The Personal Touch: How Hyper-Personalization is Reshaping Sport

11 May 2023

Everywhere you look, our experiences and interactions are becoming drastically more personalized. As technology evolves, organizations can connect on a much deeper level with their customers, in what is now a new battleground for the sports industry.

I mean, who doesn’t like to feel special right?

Here’s a few well-known consumer examples:

Spotify: If you had 450M subscribers, it would feel like a tall task to personalise each individual experience. Not for Spotify, thanks to its discovery and recommendation AI engine.

You know when you aren’t sure what you want to listen to on your morning walk? Hit the Discovery Weekly tile and it gifts you a bunch of songs you have never listened to but are magically tailored to your taste. Or the Spotify Wrapped feature at the end of each year that everyone posts on their Instagram, which makes you feel like Spotify really ‘get’ you. That’s no accident.

Netflix: If you are like us, you spend a lot of time scrolling through Netflix. No, it’s not perfect, but in the background, Netflix is using AI to generate 76,000 micro-genres to help categorize viewer preferences, just for you. They will even A/B test multiple artwork thumbnails depending on your psychology and preferences.

Your local Coffee shop: You know, the one you’ve been going to for a little while now and when you arrive, you’re greeted by name (unless its Starbucks, where they’ll butcher the spelling) and already know your order? Even that micro-example makes you much more likely to come back, to the point it feels like you’re cheating on them when you go somewhere else for your caffeine hit.

So, where do sports teams and organisations fit in here? While they might be battling on field with each other, their off-field competition are the likes of Amazon, Spotify and Tiktok, where people are having these very tailored experiences. There is now an expectation from customers to be understood and catered for in the same way, by the teams they love.

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Untapped opportunity

Sports teams have one huge advantage over the average business, and that’s the emotional connection fans have with them. I mean, what other business could break your heart week after week and yet you still come back with the whole family, sit in the stands, buy a scarf and a hot dog? Only in sport do you have that innate, undying loyalty that fans have.

And that’s something that teams have historically taken for granted.

So how are we communicating to them? A lot of the time, its via megaphone marketing. You’ve likely got a few of these sitting in your inbox, and they probably read like this:

It’s a good start if you’re getting called by your [first name], but in 2023, that’s probably not cutting the mustard.

In a noisy world where we are slammed by information 24/7, we tune this stuff out almost subconsciously, the spray and pray emails of the world slowly decomposing in junk mail.

We can’t seem to go a day without the TikTok lovers getting a mention, but Gen Z should be at the forefront of our minds. This emerging audience should be the focus of every marketing team and while they are fickle, they are willing to release their data and information if they know they’ll get a great experience in return.

And the prize of getting hyper-personalization right is significant. From our brainy friends at McKinsey, you can:

  • Reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%
  • Lift revenues by 5% to 15%
  • Increase the efficiency of marketing spend by 10% to 30%

Not to mention recruiting a new supporter can cost up to 5X more than retaining an existing supporter. 

While you should always be looking to acquire new fans, zeroing in on a particular segment of your current audience and creating hyper-personalized material pays dividends. And if you pair that with your ticketing and membership data, creating a single view of your customer that all departments can see, you are going to have a huge edge on the comp.

In the business world, a Deloitte report suggests that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that offer personalized experiences.

Sports teams and organisations have always had the luxury of undying loyalty, so they haven’t had the burning platform to lean into this. The LA Lakers might know that they’ll sell out Crypto Arena regardless – but not everyone has that luxury.

And that’s why this is so important. Sport is at the very beginning of the personalization journey, which means there is mountains of value waiting to be unlocked.

Lesson from the NBA

A great example of this in practice is some work we recently did with one of our NBA customers. After ensuring the data was spot on, we targeted fans that had purchased certain sections at their arena the season prior.

From a single email template, we delivered personal introductory emails to each fan – thousands of fans – with a personalised greeting, an image of their (new) contact representative (some whom they knew personally), along with a few of their rep’s personal interests – fishing, cooking, or their favourite dunk from last season. There were 12 dynamic versions of the email, and it made those fans feel like they were being communicated with on a truly personal level.

While it took upfront time to develop each of these emails, the customer’s strike-rate of renewal for the following season in those premium tickets was much higher than it would have been with a general blast email. Not to mention it saved a lot of time for the reps creating an email for every single person.

Source: Data Talks

That’s the power of having strong membership and ticketing data, to then interact with those ‘superfans’ who may have otherwise been ‘on the fence’ for the next season.

There you can see the value of hyper-personalization and the technology behind it that enables these interactions. Fans want to feel truly connected with their team and the humans that power them, and this is a sure-fire way to sell more tickets and ensure deeper brand loyalty.

If you want to explore the art of the possible across hyper-personalization at your organization, please drop us a line and we would be happy to have a chat.

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