not where it has been. We invested in the StellarAlgo CDP so that we could make the right decisions at the right time and, in particular, speak to our fans when they wanted to be spoken to.”
-Ted Glick, Senior Director of Sales and Service, Sacramento Republic FC
With limited space in member-only events designed to increase season ticket member engagement, the Republic focused on the fans for which the event would have the most impact on their decision next year. StellarAlgo’s automated Retention Scores allowed them to prioritize their time and outreach in the months leading up to renewals, which they attribute to helping those fence-sitters to be more engaged and ultimately renew their membership.
As the Republic FC rolled out their first renewals campaign under the auto-renew model, they were keen to prioritize how their members preferred to be communicated with and when, while also segmenting based on engagement and likelihood to renew. For an organization who truly prioritizes building fan affinity and lifetime value, the Republic FC tested different messaging and an early-bird deadline in their communication with their members to find out which messaging resonated best. Throughout the campaign Glick was able to further his team’s effectiveness by sharing StellarAlgo’s automated insights that suggested which season ticket members had already raised their hand that they were coming back. This prioritization allowed his 2-person service team to focus on the accounts that were at-risk of not renewing. In the first week of the campaign, 30% of their fans had already confirmed they were coming back.
In comparison to last year, which required the entire department’s 12-person sales and service team to dedicate an entire month solely on renewals, this year their 2-person service team was able to achieve an unprecedented 88.5% renewal rate while their 10-person sales team focused on group tickets and new sales. Glick adds, “From an opportunity cost perspective, those 10 sales people actually generated new business revenue during that time unlike previous seasons. We got 1/12th of the entire year back for the sales team.” With their renewal campaign finishing two full months before the MLS announcement, the Republic FC was able to shift their focus completely to new business and leverage tools like the StellarAlgo Lead Recommender to identify upsell opportunities within their fanbase.