How data can help football clubs maximise ticket revenue

How data can help football clubs maximise ticket revenue
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Mike Fantis

European football is booming. La Liga boasts world football’s two richest clubs, Bundesliga is the world’s best-attended football league, and the Premier League continually tops the table for revenue generated—including an incredible £9.2bn for 2019-2022 broadcasting rights.

But, as we’ve learned from our work with top teams across Europe, a popular product doesn’t always guarantee sold-out stadiums. Maximising ticket revenue is a completely different challenge for football clubs; one that demands a data-led approach to digital media. Here’s how we tackle it.

Every empty seat is an opportunity

With practically every fixture televised somewhere in the world, vast swathes of empty seats can create a serious perception problem for leagues and clubs. But it’s not just a question of optics: ticket holders who decide not to attend may also prevent their club from reselling the seat and growing their following.

One woman sitting and one man is walking to his seat on a stadium bleachers.

The first step towards sold-out games is to encourage season ticket holders to sell individual match tickets back to the club to be resold. That’s why many clubs now run their own marketplaces to facilitate the resale of unwanted tickets. In the process, they’re protecting buyers from being exploited on the black market, where tickets are often either counterfeit or vastly overpriced.

But that’s just the beginning. To plan media campaigns that drive awareness and interest in these platforms, you first have to forecast the number of tickets available for each fixture. We use data to solve this problem for La Liga, Bundesliga, and Premier League clubs—and we start by understanding fan behaviour:

  • What are the attendance numbers by opponent over the last five seasons?
  • Is attendance relative to the club’s league position—or the position of the opponents?
  • How do attendance numbers vary by kick-off month, day, and time?
  • Does weather affect attendance? Are all stands covered, or only some?
  • Are certain competitions (e.g. Champions League) more popular than others?

How to fill a stadium one seat at a time

Now we move our attention to the real difference-maker—the media execution and marketing strategy—which can be lined up in a formidable five-man midfield.

  1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

    Football clubs don’t know if or when season ticket holders will release their tickets for resale, but they do have access to rich customer data pertaining to this group. After analysing season ticket holders to understand their attendance habits, we engage with them to release their tickets in advance to make some money back.

    • When are they likely to miss a match?
    • How often do they miss a match?
    • Do they holiday at specific times of the year?

    We then turn our attention to potential ticket buyers, usually club members or casual fans. We advertise fixtures in advance to capture customer data, gauge interest, and promote pre-sale registration. Understanding buyer behaviour—especially existing fans so we don’t have to spend media budgets on acquisition—means we’re able to generate bespoke content and personalise our messaging.

    • When do club members and casual fans purchase tickets?
    • How many tickets do they purchase?
    • How old are they? (Fathers and sons, married couples, etc.)
    • How far do they travel to the match? (Local fan vs. tourist from abroad)
    • Do they prefer weekend or weekday fixtures?
    • Do they prefer early or late kick-off times?
  2. Paid search

    There’s no question that paid search is the most potent channel to capture {club} ticket search variations and demand. It’s critical to tailor campaigns and ad groups for each home fixture, allowing specific messaging based on ticket availability (i.e. {club} vs. {club} tickets and variations).

    Football supporters in Barcelona

    But how do you capture this interest before there are any actual tickets available? By creating bespoke landing pages—complete with data capture—that are relevant to each fixture. Alternatively, use a dedicated fixture page with modular ecommerce functionality that appears as tickets become available.

  3. Social media

    Many top-flight football clubs are social media superstars. Eye-catching content, exclusive footage, witty Twitter feuds, behind-the-scenes interviews—you know the deal.

    We’ve uncovered a valuable opportunity to use this content to inspire occasional and casual fans to come to the match. We don’t even need new content: it already exists, and our job is to define audiences, refine who we target, and tailor messaging accordingly.

    • Season ticket holders: We need to identify this audience so we can exclude them from ads pushing ticket purchases, and instead promote the club’s resale marketplace.
    • Club members: Our main goal for this audience is to increase the frequency of purchases. We already know their habits, and can use that knowledge to further categorise club members into more specific groups for personalised messaging.
    • Fans and followers: Location is key for this audience. For imminent matches, we focus our targeting on those close to the stadium or people who can get there easily. For tourists and visitors, the messaging is different: this is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we want to appeal to the occasion, the atmosphere, the essence of the club, and—of course—the entertainment factor.
  4. Travel aggregators

    The tourist market is a nice segue into how clubs can use travel aggregators to promote their offering. On sites like booking.com and TripAdvisor, users are presented with offers after completing their transactions. Offers for stadium tours and other VIP experiences are a soft way to capture this audience, who can then be more specifically targeted with ticket promotions—either through confirmation emails or when they arrive at the stadium for their tour.

  5. Out-of-home advertising

    Lastly, the use of out-of-home advertising is viable, especially where digital formats and hyperlocal targeting are available. In London, both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur use tube advertising to promote their stadium tours. In many European cities, football clubs take advertising space at airports to target incoming visitors. There’s also the option to advertise at other tourist attractions (your rival’s stadium, perhaps?) to address visitors with money in their pockets and space in their itineraries.

It all adds up to a solid response to a surprisingly complex challenge. For a deeper dive into sports marketing strategies—or for help executing this kind of integrated plan—all you have to do is get in touch. We’re always ready to talk tactics.