Being Data-Driven Even When Games Are Paused Part 2: How to be successful with data in the COVID period


Apr 20, 2020


One of the topics from StellarAlgo’s community call centered around how sports organizations can successfully use their data now – when games are not being played. Teams routinely want to know how best to be thinking about their data, but now they’re also asking what new data points can help put them at an advantage when games do return?

The best way to use data now is to use it to fuel fan engagement and understanding. By learning how fans currently want to be engaged with will help teams be prepared for the day the announcement is made that sports is returning – the day it’s time to convert these engaged fans into ticket buyers. In order to do that successfully, teams must focus on understanding their fans more than ever. It’s also important to recognize that this global pandemic will likely leave a lasting impression on our society. including how sports fans behave.

From what we’ve seen, teams have been doing an amazing job connecting with fans at a level never before seen. To capitalize on that engagement, there’s a few things teams can do to make sure they’re collecting some of this great data that fans are offering.

For those who would prefer to listen to the community call, get even more from the audio version with questions, answers, and more best practices:

Part 1: Approaches to processing refunds, credits, and exchanges

Part 3: How StellarAlgo is helping clients now

CRM touchpoint data is becoming more important not only because of the candid, personal conversations that are happening with fans but also because there’s an increased potential for higher sales staff turnover rates due to the lack of games. It’s paramount that teams are disciplined in logging information coming out of these conversations as it will become a strategic advantage to converting more fans when games eventually ramp up again. The reality is that many of these accounts and package members may be in a tougher financial situation than before. Knowing some of this information and capturing it will help sales teams show compassion to their fans and give reps the chance to nurture each package member (or prospect) in the right way.

Digital Activations

We’ve seen all teams step up with great activations – from streaming historical games ( and are now free for example) to having players virtually dial into classroom Zoom meetings (we see you Houston Dynamo) to opening up free access to scholastic programs (NHL’s STEM-based curriculum or the Lexington Legends’ STEM activity book are great examples). It is essential that these activations capture some of the digital breadcrumbs that fans are willing to leave behind. It can be achieved by activating simple forms on a landing page or including a call-to-action to opt-in to a team’s email newsletter. Without capturing some basic data about who’s consuming or engaging with different content, organizations will lose the understanding of who their fanbase is and how fans are choosing engaging with teams during this time.

The question at the end of all this will be How many of my fans are still active and engaged with our team? Did you gain fans or lose them?

If asked today, are you prepared to answer that question confidently?

“If you’re not using the amazing content your marketing and digital teams are creating to capture information about your fans – even with a simple form – you’re missing a huge opportunity to learn about them.”

New Data Points

New data points like credits, exchanges, and refunds weren’t always as important as they are now. Data capture around credits, exchanges, and refunds will be important markers to leverage as they will be valuable predictor of the likelihood of a fan to return to the stadium (i.e. purchase a ticket) when games start again.

It will be necessary that these new data points make its way into your Customer Data Platform (see how CDPs fit into tech stacks), your Data Warehouse (DW), or a centralized place your organization stores all its fan data. The benefit of ingesting credits, exchanges, and refunds into a CDP or DW is that it will allow teams to model fan behaviors as well as segment against it – you’ll have to do this modeling yourself in a DW but a CDP will do this work for you.

Customer Sentiment Data Like Surveys

We’re seeing website traffic increase compared to a month or two ago as fans generally have more time to consume content and are searching the internet for an escape from many of the shelter-in-place orders. Teams should leverage this increased traffic to learn more about their fans; and surveys can be a great approach. The simple fact that teams are showing that they’re listening to what fans want is the first step. Taking survey results a step further by showing fans that their feedback is valued and making adjustments or changes based on feedback is one way to keep fans engaged. Tip: keep surveys short and if possible, embed it in a fun activity they’re already doing on your website or on social.

On example of using fan feedback to drive engagement is from the Durham Bulls. The Bulls had a great 2-prong approach to community engagement while also involving fans in a t-shirt design decision. The ‘Wash Your Horns’ tagline eventually won, with the Bulls accumulating thousands of impressions on the Twitter post. To date, t-shirt sales are also going well with over 1,000 sold and $16,000+ going to the United Way. The Bulls will be able to understand these t-shirt buyers better using our platform and be able to send them more personalized offers in the future.

Preparing for when games return

We may not know when games and seasons will resume but that doesn’t mean front office personnel isn’t busy. Spend some time now preparing your content strategy and campaigns for when the announcement is made that sports is coming back. We suggest building out audience segments, developing the creative and the personalized messaging to go along with those segments so you’re ready to push go as soon a good news comes. Take some time (if you can) to understand how your fan segments differ from one another and then lay out a plan for how you’re going to connect with them now and in the future. It’s a great time to start designing the journeys for your segments, in preparation for the season.

One way to test the efficacy of your ideas is to test them by running a campaign focused on conversions that aren’t tickets (i.e. merchandise, newsletter sign ups, contests, streaming, etc.). The currency may have changed, but how fans behave towards your campaign is the learnings that you’re after.

Finally, share what you’re learning about your fans with your sponsors. Keeping them updated on your fans and how they’re engaging with you (and potentially their activations) will pay dividends for the future of your partnership.

Did we answer some of your questions about how to use data now? We strive to produce helpful and relevant content and would appreciate any feedback about this call or your interest in attending a subsequent call, which would be open to everyone. Please help us by filling out this 2-min survey and reserving your spot now.

Want to get even more out of the community call with questions, answers, and more best practices from teams not included in the written recap? Listen to the full audio version (top of this article)

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