Why fan segmentation in sports sponsorship is so important

Nothing is worse when you get an ad when there is no way you fit the product.

My favorite is when I get cat offers from a certain pet store (I won’t say which one).

Two issues there:

  1. I own a dog….so you got the pet owner part right but not the animal
  2. I don’t own a cat because I am allergic to cats (rough)

This problem could be easily solved with my purchase history. If you segmented my email & mailing address by the product purchased then you can provide me with advertisements that are relevant to me and allow me to make easy purchase decisions.

This is no different in sports sponsorship.

For a long time we’ve pushed on overall reach and the size of the highly engaged audience we’ve spent decades, and sometimes centuries, building…but segmentation has not been a great piece of the puzzle in our sponsorship packages.

I’ve touched on this in the past but the biggest thing we compete within sponsorship today is the digital advertising opportunities out there for brands to choose from.

In order to compete, we have to rethink our package offerings and overhaul a fair amount of assets to be successful.

I think that segmentation is a very large part of that overhaul.

Luckily it isn’t very hard to do and there are steps you can take today to get this running ASAP.

I dive into a few of those items below on how you can start to build lists to help you offer segmented activations to your

We have a ton of data at our disposal

Luckily we’ve been building up data within our teams for decades. With the arrival of digital ticketing, we have information like email, name, and billing address.

As you can imagine, all of those data points are extremely valuable in creating audiences where our partner’s message will be most valuable.

For example, with the address, we can understand where our fans live. Now instead of sending an overall email campaign to our fans for say a car dealership, we can see where the closest dealership to them is.

Imagine the difference in messaging there:

The overall one “[Car Company] would like to let you know that we support the [Team] and offer you some of the best on cars.”

The segmented one “Hey [Name], John here from [Local dealership right around the corner from them]. I wanted to introduce myself and let you know we have [team player] coming to the dealership to sign autographs. I would love to have you out.”

As a fan, which would you be more likely to respond to? Isn’t it pretty obvious the second one?

This is the power of segmentation. It builds a relationship. It shows you care enough to get personalized.

The above is very easy to pull off. You just cross-reference the addresses from your ticket list with the locations of your sponsor’s stores.

To get deeper you could even take multi-game fans vs. single-game fans and give them different offers and messaging with the thought that a multi-game fan would be more respondents to an autograph session (they would know the player better) over the single-game fan.

For the single-game fan, you could send a message for free beginner hockey lessons with a player or coach. Help them become more acquainted with the game.

Again, the point here is different fans will have different interests and needs for how they interact with your sponsors. The data you have through ticketing is

We can build segmentation from in-game engagement

If you are wary of using ticketing data or just want a more primed customer who is segmented, you can implement a ‘magnet’ to pull them in.

At SQWAD this is a big piece of our activations. They are not only great first touchpoints to prime the fan with interaction with brands but a great magnet to build segmented audiences.

When a fan plays our activations they give us their email. With this we can build a list to retarget with a few segments in mind:

  1. You can do a broad reach of everyone who played, knowing they saw and interacted with the contest and therefore the brand.
  2. The winners of rewards from the contest. This is great to drive intention. Imagine if you re-target fans who won 10% off an oil change with their local brand location. You know they have the coupon and tools to complete the transaction.
  3. People who played on certain dates, you can segment with certain messaging based on what happened in the game ([player name] scores game-winning goal, send a message with a poster opportunity at the sponsor location).

All of these are more qualified segments because you know they interacted with the brand through the content. They are primed to recognize it and have it stand out to make an action.

This can be done with any contests, but the results from doing this with our activations at SQWAD have been insanely profitable and valuable for sponsors & our clients.

Email segmentation is step one

You have emails from ticketing and sponsorship activations you’ve already run. While some may say that it is dead…it is far from it.

What is dead is non-segmented emails. The absolute worst thing you can do as a marketer today is to take all of your emails and hit them with the same messaging.

We have too many data points to not segment and customize our messaging.

Spam is un-wanted messages, usually from brands, that we deem as unimportant to what we need or want.

By definition, when we don’t segment we send spam. Any messaging that is not segmented is a decision by us as marketers that we are too lazy to send something that isn’t spamming.

We have so much information that we can use to ensure we are segmenting our email messaging.

For example, we can see who has played a particular digital activation and how many times they have played. Based on that information we can segment out high-frequency players and re-target with an email message based on the prizes they have won.

