While it may be a blow to people who collect ticket stubs, digital tickets are doing more than saving paper. They contribute to an overall better fan experience and generate data that experts like Matt Sullivan, CRM analyst for the Denver Broncos, use to make decisions about everything from sponsorships to fountain drink options.
In the latest episode of Identity Revolution, host Fred Pfeiffer chats with Matt about trends in sports data analysis, including the impact of COVID, sports betting, fantasy football, and social media on the Marketer’s quest for actionable data and insights. Matt even shares a few tips for anyone wanting to enter the world of CRM in sports.
- Name: Matt Sullivan
- What he does: After earning his degree in Sport Management from the University of North Florida, Matt worked as a CRM intern for the Jacksonville Jaguars and then spent almost a year as a premium activation intern for the Orlando Magic. He spent three and a half years doing CRM for the Phoenix Suns and is currently a CRM analyst for the Denver Broncos.
- Company: Denver Broncos Football Club
- Key Quote: We can have all the data in the world, but if we can’t take action on it, what good is it? We can’t drive revenue for our sponsors or ourselves.
- Where to find Matt: LinkedIn
- CRM plays a role in team development. Matt says his goal is to win a Super Bowl, just like the players on the field. “Once you get on the business side, you understand that there’s 53 guys out there that are giving it their all every week, and their end goal is to win a Super Bowl. […] We take it on the business side as a way to create revenue for them and help so that we can get better players and get the right team on the field in order to get to that Super Bowl. So we take everything from a business aspect and every season as seriously as the players do and try to be the best at what we do,” he says.
- Everything at sports stadiums, from tickets to loyalty programs, bring in actionable data. Matt tells Frederick that the Broncos collect data from the moment a fan enters the stadium, though they won’t always know who that data belongs to. “Everything they do in the stadium is digital pretty much at this point. We just rolled out this new loyalty program called Broncos Plus, where we’re going to utilize QR codes to hand out anything from a product from a sponsor or maybe it’s, ‘Hey, have a beer on us. We know that you enjoy this kind of beer.’ As they scan their QR code, we can start to see some concessions trends, even merchandise trends, just seeing where people are in the stadium, what are some peak times to be in certain areas, or what areas are most popular, and how can we cater to the fan in that aspect.”
- Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective is more helpful than the perspective of someone on the inside. Matt says it’s helpful when people bring in new points of view to his team. “Bringing something to the table helps people like us all the time. I think we’re very close to the environment here, obviously. And so, I think sometimes you can get blinded by that because you’re not seeing something from an outsider’s point of view. Somebody may bring something to us, and we’re like, ‘Wow, you know what? You’re right. We completely missed this.’ Or, ‘That’s something we didn’t think of, but I think it could be very useful,’ and you start to explore it. […] I think now, as we’re starting to hire again, you’re going to start seeing people looking for people outside of the sports world. You might want somebody with that finance background or that economics background that looks at things through a different lens than what we’re accustomed to looking,” Matt states.
Data has helped sports betting explode, which might help CRM as well.
“The world of sports betting is blowing up every day, just growing at an exponential rate. For us, I think within the last year, when sports betting was legalized in Colorado, our sponsorship team was ready to go. As soon as it was approved, I think almost within 24-48 hours, it seemed like we had not just one but two sports betting partners on board for us […]
I personally have been wanting to look at, and we’re starting to get some data on, is there a connection between an individual that’s attending a game or buying a season ticket product and sports betting. The emotion of renewing your season ticket in section 315 or 316 and the way that the line goes from sports betting to the impact on the field. Who knows if there’s a correlation or not, but it’s something that we do want to look into.”
Any kind of data is good, even if you don’t initially think it can help you.
“I’ll read through a [sports business journal] almost every morning. And some of the stuff on Twitter [is helpful]. Guys like Warren Sharp, who’ve really focused more on the football analytics side, kind of seeing how he’s utilizing it and see just data in general and seeing how I can bring it into my world and make a difference on my side for the business people, and maybe it sells another sponsorship or something we’re not thinking of.
