Winning customers with a 360-degree mobile sports platform

By Jim Rushton

Not all sports fans are created equal.

While every fan should be treated well, not every fan should be treated the same. Some fans bring in revenue for teams and leagues. Those fans are considered consumers and customers. And to engage with these paying customers and consumers and convert those fans into customers and consumers, mobile sports platforms are implemented to provide engaging digital experiences. Engagement starts with mobile experiences that are responsive and personalized.

Fans, consumers and customers

If you are like the millions and millions of others in your region and across the world and you cheer for your team, watch them play on television, listen to the play-by-play on radio, or follow them on social media, you’re a “fan.”

If you’re like the hundreds of thousands that have registered for their e-newsletters or have attended a game or match with a friend, you’re a “consumer.”

Now, if you are actually like the several thousands or hundreds of thousands who spend money directly with your local team or league by purchasing tickets or purchasing a jersey at their store or subscribing to their paid OTT channel, you’re a “customer.”

The challenges of having more fans than customers and consumers

So, here in lies the challenge for sports enterprises; they are one of the few businesses that have millions of fans, however, they have relatively few actual customers.

Teams “rent” their relationships with “fans,” have “earned” their relationships with “consumers” and ultimately “own” their relationship with “customers.” See the figure below.

Common Challenges

What we mean by “rent” is that the direct access to communicate with that fan and the information about that individual is owned by a third party platform. “Earn” means that the team or league has earned the right to have a direct two-way dialogue with the fan who is consuming their product and learn more about that fan’s personal preferences along the way. Finally, “own” is when the fan is directly transacting with the team and league and the team and league are earning direct revenue from that customer.

Who’s making money off of professional sports leagues?

In today’s digital and mobile-first world, it is important for the teams and leagues to “earn” and “own” the relationship with their fans. It’s just a matter of time before someone else benefits in terms of revenue that is directly or indirectly generated from the team or league’s content.

Consider this, in 2016 if you added up all the revenue generated by the five major professional sports leagues, the “Core Market,” in the United States: National Football League (NFL), National Basketball League (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and Major League Soccer (MLS), you would find that this revenue is actually less than that of the combined revenue of the “Derivative Market” that includes fantasy sports, including Yahoo Fantasy Football, secondary ticket markets, like Stub-Hub, Seat Geek, and others, and social media related to sports.

These “Derivative Market” organizations own the digital relationship with the fans of the five major professional sports leagues and are generating billions of dollars from the content created by the teams and leagues — and in most cases — not paying any royalty fees to the teams and leagues!

The opportunity in mobile sports platforms

Fan engagement starts with creating mobile experiences for the fan that are responsive to time, proximity or relationship. Time takes into account if it’s game day, a non-game day, or off-season. Proximity examines if someone is in-venue, out-of-venue and out-of-home, or out of venue and in-home. Where are you when the game is on? Your relationship to the team and league at if you’re a fan, engaged fan, consumer, customer or high-value customer.

These mobile experiences don’t stand alone, though. IBM Sports and Entertainment Mobile Platforms and Strategy are supported by a combination of fan experience design, data management, analytics, personalized marketing, personalized commerce, personalized content, loyalty programming and ultimately, the entire fan experience with a 360-degree and 365-day perspective.

Written By

Jim Rushton

Global Leader / Partner, Sports and Entertainment Practice, IBM Interactive Experience

Jim Rushton is a dynamic and energetic sports and entertainment marketing executive with a unique ability to combine vision, strategy, creativity and analytical skills, while executing to deliver quantifiable revenue growth results. Rushton has more than 20 years of local sports,…