Let’s say they won 10% off tires, we can send an email campaign with the closest locations to redeem their coupon.

2 weeks later we can send an offer that says anyone who has purchased tires in the last week and comes into the shop with a team jersey on gets a buy one get one free oil change.

This segmentation makes me say “hey, that’s me” if I received this email chain. And that is the goal. The more these items make sense to my situation (won 10% off to buy tires and like a team and now have the ability to get a BOGO oil change) the more likely I am to make a purchase.

This one data point has allowed us to have 2 follow-up points that are more likely to convert than sending the generic “it’s Memorial Day, check out our sale”.

How much more likely to convert? Well, we’ve seen as high as 5X more likely to make a purchase at SQWAD when implementing these tactics with the emails we collect from activations by our clients.

You should be segmenting many data points throughout your data to connect with your fans and introduce them to your sponsors. As many as you can.

Email blasting is dead. But we are on a new frontier of email outreach. Segmenting your email outreach can massively increase the purchase rate of your offers, which will bring value to your sponsors that can actually perform than if they did it themselves.

A little help from Facebook Ads Tools

Facebook is a powerful tool for segmenting your customers. Although unlike email outreach you can’t see individually whom you are connecting with, you have access to more information to segment your audience.

The first way you’ll do this is by building an audience on Facebook ads tools from the emails you have collected. To do this you simply upload your list of emails into the audience builder and it will match the emails up with people’s Facebook profiles.

From there you can choose attributes to segment out based on that audience. Say you had the email list from a trivia activation and you wanted to find people who own dogs in it. You can segment out dog lovers so you know your sponsor is reaching their target customer even further.

This has huge effects on the conversion rates and ads you run to get another at-bat at the fan after they have left your arena.

A key example is one I gave earlier, which is the local dealership one. Instead of running an overall ad to your audience for the brand, you can get hyper-localized with the dealership locations.

I am much more likely to stop and interact with an ad from my local dealership than the overall brand of the car company. There is a sense of bond with the local dealership.

We’ve run this with a client of SQWAD based on emails collected from trivia and the results are staggering. Conversions were extremely high and engagement even more so.

You can do this for a number of different segments you can run this toward, especially when it comes to data collected from a digital activation.

For example, let’s say a fan won a buy one get one free coupon from a digital activation (say like SQWAD’s scratch & win). You could take all of those winners and re-target with their local restaurant location, of course also with the food item they won.

Next time they are on Instagram they see the ad, remember the coupon they have sitting in their email inbox, and head to make a purchase.

This is how you can stretch the value of your in-stadium activation and bring more value to your partner. More value means more revenue for your team and sponsors who will flock to your team to sponsor it.

The next killer segmentation will be texting re-target

I always thought that a brand texting me would be intrusive…but it isn’t. I actually prefer it. As you run your activations or build your ticket list you have access to texting opt-ins for your fans.

If you can build a text opt-in list you can retarget your sponsors as well.

The first thing that comes to mind is offering special ticketing deals from a sponsor. Maybe they have a big sponsored night coming up, you can send a text around “[brand name] wants to offer you tickets at just $35 in the [brand] section, reply to buy your tickets”.

I’m also thinking of getting players involved here for some video texting. A special message from your top player and a sponsor to fill the section, and stop by the sponsor location for pre-game.

Or having your fans sign up for a special pre-game text for the best places for pre-game beers brought to you by the beer sponsor. They then could send deals on that beer partner for pre-game.

Of these fans, you can then take their phone numbers and put them into Facebook audience builder and target them again with Facebook and Instagram ads for the beverage partner. This is a great way to continue to reach them outside of the text message.

Texting is a great gateway to grabbing your fan’s attention and segment them to ensure you are helping your sponsor are reaching the right fans.

You should be segmenting your sponsor messaging at all phases and aspects of your packages.

Overall the more you segment the higher the conversion is. When you segment, you are personalizing your message to that person and putting something in front of them that makes sense to them.

You should be segmenting your messages based on the information you have on your fans and deploying this across all of your partnerships. There is no excuse not to in today’s day and age.

I say this a lot in my writings about sponsorship, but there will be teams that segment and teams that don’t. Winners and losers will be defined by those that harness what is done in the modern advertising world and bring it to their sponsorship packages and assets.

Segmentation is a staple in the modern advertisement world and brands expect this. Be the team that offers it in your packages and you will see value and sponsors flocking to your assets.

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