Football 49ers Launch Fan Analytics Initiative - InformationWeek

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Football 49ers Launch Fan Analytics Initiative

NFL team taps SAS software to study ticket purchases, tailgate habits, concessions and churn.

A measure approved by voters in Santa Clara, Calif., last week has cleared the way for a new 68,500-seat stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. To be completed in time for the 2014 kickoff, the new stadium will help the team gather more data on customer habits, but the 49ers have already launched an advanced analytics initiative aimed at better understanding fans.

"The ultimate goal of is to improve the fan experience by developing a single, consolidated and contextual view of our customers at every entry point and exit point, whether that's our Web site, parking, concessions or ticket sales," said Paraag Marathe, the San Francisco 49ers Executive Vice President of Football and Business Operations.

To drive the analytics initiative, the team revealed in March that it's building a consolidated data warehouse with help from SAS and Destiny Consulting. Once the data warehouse is ready, the team will use SAS analytics software to develop deeper customer analytics. For now, data collection and integration is limited by disparate legacy systems and the team's current stadium, Candlestick Park, which was built in 1960.

"We're just talking about basics right now like understanding which fans are buying single tickets versus those buying season tickets," Marathe said. "Right now that information is in two different databases. We have to consolidate so we can understand where people are coming from and do demographic analysis."

The 49ers have basic customer segments based on fan profiles, but with deeper data and analytics, Marathe envisions many ways the team can reward fan loyalty with benefits ranging from training camp invites or field passes to special parking or merchandise offers.

Providing entry data, the new stadium will help the team understand which fans are arriving two hours early for tailgate activities versus which are arriving five minutes before the game with children in tow.

"We'll have benefits like special tailgate parties in the parking lot and a kid's zone inside the stadium, so knowing the fan's preferences, we can tailor a better experience," Marathe said.

The 49ers analytic ambitions are hardly new or unique. New stadiums are often a catalyst of revamped team information management and analytics initiatives. Football teams including the Jets, Giants or Cowboys launched similar initiatives two or three years before the opening of their new stadiums so they could better leverage deeper information.

Marathe says the 49ers are also taking cues from the U.K. Premier League, the world's most watched sporting league and most lucrative soccer franchise. The league is well known for understanding customer value and creating loyalty programs.

"Premier League clubs can match tickets to names, so they know exactly which fans are coming to their games," Marathe said. "In professional sports here in the U.S., you'll know the account holder, but they might have 10 tickets and you don't necessarily know who's using the tickets."

Without fan-specific insight, it's harder to compile accurate customer profiles and measure the effectiveness of churn initiatives, merchandising programs and cross-sell and up-sell efforts. There's also greater promotional potential if fans can use loyalty cards and points to gain discounts at corporate partner retail locations such as restaurants or electronics stores.

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