AMA Phoenix Examines Economics & Satisfaction of Fans

The AMA Phoenix Chapter hosted its July signature professional development luncheon today at the ASU SkySong incubator complex near Oldtown. The topic was “Sports Marketing in the New Economy” and featured a panel with representatives from the Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks.

As a “retired” professional basketball media relations officer (Chicago Bulls, Seattle SuperSonics and Seattle Storm), I ventured out to see what the teams are up to these days. Since I left the “must work weekends and nights” world of sports seven and a half years ago, I figured it might be an interesting discussion and point of reflection for my work experiences.

All three members of the panel were very forthright and personable while providing recent “doh” anecdotes about players and executives on social media along with the latest mobile and online marketing tactics with and for fans.

Below are my 12 curated, synthesized, salient takeaways from the panel’s discussion and ensuing question-and-answer session.

  1. Since you can’t affect the team’s performance on the field, control your fan experience from every angle to ensure a positive fan experience.
  2. During these challenging economic times, the focus has been on featuring family value packages, themes, discounts and promotions.
  3. Teams have to develop and weigh the value proposition that will sway fans to commit to the season ticketholder experience over enjoying the action from the comforts of their couch and within reach of drinks in their refrigerator that don’t cost $6-$10.
  4. Thus, the advertising muscle is primarily flexed toward the masses by touting the value-priced ticket packages rather than trumpeting the virtues of pricey season ticketholders and available luxury suites.
  5. Clearly leagues and teams are very protective of those greatest of assets – their brand, image and logos. Leagues have eased some previous restrictions on building partnerships with casinos, opening doors for other creative outlets peripheral to the traditional “wholesome family values” that teams try to uphold.
  6. Instead of listening to Mark Cuban’s plea of not offering mobile applications as a distraction to the game, provide the additional information, statistics, photos and video and embrace that second screen use in venues. Fans are inevitably cradling their smart phones in their seats anyway, so give them that additional application to supplement the in-game experience.
  7. Harness your online fans as ambassadors, and funnel their enthusiasm and team knowledge into the mindset that they can be an extended sales force. The recent practice of assigning/rewarding fans with serving as the “organizational voice” via social media outlets is proving to be worthwhile for all parties, including sponsors in natural, synergistic promotions.
  8. Twitter remains the ultimate customer service mechanism for minutiae game-day fan queries; no need to worry about overstaffing those hotlines anymore.
  9. The Diamondbacks are limited somewhat in the parameters of their digital media outreach as MLB owns all of the channels through the B.A.M. (Baseball Advanced Media), the 30-team owned enterprise established in the early web days of 2000-01.
  10. The Suns have enjoyed great freedom in their online marketing efforts as a pioneer for the NBA in the early days of social media. The team’s marketing will shift its marketing¬† reliance on Nash’s grinning mug toward the youthful athleticism of a new crop of free agents, providing some uphill challenges for the broad appeal of a team in transition from the dust of dynamic era. The Suns digital media team has interacted with fans from some 200 countries and territories through its home page and ancillary platforms.
  11. The Cardinals have high expectations from their fan base after a couple of contending seasons and have to live up to their ongoing six-year sellout streak since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened.
  12. At the end of the day or night, when a team wins, everything is favorable and fans can overlook that dropped hot dog or spilled beer. However, when the good guys fall, such mishaps, seating issues and perceived inconveniences are only compounded in defeat. In other words, these situations can test the nerves and create headaches for employees tasked with guest relations/customer service.

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