During Stanford University's inaugural Sports Innovation Conference keynote, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé asked rhetorically, "What's the difference between a customer and a fan?" "Fans will paint their face purple, fans will evangelize. Every other CEO in every business is dying to be in our position -- they're dying to have fans," he replied.
Any brand relishes an opportunity to turn customers into passionate fans, but for sports teams, there's a reverse objective -- wooing existing fans to become regular paying customers that loyally dish out cash for tickets and merchandise within the larger $80 billion per year sporting events market.
Sports teams constantly strive to enhance their digital marketing to drive deeper fan engagement and ultimately sales. As a direct marketing channel, email reigns supreme for ROI. It's also an ideal hub for contextual content where sports teams can, "match the experience that matters most to the right fans," as King's SVP of marketing and strategy Ben Gumpert commented.
Here's an example illustrating how sports teams and other related brands (e.g. sporting goods retailers, ticket brokers, publishers, etc.) can harness the power of contextual marketing in email to boost fan engagement and sales. Now let's break down the different elements.
Sports fans get worked up when their team wins or loses because they're emotionally invested in the outcome. Fans ride highs and lows before, during, and after a game, and, in many cases, feel like they're actually part of the team. Email marketers can simultaneously provide contextual content and leverage fan psychology with personalized images, like showing the fan's last name on the back of a team jersey or other merchandise.
There's nothing like the excitement leading up to a big game. This is especially true during playoffs or when facing an archrival. With dynamic content, marketers can create further anticipation for game day with a countdown clock -- reminding fans during the workweek exactly when their hometown team takes to the field. Other useful content like live weather forecasts can help fans look forward to (or alter) their tailgating plans.
Make ticket purchasing easy
If you frustrate customers with a complex shopping experience, you'll likely lose the sale. Marketers with sports teams or ticket brokers can use dynamic content to make finding and buying tickets right from an email a seamless experience. Using API integrations, marketers can pull live seating charts and availability right into an email, allowing fans to browse and buy without having to start a new web search.
Using geo-targeting, marketers can also detect a fan's location and if they're close to where the game is, show them ticketing options through a ticketing API. Another idea is to show nearby locations where fans can watch the game on TV if they're nowhere near the stadium or event.
Recommend products right from your site
Targeted product recommendations are a great way to boost sales. With live web cropping, marketers can pull merchandise from their e-commerce site directly into an email and personalize it to the recipient based on location and past purchases. Using dynamic content in this way also ensures that products featured in an email are always available (and if sold out, a different product is shown at the moment of open).
Let fans relive glorious moments
Fans live for instant replays and highlight reels. Clips of monster dunks, amazing one-handed receptions, and game-winning grand slams enable fans to savor epic moments over and over. Integrating video into email is a proven way to boost engagement, and email marketers can keep fans fired up (and clicking on content) by including videos of key plays from previous games.
Gamify the game
One of the easiest ways to keep fans engaged is to give them something to do and let them express their opinion -- even if just for fun. Email marketers can provide live voting or polling into an email, for example, allowing fans to vote on a game's MVP. Providing updated voting results lets people see who their fellow fans favor and encourages people to keep checking back.
Marketers no longer have to choose between email's ROI and social media's viral nature. Integrating social content into email is proven to boost engagement, and sports lend themselves perfectly to this. With live Twitter feeds in email, fans can keep up with the latest buzz all in one place. And because sports are so visual, live Instagram feeds in email can showcase user-generated content from the game, which shares the experience with fans around the world.
Contextual messages and dynamic content is the future of email marketing. As a sports brand marketer, are you doing all you can with email to turn loyal fans into engaged and paying customers?
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