I graduated from a university in the Big Ten Conference in 2002. A school with an athletic program of sports dichotomies. Basketball was and continues to be its powerhouse, selling out every game and maintaining a die-hard, enthusiastic and devoted fan base. The football program, while getting better, has always been the afterthought; something fun to do on a Saturday afternoon, if you had the time and there was no other game to watch on TV.
In recent years, I have noticed a significant change with regards to my alma mater’s football program. I can best sum it up with one word: ENGAGEMENT. This program has made a conscious effort over the past few years to create not just another Saturday football game played by a mediocre football team, but an all-around experience for the fans and community.
Collegiate athletic programs generate, on average, $25.9 million in income per school for football and basketball alone and have a customer lifecycle journey very similar to most businesses. A typical customer journey consists of five stages: Initiate, Advance, Convert, New Client and Existing Client, each full of tremendous opportunities for building engagement that can help transform any athletic program.
This is when you make the public aware of your team. Your athletic program may have the luxury of being a member of one of the “power” conferences; however, very few programs are part of this group and will need to spend extra effort with market conditioning.
Advance the Relationship
Ok, you have now thrown the “football” out to the public to make them aware of your program; now it’s time to see who throws it back to you. This stage is critical because this is the first time you have two-way engagement with your prospects. You need to ask yourself: What is your messaging? Who are you as a program? What do you have to offer? Why would they want to spend their hard earned money with you?
Convert them into Fans
If you’ve made it this far, you have done a great job! You have identified who you want to reach in the initiate stage – typically current students, alumni, the surrounding community, and yes, local and national media outlets. You’ve engaged them in a conversation about your program. What is the result of that conversation? Are they interested in moving forward with your brand? Have you separated yourself enough from the noise that the public is willing to spend their hard-earned money with you?
New Client, I mean Ticket Holders!
Congratulations, you made a sale! Depending on your department goals you may have increased single-game ticket sales and put “bodies in seats” or you may have converted some of those single-game ticket sales to mini-packages. If you did a really tremendous job you’ve probably even achieved your season-ticket sales goals!
Existing Ticket Holders
Your department has now put time, effort and money into developing a fan who originally didn’t come to games into either single, mini or season ticket holders. Now you have to keep them and grow them into raving fans who purchase your team’s sports gear, attend tailgate parties and bring their family and friends to pep rallies and other events.
Remember, it’s always less expensive to keep a client than to find a new one. We have reviewed these stages in individual silos, however, we know in the real world it’s not quite that simple. You want to market to everyone at different times with different messages and not everybody follows the same path. That is the power of Customer Lifecycle Marketing, unlike the outdated sales funnel that filters out prospects, it allows you to reach your individual prospects and customers with specific messages pertaining to their specific stage. Challenge your department to increase engagement and become “The Event” – not the after-thought.
To learn more about lifecycle marketing, check out this infographic!
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