Analytics in football: Taking data off the field and into the stadium

Data analytics is an increasingly common source of competitive advantage in professional football, but the focus has primarily been on generating benefits on the pitch.

However, data analytics can also be used to drive fan engagement off the field.

Clubs up and down the country are sitting on a wealth of valuable data detailing fan behaviour, from attendance at matches through to their chosen refreshments and merchandise.

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This data, gathered at the point of online purchase, crucially gives an accurate and detailed picture of customer preferences. But how can clubs turn this data into a successful commercial strategy to drive revenue?

Analysing fan behaviour and driving loyalty

According to research commissioned by Advanced Ticketing and undertaken by Sportwise, the ability to choose a favourite seat is one of the most important ticket-purchasing considerations for 72% of UK football fans.

The research also suggested that purchasing online is now the preferred option for obtaining tickets, with 91% of fans favouring the convenience of the internet to buy their ticket.

Critically, the football fans surveyed were happy to provide clubs information about themselves. However, only the clubs that act on these preferences will increase customer loyalty.

Historically, football league clubs have been at the forefront of the ticketing innovation. Ideas such as ‘pay what you want’ ticketing promotions at Brentford and the dynamic pricing system at Cardiff City helped drive attendances.

Looking ahead, however, clubs need to tap into a more personalised approach to help attract more people through the gates of the Football League fixtures every weekend of the season.

What women want

Delving into the details of the demographics of a club’s fan base can provide another data analysis opportunity and drive commercial success.

The Premier League states that, on average, 30% of football audiences are female. Every club with a lower percentage of female supporters should consider whether this is an untapped opportunity – not only to grow audience, but also to uncover new sponsorship opportunities.

To get a better understanding of the female football fan, Advanced Ticketing commissioned further research into the motivations behind women attending live matches. Broadly, male and female fan’s preferences were strikingly similar, with avid sports fans of both genders very passionate about the beautiful game.

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The match day experience proved to be the main area of difference. For the female spectator, Wi-Fi access and an ability to engage with social media whilst watching the game was key, whereas men were more keen on watching the game without distractions.

For example, 80% of male supporters revealed no interest in sharing photos during a game, whereas 34% of female supporters shared photos or expressed an interest in doing so. The research also showed 72% of female supporters are more likely to text and make phone calls during a match, compared with 62% of men.

The message for clubs is simple: look carefully at the demographics of the audience. If women do not constitute a significant proportion of their fan base or are not represented broadly within season ticket holders, there is a strong possibility that clubs are missing out on a significant commercial opportunity.

And then, by understanding the preference from female fan to be connected, the club utilise effective means to market to women before, during and after the match.

The Amazon experience

Consumers in the retail industry are leading the way with online purchasing. Mobile commerce now accounts for 36% of UK e-retail sales, and 52% of traffic to retail websites are now coming via smartphones and tablets (IMRG and Capgemini).

The opportunities for sports clubs to replicate and benefit from this trend are numerous. Not only does it streamline and reduce administrative costs by driving all purchasing – including ticketing – online, but clubs can also deliver a world-class customer experience online.

Sports brands need to embrace the latest responsive technology to ensure they are servicing the needs of the supporter on any device, anytime and anywhere.

Fans want to be able to update their information to ensure it is accurate, up-to-date and provides only the details they want their club to know about them.

At the same time, this allows clubs to act upon this data to provide a targeted and personalised experience for each fan.

Using this data, the latest technology can enable products to be linked based on the customer profile and preferences, so that customers can be automatically alerted to relevant offers and promotions through targeted marketing campaigns.

Some ecommerce platforms can also offer marketing campaign tracking functionality that allows clubs to track effectiveness and ROI.

Intelligent linking

With the range of intuitive ecommerce technology available to clubs today, fans can now receive a much more personalized customer experience. 

Fan data can be interrogated intelligently by ecommerce platforms, set up with rules-based systems on customer profile information such as address, age, frequency of purchase, and level of spend.

These rules can also be based on preferred channel of purchase and previous purchase history, as well as in real-time based on the current basket selection. 

Fans can then automatically receive a personalised journey as soon as they go online to purchase anything from a club. Increasing personalisation, particularly at the point of purchase, raises customer loyalty, which is key to a successful commercial strategy.

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The point of any purchasing transaction, especially ticketing, is a crucial opportunity of engagement for clubs. The point at which fans willingly share their personal data when purchasing their tickets is a unique opportunity to increase their engagement and, ultimately, drive increased revenues.

Clubs need to check that they own and understand their fan data, and that they subsequently utilise technology to maximise this data capture opportunity to cross- and up-sell.


Sourced from Mark Dewell, Advanced Ticketing

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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