Hockey Club Hones Target Market

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Minor league hockey franchise the Chicago Wolves will make the transition from brand advertising to relationship marketing with an integrated campaign this month that is designed to double its season ticket base and build a database for more targeted efforts in future seasons.

The Wolves, seeking to build on the momentum of the best season in their four-year history that resulted in winning the International Hockey League championship, have hired the Townsend Agency, Rosemont, IL, to plan the first phase of the campaign.

Separate mailings to between 50,000 and 100,000 consumers and businesses within a 15-mile radius of the Wolves arena, the Rosemont Horizon, will drop this month. The consumer mail pieces pitch an offer for discounted ticket packages while the corporate pieces offer a seven-game group sales tryout.

The direct mail effort will be followed up with telemarketing. Negotiations are also under way to run direct response TV advertising on local cable channels before the season opening game Oct. 10. Townsend also will help the Wolves develop a Web site. The immediate goal is increasing their base of season ticket holders from 4,000 to 8,000.

"We've done a good job of imaging the property, developing that brand name,'' said Wolves president Robert McAuliff. "It's time now to do relationship marketing, to get everyone who comes to games once or twice to come to 10 games or get those people coming to 10 or 20 games to buy the full season ticket package. We'll do that through all the data we've captured over the last four years.''

The Wolves have accumulated data on more than 100,000 individuals through various sources ranging from register-to-win contests at the arena to group sales and youth hockey programs at Chicagoland schools and ice rinks. This past season, the Wolves captured the names, addresses and telephone numbers of ticket buyers who purchased through TicketMaster for a follow-up mail piece offering a discounted ticket package called Flexpack.

The second phase of the campaign, projected for the 1999-2000 season, will include a more sophisticated loyalty and frequency program driven by a Wolves wild card, or smart card. The program, which will include interactive consumer terminals, will leverage alliances with corporate partners Jiffy Lube, Super Cuts, Coca-Cola and others to give fans added value away from the arena.

Software being developed for the wild card will be able to track results from the Wolves' grass roots marketing and fundraising efforts and plow donations back to participating groups. Those grass-roots programs involve 150,000 Chicago youth and reach more than 1 million people.

"Now we have a qualified lead list to efficiently and effectively target market this product,'' McAuliff said. "It's time to continue to capture more data about who our fans are: everything from learning why they come to the games to if they have dogs.

"It's a natural evolution that a year from now we bring the wild card into this.''

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