Teams in America’s National Basketball Association have increasingly been turning to data and analytics to optimise their playing strategies and identify otherwise underrated players. But the trend is also on the rise in NBA marketing departments and has helped one team improve its ad spend 177 per cent.

During ADMA’s annual DataDay conference in Sydney this week Jared Geurts, senior director, marketing analytics at the Utah Jazz, explained how the franchise used data driven marketing and advanced analytics to drive ticket sales.

NBA teams play at least 41 home games each year. For the Jazz that means around 800,000 tickets to be sold. While the Jazz also has several corporate sponsorships, most of the team’s revenue comes from ticket sales, Geurts said, specifically season ticket sales.

The cheapest season ticket packages for the Jazz start at around 350 dollars per seat per year but premium seats go as high as $75,000 and more often than not are bought in bunches.

Three years ago, when Geurts started with the Jazz, the organisation sent a grand total of three types of emails – all generic – trying to sell season tickets, generating around $25,000 in revenue. The next year, the Jazz generated close to $1 million in revenue from email campaigns, a turnaround Geurts attributes largely to more relevant, personalised emails built on customer data.

“[Initially] we just did some simple things to personalise those emails,” Geurts said. “Nothing fancy.”

For example, the Jazz began by identifying customers who favoured weekend games, tailoring emails accordingly. But that switch, Geurts says, allowed increasingly personalised email and laid the foundation for more holistic digital campaigns.

Leveraging customer data for personalised email and other digital campaigns has quickly driven business results, Geurts said.

“We’ve actually, by quite a large margin, been the best [NBA team] at converting new leads. That wasn’t the case before we really started focusing on personalising those ads.”

Data and analytics have also helped the Jazz in reporting and monitoring campaigns and channels. Geurts said money has been diverted away from low performing channels and is now generating a much greater ROI.

“Compared to last season our digital revenue is up 61 per cent and digital spend – the dollars we’re spending – is down 42 per cent for a return on ad spend of 177 per cent.”

“Just from some simple personalisation and caring more about our customers than what we want to sell.”

Team performance

It also helped that the team began playing much better, making the playoffs for the first time in five years around the same time of the marketing overhaul.

Geurts told Which-50 it can be difficult to separate marketing success from on court performance but the two often compliment each other.

“That’s one of the things that’s really tough because our product changes so much year to year and we never really know.”

“It is hard. It’s hard to tease out how much is team performance. So much of it is, we’d be the first to admit, it’s so much easier to market when your team is good than if you have a 20 win season.”

But when the Jazz are performing well the marketing team doesn’t slow down. It does, however, shift marketing priorities somewhat, Geurts explained. On court success drives interest which creates more opportunities to attract brand new customers.

“One of the focuses we’ve really had this year [when the team is playing well] is to not focus quite as much on getting the customers we have to spend more but really bringing in new customers. When the team is good that’s a little bit easier, it doesn’t cost us as much because people around Utah are excited about the team.

“And the more customers we can pull in now while we’re good, it gives us a bigger base to reach out to if and when the team gets bad.”

Beyond email

Email and the first party data it provides formed the base of the Jazz’s marketing efforts in other digital channels. The email data is stored in a data warehouse along with customer data from other channels, with the Jazz tapping Tealium for much of the heavy lifting on data consolidation and Google for Analytics.

The partnership with Tealium helps the Jazz access customer data from points where they would otherwise lose it – customers complete ticket purchases on a third party website, for example.

“Having all that data at our fingertips let us act quickly on our findings. We could react right when somebody showed interest in something. And having all this data also let’s us follow up and measure our results.”

Cover image via Utah Jazz Facebook

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