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Oakland A's score with customer strategy

A new system is helping the team identify its fans and keep them coming out to the ballgame.

For most Major League Baseball teams, the off-season means replenishing the batting lineup and the bullpen; making sure the starting shortstop and the team's star closer have newly-minted contracts that will keep them in uniform for the next season and beyond. For the Oakland Athletics, the off-season will also be reserved as a time to work on the acquisition and retention of another group of important people who are also vital to the club's long-term success -- their fans.

Take me to the ball game, and take me back again

A's fans arrive at Network Associates Coliseum through four main channels. They purchase tickets via the Internet and phone (the two largest touchpoints), as well as the club's box office and outlets (the smallest touchpoint). While the A's know how fans purchase their tickets, they are less aware of why customers are purchasing their seats -- are they buying tickets based on price, or perhaps they're originally from Boston and only buy tickets when the Red Sox are in town -- and how to motivate them to return to the park for another game.

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"We're trying to get a stronger feel for why they're buying and see what trends we can identify," said Cameron Stewart, interactive marketing manager. NetSuite's flagship solution will help the A's identify such trends by integrating the club's sales efforts (season ticket sales, group ticket sales and sponsorship sales) into one system. "That's a large database, and it's difficult without a program to make sense of it."

As a result, the A's will be better enabled to market specific ticket packages to fans based on their sales history. Currently, the A's only collect basic transactional data from fans—name, address, e-mail address, credit card information The new system will allow the A's to capture additional information, such as birthdays (which could then enable them to connect with fans via a birthday card).

The A's are expecting the system to help improve the effectiveness of their 20-person sales staff, which doesn't share a consistent method of keeping track of their sales contacts and leads.

"We would like to find a way to make that more uniform, and give us a vision of what's in the pipeline and what we have to work with," Stewart said.

In addition, the salespeople maintain their own customer information. This data is not yet shared throughout the sales operation. The sales staff will begin working with the new system in late October, when the organization begins selling its 2005 season ticket packages.

More marketing wins

In addition, this new knowledge about its fan base will also help the A's better target its marketing promotions. The team's current promotional efforts consist of more general and large mass mailings.

"Because of that, it's not done as often as we would like. It's not cost-efficient and it's a heavy burden on us to get that out," Stewart said. "This will allow us to act a little quicker."

At this point, mailings go out about once a month. Stewart expects that frequency to increase to once every home stand.

The A's expect to see a lift in its advertising efforts as well.

"Having a little more ready access to our customer information, we can make more informed decisions on demographics in terms of placing out-of-home advertising," Stewart said. "This will help us identify where our fans are, who our fans are, so we can more accurately place our advertising."

A new season begins

While the initiative won't officially kick off until baseball season ends, Stewart said the team's successful on-field performance during the summer months is providing a solid base from which to begin.

"Right now [because of the team's success], we're getting a lot of information about our fans and their preferences," he said. "Right now, the better the club does [on the field], the better we do at the gate. That's where we're going to gather that potential fan information. In the event that we have a lean year at the gate, we would have all of this information already there. During the lean years, it's much harder to gather the information."

Copyright © 2004 Carlson Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Peppers & Rogers Group is a Carlson Marketing Group Company.

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