Even before the pandemic, the brands that were most successful were the ones that delivered customized products and experiences, and the digital disruption COVID-19 brought only accelerated that trend.
As sports venues add more capacity for games and vaccinated fans make their way back to the action, teams need to cater to consumers who’ve enjoyed the convenience of digital service brought to them by Uber, Netflix and Amazon. Relying only on the technology they used before the shutdowns has put them even farther behind.
“Purchasing tickets today is actually not easy — the number of clicks, the amount of time it takes,” Lifeblue CEO Phillip Blackmon said during a panel discussion at last week’s National Sports Forum Spring Summit. “But the expectations now are that you can do it without any human interaction.”
Blackmon led a discussion called “Turning Fans into Subscribers” along with Mike Sarage, director of premium and business development for the Detroit Pistons, and Colin Cook, director of sales for Columbus Crew SC. Their conversation focused on the evolving demands of consumers in the user-first economy and the solutions Lifeblue has built through its ticketing platform TurnStyle®.
“The expectation of the consumer is that they are going to be able to pick out and do what they want, when they want it and how they want,” Blackmon explained. “The brands that embrace me individually are the ones that are winning.”
TurnStyle® makes it easy for teams to offer customizable ticket plans — any number of games, any sets of benefits, any pricing options — so that they can respond to their fans’ changing expectations without a heavy lift.
“We polled the top 40 under 40 in metro Detroit because they’re going to be our new generation of fans,” the Pistons’ Sarage said. “And one commonality among all those members: They want flexibility. They want customization. They don’t want to go to a full season any more because that generation is kind of passing on.
“There’s so many different entertainment options out there right now; they want exclusive access.”
The Pistons leveraged TurnStyle® at the end of the 2020-21 season for a pilot program that returned purchases totaling about $200 per ticket and are aiming for even higher yield in the 2021-22 season.
TurnStyle® delivers real-time, actionable data on the choices fans are making throughout the purchase process, which helps teams determine new marketing ideas and strategies for dynamic pricing on a per-game or per-package basis.
“It’s all about how we are leveraging that middle-of-the-funnel conversion and getting people that otherwise would have no connection to soccer to come and try a game,” Cook said of the Major League Soccer champions’ use of TurnStyle®. “So for us, it’s fan affinity, long-term it’s the data, the connectivity with everything else we are doing from a modeling and marketing standpoint.”