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Football League Audiences Down – Step Forward CRM

Deloitte recently published their inimitable Annual Review of Football Finance, yet again providing us with mountains of content to read, re-read, debate, discuss and analyse.

Deloitte are masters – not only of producing a high quality publication that perfectly demonstrates the quality and range of their services in this sector – but of putting a positive spin on a rather negative finding.  (But isn’t that what we want from consultants?)

Case in point:  “Across the three divisions of the Football League, in 2012/13 aggregate attendances (of 15.6m, down 4%) remained above 15m for the 10th consecutive season, again demonstrating the strength and passion of spectator support lower down the English football pyramid.”

Here they managed to detract from the key fact – that Football League attendances are down.  And instead of highlighting that they’ve now dipped below 16 million, instead stress that they continue to be above 15 million.  Let’s hope this rate of attrition doesn’t continue, not least so Deloitte don’t have to find a way to spin “under 15 million”.

But maybe instead of just hoping that’s the case, we should be doing something about it.  Maybe we should be engaging with our football fans on a closer and more relevant basis, and encouraging them to come to our matches by providing them with the necessary information to make a buying decision?

Enter stage left:   CRM.

And before you get flustered, I’m not suggesting Football League clubs should suddenly invest in costly software licenses and lo and behold, their flocks will return.  I understand the scale of business at that level, the restriction on resources and the focus on other areas.  But I am suggesting we should start thinking about the relationships we have with our existing customers and our lapsed ones, our mega-fans and our disenfranchised, and instead of marketing to them as a group, we should be segmenting them into groups based on their individual needs and situation.  We should be marketing to a segment of one.

Thankfully we’ve got email marketing and that means it isn’t just a possibility – it should be an absolute necessity!

Apart from the cost-efficiency of email marketing, it’s possibly the only form of marketing that provides you with absolute tracking capability.  You can see who’s interested enough in you to open your email – and who then wants to hear even more about what you have to say.  This is one step away from someone who wants to buy from you.  (OK maybe not quite – but it’s definitely heading in the right direction!)  And on top of all that, it delivers an incredibly high ROI — in fact the Direct Marketing Association puts it at over 21:1.  Now that’s got to help you justify your marketing budgets!

And when it comes to your database of customers and segmenting them into groups, you don’t need sophisticated software – yes it would be nice but sometimes you need a qualification just to figure out how to work it (see this excellent piece about the perils of selecting excellent systems…only to discover you don’t have the excellence needed to use them!)  Depending on what version of Excel and how many customers you have, you can figure it all out on your desktop (or laptop.)  And if you’ve got Microsoft Access it becomes even easier.  OK so it won’t be a dynamically updating solution – and you still need someone who understands data, segmenting and Office products – but that’s not as big a stretch or commitment.

I’d really like Deloitte’s 2014 version to be spin-less (and that’s not the same as spine-less) – I’d like to see that Football League attendances are up, customer satisfaction’s at an all-time high (regardless of on-field performances) and CRM is no longer something only Tesco understands.


  • Boyd Butler says:

    I guess Deloitte would say it is using the principle of “Truth, well told.” which is JWT’s slogan.

    Regards emailing fans…another desperately easy and even more effective tool is….wait for it….SMS text messaging. It’s a 90% plus open rate in 3 minutes, (far better than email) can be done by anyone with a PC or smart phone at a club, can be 100% tracked and costs 5 pence a text to send out as bulk.

    This is such easy stuff that it works for normal ticket sales, season ticket sales, hospitality sales and cup games…but not many clubs use it.

    I could set up any club’s sms text campaign in about 10 minutes flat and get them up and running in half an hour, (including training them).

    The figure for empty seats at League clubs is tens of millions of pounds of lost revenue. Not saying I could fill them all, but I do know the worst thing is not leaving them empty, but the failure to try and fill them.

    Writing reports about how bad/good things are is easy. Coming up with easy to implement, cost effective solutions is really where clubs should be getting their kicks.

    Any clubs reading this want to try the SMS challenge? (Cue stampede to the phones…)

    Fiona knows where to reach me.

  • Hi Boyd, thanks for your comments – and I hope your shameless use of my blog to promote your services works for you 😉

    Re: SMS text marketing, I’m with you on that – but only when you’re already engaged with your fans, know a bit about them, etc. email marketing helps you get to that level of understanding at a fraction of sms marketing costs – then BAM! you can hit them with the immediate call to action of a text.

    You once told me about a challenge you’d like to set a Premier League Club that’s an almost foolproof way to engage with more of their fans on a “no risk” basis. Are you still working on that campaign? If so, feel free to promote the premise here.

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