Politics & Governance, Sponsorship

Doing more with data: How targeted content can help sports grow their revenues

Adam Hodgkiss, the senior business development manager at Genius Sports Media, explains how a proper understanding of audience data and systems such as retargeting technology can help sports drive consumer engagement and revenues.

by Adam Hodgkiss
Doing more with data: How targeted content can help sports grow their revenues

Unique behind the scenes footage, exclusive interviews and easy access to detailed statistics have handed sports leagues and teams a golden opportunity to turn their websites and social channels into valuable destinations for information-hungry fans.

This dynamic content is helping to attract a new global audience whilst deepening the fans’ connection with their team and players. By investing in their own proprietary platforms, rights holders can start to target and grow their own audience and reduce the reliance on third-party media outlets to engage their fans around the world.

There are obvious benefits to building this audience in terms of providing a direct channel to drive revenues through ticket and merchandise sales, and by delivering updates and offers to a highly engaged audience.

But, crucially, it also hands the rights holder a treasure trove of customer data and understanding around how their fans think and behave online. Harnessing these insights to drive revenue is an area where sports arguably lag way behind many other industries.

Untapped revenues

Audience data helps publishers – which sports are becoming under this new model of engagement – make money by providing advertisers access to a targeted set of consumers. By knowing that their audience are, say, mostly men aged between 18 and 25 who read about basketball on a daily basis, advertisers have a huge strategic advantage when choosing where to spend their budget.

The problem for most sports is that the underlying technology and knowledge to capture, analyse and segment this audience data is currently far beyond their internal capabilities, and their valuable digital inventory is being left untapped.

In order to improve data quality and make their audiences valuable to advertisers, sports will need to use a data management platform, or DMP. Although difficult to build internally, implementing this third-party tool means sports can organise their audience data according to preferred content, age, location, purchase history, and so on.

Sports can both segment their audience by any of the above factors and gain one simple view of an individual fan’s entire data to build more effective ad campaigns. Insights derived from their website or mobile app audience provide a relatively simple way to customise the experience they give to fans, including selling things like tickets, merchandise and over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions.

Contextual engagement

If rights holders know a fan’s favourite team or player, they can optimise how, when and where that relevant product is presented to them. The combination of customer understanding and timing in accordance with the sporting calendar or live game is hugely powerful, resulting in ad campaigns that are brought to life with real-time data and personalised messaging.

Selling the official team jersey, for example, is far more effective when the team has just reached the cup final and even more compelling if the advert features messaging celebrating that win. And driving fans to sign up for a league pass or other OTT product is far more likely to be successful if sports can serve the relevant ads before and during the game with odds and live scores embedded.

Another area where this data can be used is retargeting. This has been a powerful tool in the sports betting industry for some time, with sportsbooks using it to offer bets to customers who have filled in their betslip but not placed the wager. Retail giants use it as standard practice with great effect, too.

Using this tool, sports can pinpoint individual league passes, merchandise or tickets that fans have browsed and selected but subsequently abandoned their purchase. They can then serve that same fan with dynamic creative after they’ve left their platforms, including price changes or live video related to recent games, increasing conversion rates and driving new sales.

This technique is already being deployed in the ticketing space as Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL) and many of their teams have partnered with Genius Sports Media to implement personalisation and automation.

If a fan is looking at two seats in row 21 of the North stand but decides the price is too high and abandons their session, clubs can build and deliver customised adverts to alert that fan to price changes on their specific seats or other rows with similar availability. The longer a sport deploys this system the better, enabling the collection of more in-depth data, such as a fan’s favourite gameday, their preferred pitch view, or their likelihood to purchase a family package.

Sports leagues and teams have never been better at engaging their fans with proprietary, exclusive content on their own platforms. But beyond the largest organisations, most are only scratching the surface as to what can be achieved by understanding their audience data.

In the age of increasing personalisation, sports have no reason to be left behind. 117 DATA "In the age of increasing personalisation, sports have no reason to be left behind."