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Data and the modern day sports fan experience

Data and sports have always been symbiotic. But what happens when you take it out of the stadium, off of the field, and into the fan experience?
Ariella Torv

Data and sports have always been symbiotic. From tracking players stats, to their literal movements, it has always been utilized and analyzed to influence the best decisions for a team and/or league. But what happens when you take it out of the stadium, off of the field, and into the fan experience? As it turns out, it only brings positive results. Here’s how data can tie into and help enhance the digital sports fan experience.

First things first

In order to utilize fan data, let’s jump into some of the basics like owning fan data. We’ve learned here at Pico that teams typically only know 2-10% of their fan base through their transactional data. Meaning the information provided when a fan buys a ticket, subscribes to a newsletter, orders merchandise, etc. But when you look at any sports team or leagues digital channels (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) you instantly see one of two things -

1. The number of likes and followers each page has
2. The crazy high engagement they receive on their posts

So, while a team can have 10M fans on Facebook alone, they will most likely only have around 1M fans identified and living within their database. The discrepancy is huge. And the reason why this happens is that the teams have no real way of knowing who is behind each like, comment, and share, unless they comb through each one on their own. Why don’t they have access to their fans data? Well, you can ask the giant social networks that. 

“When a team doesn’t own their fan data, and doesn’t identify their digital fans, it’s really hard to know and understand who your fans are,” Aviv Paz, CTO of Pico stated, “you can’t leverage their engagement into a business objective that is meaningful for you and your organization.”

With a digital solution like Pico for example, teams are able to identify and gather data on their fans in a safe way that teaches them about each fan's personal, unique preferences.

Buzzword break

Identified fans? We use this term a lot. As stated above, teams only know 2-10% of their fans. Essentially meaning that they have two types of fans; no, not die hard and basic but identified and unidentified fans. The identified fans are those that, like stated above, have made some type of transaction with the team where they paid with a credit card, received an online receipt, made an order, etc. The unidentified fans are those that are fans on digital but haven’t yet made any transactions that would identify them to the team and place them within their database.

Getting to know you
*Julie Andrews voice*

While collecting data on your fans might seem invasive, there’s ways to do it safely (and legally) where fans are opting-in to share their unique data points and in turn, their preferences. Let’s take the below example with the Cincinnati Bengals.


The Bengals called on their fans on Facebook to participate in a quiz that would tell them what jungle cat they are for a chance to win free merch from their pro shop. They utilized their great fan engagement on social and linked it with a digital activation that created a fun experience for their fans. Before the activation even began, fans were asked to agree to the Ts & Cs, select which product they would prefer out of a shirt, hat, or sweater, and at the end, the best email address to contact them if they won/lost. Just the email address alone connects their fans on social to those that they have within their database, but the other questions shouldn’t go unnoticed. The preferred merchandise teaches the team what types of merch should be marketed to that fan. They learned which player that fan relates to the most - now they can serve that fan with relevant highlights and content pertaining to that fan and their most relatable player. Each question, and therefore answer, has taught the team more about their fans than if they had just posted an Instagram or Twitter voting poll. 

When you own your fan data, when you identify your fans, when you meet them where they are digitally to engage them, that’s when it really counts. That’s how fan experiences are enhanced and improved and how fans needs and preferences are met. If you have any questions about data security or would like to learn more about identifying your fans, get in touch with us today.



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