Exploring digital transformation with Derek Throneburg, SVP of Customer Success: Part 1


Jul 26, 2021


In April, StellarAlgo welcomed Derek Throneburg as SVP of Customer Success. With past roles at the XFL, Pacers Sports & Entertainment, the St. Louis Cardinals, and more, Derek brings more than 20 years’ experience delivering business intelligence, marketing strategy, and customer success in the sports and entertainment industry to his role here at StellarAlgo. In June, we asked Derek his thoughts on digital transformation and the value of data-driven decision-making to help sports teams better understand, nurture, and engage with their fans. 

Welcome, Derek! Could you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your background?  

I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career working in the sports and entertainment industry for incredible organizations and brands. I started as an inside ticket sales rep for the St. Louis Cardinals before having the opportunity to lead teams and initiatives across nearly every aspect of ticketing. While working for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, I had a terrific opportunity to help the Pacers and their respective brands embrace the use of data to not only evaluate their current business, but more importantly, to use insights to build sustainable growth opportunities across nearly every stage of the typical customer journey.  

I then joined the leadership team of the XFL in 2019 to help build and launch the league for the 2020 season. We worked in an environment like that of a hyper-growth startup. This made my role leading the XFL’s team business operations, and working directly with each of the eight teams across the U.S., incredibly exciting – we embraced the use of data and insights to help shape every piece of our strategies across the entire league. Having the chance to help build a professional sports league from the ground level is an opportunity many of us in the sports business would love to have.  

When it comes to joining StellarAlgo – what drew you to the role? What are you hoping to accomplish here, and where do you see the company going in future? 

I’ve always tried to look around the corner as to what’s coming in the sports industry. Having worked in sports for almost 20 years, I understand the challenges teams and leagues face growing their brands, finding and developing fans, and identifying the best ways to grow the business. It’s no secret that brands, and particularly sports properties, want to use customer data to understand their customers better and make their experiences more personalized – StellarAlgo’s vision, technology, and proven success as an innovator and leader in the industry offers an incredible opportunity to work with sports properties and brands to uncover deep learnings about their customers, and then inject those learnings back into strategies and programs that drive growth.  

‘Digital transformation’ is a common term these days and has become almost aspirational for organizations of all sizes and industries. What does digital transformation mean to you and your role at StellarAlgo?  

Digital transformation is such a broad term that can apply to many different areas of an organization. At the foundation though, digital transformation is a combination of technology, systems, processes, and of course, data. But how do these things tie together? Companies and organizations that not only talk the talk but also walk the walk, can truly set themselves apart as innovative organizations. It takes a bold company to (1) willingly and openly evaluate your own business, (2) allocate the proper investments in technology and people to structure your business to be more efficient, (3) collect and analyze data to learn more about your customers, and then (4) strategically inject those insights back into the business. That’s a bold and powerful combination that can lead to remarkable success. 

In your experience, what are the main reasons sports organizations decide to undertake their own digital transformation?  

Sports evoke emotion and passion; sports teams and leagues have built national and global brands based on fandom and engagement. While a team may have millions of fans around the world, it’s not uncommon for only 10-15% of that fanbase to attend a home game in their favorite team’s stadium each season.  

Every sports team is tasked with building deeper relationships with their customers, maximizing revenue streams, and running the business as efficiently as possible, just like any company. While a team’s fans may span the globe, most of the team’s locally generated revenue is driven by ticket sales and corporate partnerships. This means innovative sports organizations are asking themselves questions such as: “Are we marketing the proper ticket products to the proper audience? Are there untapped segments of our fan base we have not fully engaged yet? What experiences in our stadium will excite our fans and connect them even closer to our brand? What type of content do our fans want to engage with on social media, on which platforms, and when are they most likely to interact? How do these fans, their interests, and their behaviors overlap with the business objectives of our corporate partners?”  

Most sports teams are structured to host, operate, and perfect the live game experiences while also connecting their brands to the local communities. The sophistication of sports teams, led by the influx of business strategy, data, and analytics experts, has increased dramatically over the past ten years. It’s not realistic though for teams to be able to answer all the questions referenced above on a regular basis when so much of their bandwidth is spent on marketing, promoting, and planning to host thousands of fans for a season’s worth of games.  

Read part two of our conversation on digital transformation with Derek Throneburg as he dives into machine learning and driving internal efficiencies.

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