Sonics' Ticket Sales Get a Bounce From Rich Media E-Mails

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The National Basketball Association's Seattle SuperSonics increased online ticket sales 46 percent the week after sending a rich media e-mail campaign.

The team sent video e-mails Nov. 8 to 12,000 subscribers of its Sonics SuperNet newsletter -- a subset of its 50,000-subscription list -- and offered them a special deal on a six-game ticket package. The e-mail, which was the team's first video e-mail, boosted online ticket sales, though the franchise would not disclose the number of tickets sold or how many tickets it generally sells online.

That e-mail was developed by Vendaria Inc., a Seattle-based provider of rich media content. Previously, the Sonics used text-based messages.

Rob Martin, vice president of marketing for the Sonics, said the team plans to use HTML-based e-mail in the future and will reserve video-based messages for special promotions and ticket sales campaigns.

"We're always looking for ways to reach out to our customers," he said. "Video is a very compelling tool, especially compared to a static banner."

The franchise's 50,000-name e-mail list is culled from its Web site and past direct marketing efforts at KeyArena, where the team plays its home games. The test of the e-mail was sent to people within 75 miles of the arena and offered a 50 percent price reduction on a six-game package. Though recipients subscribed to the newsletter, Martin said, they had little other interaction with the Sonics or its products.

"Ultimately, we want this to represent another exposure to our product that helps to familiarize the public with our product," he said. "We sent this e-mail to a specific universe of people we identified as the lowest-lying fruit."

Though the e-mail campaign was about spurring ticket sales and not about branding, Martin said, enhancing the SuperSonics' brand was a side effect. The team recently changed ownership and redesigned its uniforms and logo.

"The franchise has been struggling with a way to connect with fans," said Scott Ferris, president/CEO of Vendaria. "The challenge was how to get [the fans] into the arena and to build a new brand for the Sonics."

Ferris said the appeal of Vendaria's video e-mail technology is that it can be viewed by anyone with a Web browser and a dial-up Internet connection of 33.6K or faster. Unlike other rich media technologies, particularly those using video, Vendaria's requires no special plug-ins or other software to be viewed.

The Sonics used the company's Vendaria Envision technology, which enables marketers to private-label and package video content into point-of-purchase merchandising, e-mail and banner ads. Envision also features Web-based reporting that gives real-time aggregated click-stream data.

"Banner advertising on the Internet has been lackluster," Ferris said. "We're able to embed video in the banner so it's relevant and compelling."

Martin said the Sonics plan to continue online promotions next year and use e-mail, banner ads and direct marketing efforts at KeyArena. The team plans to send an HTML-based prospecting e-mail to drive subscriptions for Sonics SuperNet. The newsletter features news about the team, merchandise offers and ticket promotions.

The Sonics also will run an effort toward current newsletter subscribers, he said, to sign up friends and family on an opt-in basis.

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