We have a product called UGov that does a lot of our market research. We get data dumps every seven to eight days from them, and we use that to take a poll on not only our health but some of our partner’s health as well, and seeing if there are certain things where we’re seeing a spike in certain months that we helped on a promotion and things like that. So that’s really been a focus of ours, and a focus of mine is trying to find any little niche or some sort of data point that might help us in the long run.”
Social media makes it easier to reach customers that don’t live in your area.
“I think social media is really a huge thing. With TV rights and radio rights, you can’t creep into other people’s territory too much. So that’s what you end up probably never seeing a Broncos game or maybe one or two in Chicago versus we don’t see a ton of Chicago games all the time here in Denver. […] So social media is a huge presence for that.”
Fantasy Football has changed the way fans follow the sport.
“Fantasy football, as you said, has really helped grow the sport. I think years, probably decades ago, the male population was a massive piece of the fan of the NFL. The NFL has done a really good job at trying to branch out and diversify who their fan is. The NFL Network has Kaye Adams on their show every single morning, and she might be one of the sharpest fantasy football insiders that I’ll probably ever follow. I take her advice on my own fantasy teams year in and year out.
I think it’s helped grow the game. You’re not just following your team anymore. You might care what Justin Herbert’s doing out in California, or you might care what Zach Wilson is doing up in New Jersey or New York, and even Josh Allen in Buffalo. I think it’s really changed the perception of what a fan is to have. You don’t have to be a fan as much of a certain team anymore as you are a player.
And I think that’s where the impact, as we said, getting your brand out there. You might have a guy like Trevor Lawrence, who plays in Jacksonville. Everybody said he would never get massive sponsorship deals. And here he is signing deals with Gatorade. I think he’s got a cryptocurrency deal. I think he’s also got the Adidas deal now. So I think that has had a direct impact on other partner or brand revenue streams and their bottom line.”
The sports CRM community always has time to help.
“The first thing I tell [college students wanting to get into sports CRM] is to reach out to people. Most people like myself or anybody else in this organization, even other organizations I’ve been with, are very open to helping people out. We can give advice and everything. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Nobody on this side is ever going to say, ‘Man, I don’t want to talk to this poor guy because he’s not….’ Or, ‘I don’t have time for it,’ or, ‘He’s not worth my time.’ I don’t think anyone ever thinks like that. I think we’ve all been in those shoes. So I think, reaching out and volunteer as much as you can. Every time you reach out, you don’t have to ask for a job. I think there’s a misconception of that. If I reach out, I need to have something to come with, or I’m seeking something. Get your name down in front of somebody.”
[2:38] “The biggest difference [between the NBA and the NFL] is the number of games we play in a year. In the NBA, we had 82: 41 at home and 41 on the road. In the NFL, you’ve got only 17 games. So you either have the 8 or 9 at home, and the rest are on the road. So your opportunities to really make an impact from a business standpoint or even at a fan standpoint are significantly limited and way more valuable.”
[5:09] “As an organization, we take [privacy] really seriously. We put out forms for enter-to-wins and things like that for sponsors, and we’ve changed a lot of things. We don’t capture full birth dates anymore. You get maybe a month and a year or just a number for somebody of what their age is, and that’s it. We really put a lot on ourselves to make sure we’re protecting the interests of everybody outside the organization and within the organization.”
[7:13] “We don’t want to e-blast every single person that we have in a database because that’s a quick way to get yourself put in the spam folder.”
[27:10] “[Broncos Plus] was initially a Broncos initiative. We [needed] to find a way to capture more data to reward the fans for sticking with us. How can we make sure that their experience is exactly what they’re expecting, and you’re not handing somebody a Coke instead of a Sprite? If you know that they drink Sprite all the time and they don’t like Diet Coke, we can take care of that.”