Our Blog Posts


Most  sports organisations are still trying to understand how they can use CRM within their sales-focussed environments – clubs, NGBs, and events are used to thinking “sell, sell, sell” and customer service (or in this case, fan engagement) has taken a backseat for the longest time.  But things are changing – sport now has to compete for its share of attention, interest, time and disposable income – and CRM is fast-becoming an area that even the smallest property has to consider.  (In fact CRM is more important within smaller organisations – when you have fewer fans, you have to make every single one count!)

So knowing that the sports industry is now accepting the need to implement CRM but is still yet to fully understand the principles, adopt the right culture and justify the budget, I was surprised to come across a paper released by Deloitte titled “Get ahead of the game:  what businesses can learn from the use of analytics in sport”.

Further reading revealed that the paper referred to the use of analytics in sports performance not sports marketing but it was interesting to read how the output of companies such as Opta Sports and ProZone is not dissimilar to MS Dynamics and SAP Customer on Demand.

So while we aspire to the highly tailored and customised marketing approach of Amazon and lastminute.com, it transpires M&S and HMV could do well to look to us……albeit our on-the-field activities!

The paper’s introduction states Whilst the hype around the power of ‘big data’ has only just started to seep into oak-panelled boardrooms and onto the pages of the corporate executive agenda, sporting organisations have been at the forefront of exploiting data to gain a competitive advantage for years.”

Sub headings include “The need for data driven decision-making”, “Integrate data so you can see the whole picture”, andEnsure good data quality”, and ends with the statement “There are real and practical examples of how organisations can start to increase the importance of analysis in their day-to-day operations, and ultimately move towards a world in which decisions are made on fact, not judgement.”

But the content is not about understanding the attitudes of ticket buyers, hospitality customers, volunteers or participants, it’s about using data to calculate which team members to select, what equipment to use, what disciplines to focus on, etc.

The most enlightening example for me is Lewis Hamilton’s debut F1 title win for McLaren in 2008.  At the Brazilian Grand Prix Hamilton needed to finish in the top 5 and with a few laps to go was sitting pretty but he had a challenger behind him, Sebastian Vettel,  who, desperate to pass, could have put them on a collision course had Hamilton decided to fight for his position.   McLaren’s CEO instructed Hamilton to let Vettel pass rather than risk a crash because the data predicted Hamilton would take 5th place at some point during the last lap.  And indeed he did – but not until the very last corner.

To me this is tantamount to using predictive analytics when trying to sell a product, for example a new VIP hospitality package, season ticket or even a piece of merchandise  – if the data tells you how much your customers might pay for a product, how many of them could afford to do so, over what period of time and with what frequency, you’ll have all the information to need to launch it with confidence.  Scale this approach up and football clubs could more accurately predict how many seats their glorious new stadium should have – as opposed to constructing an over-sized cathedral and conversely, not providing enough capacity for growth.

British Cycling is also cited as an example at several points in the paper, particularly when discussing the need for all relevant information to be available in one place.  They realised that everyone associated with an athlete’s performance needed to meet up regularly to ensure they shared all their ideas and views in the best interest of the athlete.  They also realised that the athlete and the bike should be assessed as a single entity not two different components.  This screams out SINGLE CUSTOMER VIEW to me, the holy grail that us marketers continually espouse – ensuring all the data you have about one person is in the same place and easily accessible, to provide a complete picture.

What the Deloitte paper achieves for me, through thrilling examples of goals scored, medals won and titles secured, is to reaffirm the need for greater adoption of CRM in sports marketing.

In a very literal format, Deloitte state that with the technology we now have at our disposal, we don’t need HiPPOs* we have data – we have fact.

*  Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.


  • Boyd Butler says:

    Dear Fiona, yep…you got it. Playing team get all the investment, whether in players or support, (data analysis and interpretation). However, there are still HiPPO’s in the Prozone, Opta style data. These facts still have to be interpreted by humans, i.e. coaches, psychologists, physiologists, physiotherapists and finally Directors of Football and CEO’s. Much of this analysis does not take into account the dynamics between the individuals in terms of the overall team performance, i.e they are still looking at micro-elements rather than how these relate to the whole. They are very tempting as facts, but they can lead to analysis by paralysis. The same for sports CRM on customer data. There is a massive opportunity for using CRM, but most of the time it is too complicated for the user, (club staff member) too expensive, (big initial investment in something that is considered non-priority) and in the worst case scenario, “something we have already tried but failed with.” The other problem is that it does not take into account the dynamices of the overal team performance again…namely a winning team acts as a multiplier to whatever achievements the CRM system will help with. You can have the best 360 degree data you want on an individual purchaser, but when the team are losing, this data won’t help. Therefore data catchment and usage tends to lag behind team success. And when team success mainly drives TV revenues, what’s the point of delivering 5% extra revenue when you can just make 500% that on selling one player. The key sports CRM for most clubs is to start using the basics and then progress once proof can be shown to HiPPO’s, (CEO’s).
    Simple things like email marketing, sms marketing, direct marketing can all be shown to work easily and cheaply. Working with a software partner than can deliver real measurable results on a part commission/part cash basis will then be the best route to go down as both club and vendor have a vested interest in making things work. As for predicting the size of venue to construct etc, this relies on team peformance. In my opinion, it’s about building what is affordable in the short-medium term for the club. Going bust sends a club back 10 years financially. Sustainable growth over 10 years means you reach the holy grail of big TV revenues. That’s where the main money is. The big bonuses and losses come from player trading. A HiPPO should be focussing on this 99% of the time. Whilst someone lower down should be on CRM…but not promising the earth.

    • Hi Boyd
      Some great comments here, thanks for taking the time to read and feed back. I agree with a lot of what you say but where you talk about data being no use unless a teams winning, I have to say I have a different view. Yes we know success on the pitch makes a lot of difference to success off it, but if you communicate, understand, and engage with your customers you can make up for a lot – fans still come to matchs, buy merchandise, etc., when their teams losing so I’d say its even more important to look after them, provide them with excellent customer services, etc, when that’s the case. I also think that while CRM is the responsibility of someone reporting into the HIPPO, you have to have buy-in at the highest level to make it work across the organisation.
      However I do agree that sports organisations can implement CRM without the need for costly technology and can afford to take a more simplified approach while still generating a return.
      It’s a fast growing area for the sports industry – you’re no doubt involved with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *