Fan engagement is critical to professional sports franchises. In most sports, teams are building out their data capabilities to help their marketing and sales teams better reach out to fans and keep them happy. Teams are particularly focused on season ticket holders, who are their most loyal fans and provide reliable ticket revenue and merchandise sales.
“Season ticket holders really are the elixir of life,” said Neda Tabatabaie, vice president of business analytics and technology for the San Jose Sharks. “When you buy a game ticket, you only commit to one game. But if you buy all season, that’s 44 or 45 games that you commit to. And like any other company, we know that the cost of retaining customers is less than the cost of acquiring a new customer. “
Iran-born Tabatabaie immigrated to Toronto at the age of 20 and worked in database marketing for the Toronto Maple Leafs for nine years before moving to San Jose in 2015 as Vice President Business Intelligence for the Sharks. For the next several years, the marketing team struggled to measure campaign ROI and risk of churn for season ticket holders, and also ran into issues with isolated data.
“The nature of our business really put us in a position where we started with different or isolated data sources,” says Tabatabaie. “Almost every team has a ticket provider and a food and beverage manufacturer. You have a retailer by your side, and sometimes a third party is online. Then you have a provider for mobile apps. Your website is this very different entity. And some of those things are legacy systems. “
At this point, the Sharks were able to track ticket sales and email openings per fan, but could not correlate the two events to understand how an email campaign led to ticket sales.