Swish! How The Phoenix Suns Used Fan History To Drive Sales

by Michelle McGinnis on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 in Targeting & Segmentation

You probably remember the sights and smells from the first time you went to a baseball game. Or when you first saw your childhood hero throw a Hail Mary pass across the field for a touchdown. Or witnessed that first gravity-defying dunk in person.

For sports fans, allegiance to a team is often driven by these early, intimate memories. And savvy sports marketers are constantly attempting to tap into fans’ personal histories with a team.

The Phoenix Suns scored on that front recently when the team used its access to a deep archive of media and knowledge of fans origins with the organization to drive a creative renewal campaign. Titled “Legends”, the Suns set out on a highly personalized email marketing campaign that tied past season ticket-holders to the team’s legacy.

“Our biggest objective was to make it as customized and therefore as personalized as ever,” said Andrea Lechner-Becker, Marketing Database Coordinator for the Suns, told me. (Full disclosure: The Suns are an Eloqua client.)

The Suns ran an intriguing play to accomplish its goal. Residing within the team’s Microsoft CRM solution were not only names and addresses of past and present season ticket-holders, but the also a “since” date, marking the date of a fan’s first purchase. On top of that, the organization had access to photos dating all the way back to 1968, the year the team was born.

Pulling the “since” data from its CRM solution into their marketing automation system, the Suns deployed a ultra-targeted email campaign that directed previous season ticket buyers to a hypersite loaded with a personal message and photos from the customer’s point of origin with the team. For instance, those who bought season tickets back in 1993 would likely see photos from the Charles Barkley era, the year he swept into Phoenix and took home the MVP trophy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyFVKd2Nw-s[/youtube]

In some cases the personalization went further, Andrea said. If a customer previously bought tickets from a seating section that had been discounted, they were directed to the cost savings. So by using customer and team history, the Suns pieced together an emotionally and economically driven lead nurturing campaign with an immediate call to action.

The campaign resulted in a 45% open rate, a 34% click-through rate and more than $200,000 in renewed tickets.

More importantly, the campaign instilled a sense of loyalty among fans by drawing from the memories they had created over the years, Andrea said. “We wanted to give them the feeling that I am part of something important here,” she said. It was nothing but net.

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