Predictive Analytics Wins Sports Fans

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How marketers are using predictive analytics to engage sports to develop relationships with brands

Sports
Sports

Competition is at the cornerstone of sports.

So, it only makes sense that competition would be at the cornerstone of marketing to sports fans. Call it a symptom of a wide variety of platforms and devices, but the competition to capture a modern sports fan's attention has become increasingly difficult.

Gone are the days of marketing to sports fans solely through television and newspapers based on geography.

Today, marketers are required to link sports fans to brands when live sports can be watched on a variety of different platforms from a variety of different devices. Predictive analytics enables to gain an insight into the modern day sports fan.

Whether it's understanding their ticket purchasing habits, or preferred viewing device, or most consistent viewing time of day, predictive analytics has provided marketers with a greater understanding of how to establish relationships with sports fans and brands.

See what they see

While the term cord-cutter or cord-cutting has made its way into popular vernacular, the reaction to it, according to a report by Deloitte, might be overblown.

In "Digital Democracy Survey," Deloitte found that the percentage of American households that subscribe to paid television services has remained relatively stable since 2012, even as adoption of streaming services has accelerated. Deloitte's survey found that 74% of consumers continue to hold paid TV subscriptions in 2016.

The percentage of consumers who pay for at least one streaming service, however, has climbed from 10% in 2009 to 49% in 2016.

Sports leagues and teams are a large reason for this growth, as streaming services have been created by a multitude of different organizations, such as NFL, UFC, NCAA, WWE, and more.

In addition to streaming services, many sports leagues and teams have struck deals with social media platforms to live-stream games and events.

This year alone, Snap Inc. signed a deal with NBCUniversal for the 2018 Winter Olympics; Facebook signed a deal with Major League Soccer to stream matches during the 2017 regular season; the NFL announced it was selling the rights to stream its Thursday Night Football games next season and at least four social media companies are interested; and a report surfaced that Facebook is in talks with Major League Baseball to live stream one game per week during the upcoming season.

“Sports brands can expand the reach and viewership of their broadcasts; platforms could potentially see an uptick on time on site,” says Darryl Villacorta, Social Media Manager at Sprout Social. “Ultimately these types of partnerships can help sports entities and franchises drive brand loyalty and create deeper fan experiences.”

Yet, how do brands tap into this social media sports experience?

Well, according to J.T. Compeau, client services lead at Affinity Answers, one way to track a sports fan's experience is by examining social engagement, more specifically common social engagement.

“For instance, if a user comments on social media about the NFL on CBS, he/she may also comment about a brand,” says Compeau. “If they do, we can provide a collection of this information to CBS from an ad sales perspective.”

Affinity Answers, which is a platform for predictive branding, examines algorithms that measure active social engagement data across 60,000 brands and 400 million people worldwide. This engagement, Compeau says, is then quantified in a proprietary score.

“We take into account the recency and frequency of the engagement," says Compeau.

This information, according to Compeau, is scored to quantify the relationship between a social media user and a potential brand. It's this ability that allows sports brands to meet consumers in the middle portion of their journey.

“There is the awareness audience and intent audience, but there is not a lot heard about the middle portion of the funnel, where consumers are on the cusp of crossing a threshold with brands,” says Compeau.

Personalize the jersey

Predictive analytics undoubtedly provides brands and marketers with a wealth of information about consumers. Yet, what should a brand do with all of that information?

One method, according to Allen Nance, chief marketing officer at Emarsys, B2C marketing automation software, is to personalize the experience for sports fans.

“Through machine learning algorithms, predictive analytics can address this hurdle by using and creating personalized content that appeals to customers at an individual level,” says Nance. “For example, a fan that routinely buy tickets to weekend day games rather than weeknight games can be segmented from others so that he or she only receive communications relevant to them.”

The personalized content for a sports fan, according to Nance, can be used to help brands market differently to consumers during seasons, off seasons, playoffs, championships, and big peak events.

Take for instance, the Indianapolis 500.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced the deployment of Emarsys AI-enabled cloud marketing platform, in an effort to consumer engagement and increase ticket sales.

To achieve this, the speedway will utilize the following Emarsys' AI cloud marketing platform tools: Automation Center, Smart Insight, Web Extend, Mobile Engage, and CRM Ads.

These tools will enable the speedway to analyze the consumer behavior, segment consumer habits, and develop personalized interactions throughout the journey.

“The sophisticated nature of the Emarsys platform provides us with a deep understanding of our customers at an individual level, and allows us to interact with them at the point of transaction when they're most engaged,” says Brad Lee, Director of Business Solutions at IMS, in a company press release.

Ask them to join the team

There are those sports teams and leagues that use predictive analytics to study their consumer behavior, and there are those sports teams and leagues that use it to encourage consumer behavior.

In the months leading up to the Major League Soccer 2017 season, Orlando City Soccer Club (OCSC) met with FanHero, a global mobile platform, whose previous clients were celebrities and organizations.

OCSC, however, would be their first client interested in selling game tickets and merchandise to fans.

The result? An OCSC app.

The app also provides fans with the ability to live stream all major games,  including 360 degree angles of the pitch.

“We strive to interact with and understand our fans in the best way possible” says Diogo Kotscho, Vice President of Communications at OCSC. “All we want is to improve our services and the quality of fan experiences. Having our own app was a natural step toward improving this relationship.”

This relationship was enhanced by OCSC's ability to monitor engagement touch points that Kotscho says “will equip us with data and enable us to predict what our fans around the world want from us.”

Champion the future

Sports audiences used to be an extremely easy audience to predict. Fans were generally segmented by geography and consumed content on television. However, the way people engage with sporting events, team and leagues is rapidly changing.

Predictive analytics may not be able to tell the future, but it can provide an opportunity to understand and engage with with an increasingly unpredictable sports audience.

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