In a world where we tend to get blind-sided with our focus on selling tickets, it was great to meet a group of sports executables who correctly identified CRM as a catalyst for the future.
MESGO is an executive master's degree in sports governance, supported by academic partners including Birkbeck London and the University of Limoges, along with sports partners including FIBA, IHF, ERA and UEFA. The course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to professional sport and examines economic, political and legal perspectives around issues facing the global sports industry. Earlier this year I was invited to join them and found myself in Paris at the Parc des Princes, home of Paris St. Louis. Germain (a treat in itself!) Discussing the role of CRM in sport .
Most encouraging for me was that while none of the participants themselves had any great exposure to CRM, rather than identifying ticket sales as a key driver, they talked of nationality and the community . Of course, the more sports organizations engage with the wider community and use CRM to plan for the future, the more tickets they're absolutely sell anyway – but the fact that they started out thinking mid- to long-term made for an interesting workshop .
The sports industry is notoriously known for its short-term thinking – short-termism becomes sport-termism – we tend to focus on the next 3 points or the next event and with all the will in the world, a 3 to 5 year business plan ends up gathering dust. Indeed I once met a vastly experienced marketer who switched segments from the telco industry to join a Premier League football club with a brief to help expand their brand internationally. She spent her first few months learning about the business and planning her assault on Asia (no surprise that the focus would be there) and then the season started and she found herself knee deep in perimeter advertising!
OK, so I'm generalizing a bit, but I'm saying that for every sports organization that plans for the next 3 years, there are 10 or even 100 that does not even plan for the next season! So in our CRM session we discussed not just segmenting and analyzing data, tailoring personalized communications, acquiring email addresses and exploring social channels, we also talked about the importance of nationality and the community.
But what did that actually look like? Well, for the case study we used, the MESGO students proposed a digital communications schedule for a national sports team participating in an international biennial event. The schedule envisaged of current match reviews and historical content but they also included future internationals and major cup competitions for the following 4 years. By putting a framework together, the students were saying: “you need to think beyond the now, you've got to think of what happens next”.
The nature of the sports industry is such that we naturally have levels of brand loyalty that most businesses would die for – but when it comes to CRM, we're way behind other industries. We naturally have the foundations for creating, maintaining and developing relationships with our customers – yet, many of us believe CRM is for everyone else. And we know that our businesses – established sports clubs, leagues and governing bodies – are going to be around for a long time, so why are not we planning for that future?
We are making progress, albeit slowly, but I for one left Paris and the glorious Parc des Princes feeling confident that in this group of 20 sports executives, CRM has the same chance as goal line technology. And they said that would never happen!