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Sports Authority Inserts to Help Build E-Mail Database

The Sports Authority is using space on its free-standing newspaper inserts for non-sales messages in a bid to collect e-mail addresses through its Web site.

In time for Father's Day, the Fort Lauderdale, FL, sporting goods retailer will display a discount offer in its insert that goes to 15 million consumers with each drop.

“That's one of our initiatives – how do we get more qualified e-mail names?” said Janis Altshuler, vice president of e-commerce at The Sports Authority. “We're finding buying lists aren't working. Partnering with other lists and mailing to their lists doesn't yield a lot of good results.”

With the insert mention, the retailer intends to target The Sports Authority's offline customer base to volunteer e-mail addresses on thesportsauthority.com.

“If you've opened up the insert, you're already interested in The Sports Authority, so I've got kind of a more qualified audience,” Altshuler said.

Still being crafted, the offer will require consumers to buy products online to redeem the discount in a short window of redemption.

The offer is modeled on The Sports Authority's maiden test in February for collecting e-mail addresses. Besides encouraging readers to shop online, the first insert featured a $1,000 online shopping spree offer. Consumers who entered their e-mail addresses at the retailer's site were entered into a random drawing.

That effort yielded nearly 8,000 e-mail addresses of consumers who opted in to receive offers and information from The Sports Authority. The retailer's total e-mail database has more than 500,000 names.

Altshuler predicted that this month's effort would result in about 16,000 e-mail addresses.

“We're expecting to get another pop in e-mail addresses, and by this we're hoping to be able to immediately respond to those names collected with an offer that will turn them into buyers,” she said.

Renting third-party lists whose database matched The Sports Authority's – active young men and women who are aware of pop culture – was an option The Sports Authority decided to forgo.

“It's not just that [rented e-mail addresses] are not very qualified,” Altshuler said. “It just takes too many names to get a decent return. And part of the deal is we have so many stores and so many customers, we'd much rather direct our efforts to people that are already familiar with the brand.”

Still, Altshuler understands there is a risk of cannibalization in marketing to customers.

“So it gets tricky to market to our existing customer base,” she said. “We don't want to take sales away from the stores. We just want to offer another opportunity to shop however they want to.”

Founded in November 1999, thesportsauthority.com site is a joint venture of TheSportsAuthority.com Inc. and Global Sports Interactive, a wholly owned arm of Global Sports Inc.

Revenue is split between the two companies. Global Sports handles the online marketing, such as banners and stores on portals like Yahoo, AOL, Excite, Lycos and MSN. The Sports Authority markets its online brand through newspaper inserts and direct mail.

But Altshuler said she did not have a big budget to promote the online store. Riding piggyback on the bricks-and-mortar stores' inserts is cost-effective even though the marketing message for the online store displaces selling space for a product.

“Inserts are the primary vehicle we use for the store,” she said, “and I believe that, like most mass marketing, the yield of people that actually come to the store as a result is very small. So, what I'm hoping to do is capitalize on these people that are at home, looking at [the insert] and saying, 'Wow, I don't think I'm really going to make it into the store but I can certainly make it to my living room or den to go on the computer.' “

The company also will use the Father's Day insert to test the message's success from the response it garners. If positive, it could become a more permanent feature in future inserts.

“But $1,000 is $1,000 to give away,” Altshuler said, referring to the February test for collecting e-mails. “We have to figure out if that is the right amount and if we can get the same results for $500.”

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