The LA Kings Reign Supreme in Hockey—and Marketing

 

The fervent connection that sports teams have with their fans is simply unmatched. That’s especially true when fans feel that they have wins to cheer about and championships to celebrate. That long-awaited moment finally came in 2012 for hockey fans in Los Angeles as they watched the LA Kings become the first eighth-seeded team in National Hockey League history to win the Stanley Cup—the first in franchise history. The club raised Lord Stanley’s Cup again earlier this year, setting the stage for the team’s marketers to ride the wave of excitement and make connections with longtime, and of course, new Kings fans.

“Around the Stanley Cup win, there’s obviously a ton of interest in our team—that’s locally, nationally, and internationally,” says Aaron LeValley, VP of digital strategy and analytics of Anschutz Entertainment Group, owner of the Kings. “More people are not only interested in learning more about the team, but are looking for ways to get involved in supporting the club, going to games, buying merchandise, etcetera. So now we try to be prepared and have strategies that capture data [about those fans].”

LeValley says he and his team had to figure out how to turn Stanley Cup wins into a plan to get to know the fans—and create new ones. And he says, initially, marketers for the hockey club struggled to get ticket buyers to make the ultimate commitment—buying season tickets. “Some games we’d sell a lot [of single game tickets], and at others we didn’t sell as much. We had a problem with our season ticket base; the number was relatively low.” LeValley says that was a problem because season ticket buyers are the team’s most loyal and engaged fans: “We needed to increase that base. It’s easier to sell a product to someone who’s experienced the product before.”

With a newly galvanized fan base, marketers for the Kings set out to do several things: generate new sales, create a central database that connected customer information, boost fan loyalty, and increase retention—or, in other words, rev up the number of repeat season ticket buyers. The ticket to accomplishing those goals, LeValley says, was getting fans engaged with the hockey franchise and making each experience personal.

So, with tools from Adobe and strategy from FanOne Marketing, LeValley’s team worked to make the LA Kings’ experience more personal and engaging for fans. He says marketers first worked to capture more information and identify behavior that would help make that experience relevant and intimate.

“We didn’t have any personalization; it was very limited,” LeValley says. In part that was because most of the team’s information about customers came from one source: the ticket vendor. “Our main source of info comes from the data when people buy tickets. With our ticket vendor, their main focus is selling tickets, not on personalized communication,” LeValley explains. “So, we realized their marketing tools weren’t efficient enough. But now we link the ticketing database with other data sources—whether social, mobile, or on the site; we can create a single view of the customer and message them appropriately.”

Having that linked data and a singular view allowed marketers to segment and target email campaigns and website messages. From a sports jersey with a fan’s name to specific account balances, LeValley says, data enables messages to be fan-focused and specific: “Now when it comes time to renew tickets, everything on the site is personalized; it’s about them.”

The marketing team also was determined to get to know, engage, and possibly convert fans on social media. Marketers knew Twitter handles and were given names of fans, but not much else. A revamped social engagement strategy, however, changed that. “We created a sweepstakes. If we got a new follower, we would direct message them; if they entered the sweepstakes, we knew that the person came from Twitter…and, we could identify people who were relatively anonymous; then we’d market to them in other ways,” LeValley says.

With a holistic, more detailed customer view, the Kings have managed to energize and engage fans; and the results were everything marketers could hope for. “We pretty much sold out of our season tickets base,” LeValley says. “So, we can’t sell season tickets anymore. Now our goal is to grow fans so that when we have inventory available or have single tickets we’re better able to identify people who’ll purchase our product.” He says renewal rates are up, and ticket campaigns are more effective.

LeValley says data, personalization, and engagement will each be a part of future marketing plans for the Kings. “Our main goal is to keep our fans engaged, whether on email, mobile, social, or Web,” LeValley says. “And, of course, to always learn more about our fans and provide them with great products.”

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