Why the NFL is Lasered in on Fan Retention (and the MLB isn’t)

15 January 2024

The NBA and NFL average home attendance is almost at capacity across the board. At 96% and 98% respectively, their focus is not wholly on acquiring new fans, but retaining and up-selling their current ones.

Sure, valuable time is spent on the final few percent, but that’s not where the major financial upside is. Retaining season members is a critical aspect of sustaining a thriving franchise, they’re the community that envelops a team, builds its identity, and fills those seats (in addition to providing revenue).

It’s a fortunate position to be in, you’ve only got to look as far as the MLB to see the other side of the coin. With larger ballparks and a ton of regular season home games, they’re in a different position.

For example, the LA Dodgers have the highest average home attendance in the league at 47,371, but their home stadium seats 56,000, meaning they’re 86% full and on the lookout for new fans. 

So how do teams who are focused on retaining fans, overcome the challenges around bringing a season ticket holder back from the verge of cancellation?

That’s where new technologies come into play, it’s the enabler to creating bespoke experiences that foster the long-term loyalty rights-holders are always on the lookout for.

That long-term loyalty has its benefits too.

Retaining season ticket holders isn’t just about ensuring a consistent revenue stream, it’s about building a dedicated fan base that forms the backbone of a team’s success.

Season ticket holders are more than plain old fans or members. Like we said, they’re invested stakeholders who have that deeper connection with a team, they’re in the stadium providing support week in, week out.

Their consistent presence at games builds that sense of belonging and community, creating an infectious and electrifying atmosphere in the stadium, the holy grounds where people from all walks of life come together to share their passion and create lifelong memories.

Think of the fortress that is Anfield for Liverpool FC or the average 87 decibel raucous that follows the Cowboys in AT&T Stadium.

This communal spirit extends well beyond the stadium too, as members engage in various team-related activities, charity events, and social gatherings. 

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But even the most loyal can slip through the cracks.

Changing personal circumstances, competition for their entertainment dollars, or a dip in team performance are only some of the reasons why ticket holders may cancel. But another reason, which is in control of event operators, is they may feel taken for granted. Once they’re in, it’s easy for a team to assume they’re sticking around for the long haul, and they might not have access to the data to think otherwise.

This is where tech, specifically CRM, is the direct line to your valuable, existing fans.

It can understand a fan’s pattern of behavior with the vast amount of data the system holds. For example, they might always attend a certain match up. So, it sends them personalized communications and offers to bring them in for game day.

Targeted marketing campaigns designed specifically for retaining season members can also be implemented. Identify at-risk members, then tailor promotions, incentives, and renewal offers, maximizing your marketing efforts and increasing the likelihood of them signing up for another season.

However, the largest missed opportunity we’ve seen is during the game.

It all comes down to the little 3-4 hour window from when a member enters, to when they leave. This is how you can make an impact and provide a world class experience they’ll never forget, and currently, fans are regularly treated as another face in the crowd.

The reason for this is simple. For years, event organizers have had their hands tied. The tools required to interact effectively with a large number of individuals during live events have been lacking.

Even in frictionless venues that encourage attendees to use digital touchpoints, by the time customer data is retrieved, analyzed and converted into meaningful insights, the event itself is usually a fading memory.

Enter real-time ticket scan data.

It’s pretty simple, but it unlocks a new world of opportunities. With real time ticket scan data, the CRM notifies your team when an identified ‘at-risk member’ scans into the venue.

From there, your team can jump into action and provide an exceptional experience to reengage that fan.

The options for engagement are endless, you could send discounts for food and merch, give them sideline passes or upgrades, send a club legend to greet them.  

It also allows you to provide that personal touch by sending a team member to their seat to emphasize how grateful the club is for the members’ ongoing support.

These interactions go a long way toward transforming the relationship and retaining members.

You’re also opening the door to a potential up-sell. This experience might be so impressive that instead of cancelling their season ticket, a fan could upgrade to a more premium package for the next season. 

Retaining season members is not merely about selling tickets for a season; it’s about cultivating a loyal and engaged community that stands by the team through thick and thin.

By leveraging technology, organizations can transform fan relationships and bring them back from the brink of cancellation through real time ticketing data.

It’s a topic we cover in much more depth in our upcoming whitepaper A Ticketing Revolution: Unlocking live event personalization that packs a punch.

Learn more about the implications of real-time ticketing data with comments from sports tech leaders including Microsoft’s Director of Sports.

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