Is Your Team’s Web Site Winning for You?
Who is Doing the Selling for your Sports Team?
Your first answer might be the account managers and tele-sales, the people that directly contact your fans and put them in your seats. But the correct answer is everyone. The ticket-takers, ushers, hosts, concession sellers, entertainers, food vendors, security staff, mascots, parking lot attendants and anyone else that interacts with the fans.
But something essential is missing. That “thing” is responsible for the most interaction with the largest segment of your fan-base. That “thing” is your web site.
Web Site Goals
Why do you have a web site?
Many teams have web sites simply to “check the box.” It’s expected. It’s there. Check the box. We’re done.
Usually it is a one-way push of information. The team posts the essential information. Rosters with mug-shot photos of the players and their stats. Schedules are essential because it allow you to sell tickets, which you do on-line. There are write-ups of the games with box scores. And, of course, there are videos of the game that make the players look like toy soldiers on a field.
This is what many sports web sites look like. The teams behind these web sites treat it as a cost center, not as a revenue center. Web sites like this are simply a least-cost means of pushing out generic information. They maintain a one-to-many relationship with your fans, treating them just any another person sitting in the stands, as if they were nobody special.
Having a one-to-one relationship can be challenging to a sports team when you have thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of fans. A properly designed web site can be a surrogate for a one-to-one relationship with your fans.
You begin by asking “what are the goals for your web site?”
Your first goal is to maintain an excited base. Your team already has a fan-base. But is it a loyal base that turns out for the game even when the team is losing?
Your second goal is to increase the wallet-share of your fan-base by cross-selling and up-selling. You don’t do this by increasing ticket prices or charging for things fans use to get for free. You do this by getting your fan-base to attend more games and to spend more while at the game.
Your third goal is to expand the base. Show new fans how entertaining the game is, both on and off the field. You remove expected obstacles to make it easy to attend. You show them how much fun they are missing.
Using account managers is one way to achieve these goals. Unfortunately, account managers are expensive and they sell when it’s convenient for the seller, not the fan. And paid advertising is expensive and untargeted. The most affordable means to achieve these goals is through your web site.
Think Like the Fan
To be successful in selling your first must think like a customer. It’s not about me, the seller, but you, the customer. See yourselves through the eyes of the customer. Everything you present on your site should be from the perspective of the customer (the fan).
Remember, no one likes to be sold to. And people especially don’t want to be sold to when it comes to their leisure time. Traditional sales approaches are interruption-based. The sales occur when it is convenient for the seller, not the buyer. Web-based selling put the control into the hand of the fan.
Ask yourself “how do I buy?” You probably started by researching on-line, checking reviews and comparing it to competing products. And when it comes to major expenditures, it’s likely that you will know more about the product than the sale person in the store. Remember, a night a the ball park is a major expenditure to a family of four on a budget.
How fans buy is a repeatable process. Each fan discovers that process the first time they do it, but they all follow very similar steps. We know that process because we’ve seen fans do it thousands of times before. Our job is to educate the fan in each step in the process, remove anticipated obstacles or objections, naturally advance them to the next step, and ultimately make a purchase.
The goal of this process is to create a one-to-one relationship between the fan and the team. This will be the foundation for a long-lasting friendship. We create this relationship by creating content that informs, entertain and educates. The content you create is not limited to text, but includes photos, audio feeds, video feeds, blogs, and social media.
The specific content you provide varies by your targeted fan profile.
Segment the Target Market
An effective web site understands the target market. Fan profiles are created for specific targeted demographics. Fans are aggregated into unique groups which are then described in great detail. Content creation is much easier when you have the buying details for each fan profile.
Who are the fans that you would like to see come to your games? Or asked differently, who are the users that will come to your website?
There are lots of them. These are just a few of them at a high level:
Committed Fans – Enthusiastically follow the team and come to as many games as they can afford. This is your base that must be kept excited.
Existing Fans – Follows the team but have other types of entertainment competing for their time. These fans have up-side potential for net-new ticket sales if they can be excited.
Premium Fans – Fans with discretionary income or whose companies have purchased season tickets or suites. You would be surprised how many Premium seats go unused each game. Getting these fans to attend adds to the atmosphere of excitement at the game, plus there is the upsell potential for the sale of food, beverage and merchandise.
Families – Looking for high quality entertainment at a reasonable price for the family. This fan group has a big upside by way of ticket, food and merchandising sales. After all, what kid went to a game and didn’t with a souvenir?
New Fans –Looking for a new experience and checking it out. This is the white space with the potential of creating a recurring revenue stream.
Fans from Visiting Teams – These fans would cheer for the opposing team, if they knew they were in town.
Business and Community Groups – Businesses looking for team-building events or entertainment for out-of-town visitors; community group like youth sports leagues.
Sponsors & Advertisers – This is your bread and butter, generating a significant portion of your revenue. Sponsors and advertisers will renewal and increase their annual commitment if they see a positive fan response.
In reality, we would be considering a greater number of fan profiles and creating greater detail on their needs and buying habit. This detail would guide us on the creation of targeted content that would appear on unique landing page.
But for the sake of brevity, however, we will next discuss the creation of content in the context in terms of our website goals: expanding the base, increasing wallet share and exciting the base.
Building Content Based on Fan Profiles
Your web site content must be compelling enough to overcome the competition. In this case, our competition is not a competing sporting event, because the different sports seasons usually don’t overlap. Your competition is “do nothing,” meaning the fan stays at home.
We motivate the fan to take action by building incredible content shows existing and prospective fans how much fun they could have by attending a game, and how easy it is to go.
Let’s start with bringing new fans to the game, often called expanding the base or capturing the white space.
Expanding the Base
It is easier for a new fan to say “no” to attending a game than it is to go.
Doing anything new requires effort. Not knowing what to expect adds uncertainty. Having children in tow also creates stress. Not appreciating the value creates doubt. These are obstacles to buying.
One of the goals of the web site is to remove those buying obstacles.
We start by giving the fan control of the buying process. Give prospective fans a virtual tour of the different seating options, showing the views of the game and calling out the amenities that come with the seat. Tours should run the spectrum from general admission seats to suites. This may also entice the fan to upgrade their seating.
Providing directions to the arena or stadium are standard. But it more important to give them directions to the best parking in proximity to their seats, and then recommended entrance gates. Avoid any surprises, and possibly creating a negative experience, by letting them know if you charge for parking.
And once they are in their seats, show them locations of food and beverage stations, kiosks, dining areas, restrooms, changing areas, breast-feeding stations, first aid and the team store. Make it easy for them to get around the facility.
Post this information on a dedicated landing pages entitled “Welcome to the Game.”
The beauty of live sports is there is as much action off the field of play as there is on it. You can bring new fans to the game, as well as energize the occasional fan, by reminding them of that fun.
Post the off-the-field action under the “Fan Fun” section of your home page. Include items like when and where the players and mascot are available for autographs. Highlight promotional give-away nights. Include videos of the Jumbotron of fans interacting with the mascot, or engaging in activities like Air Guitar or Show Your Guns muscle poses. Post videos of mid-game fan entertainment like sumo wrestling (at hockey games), mini slam-dunk contests (at basketball games), or rapper dance show-downs (works anywhere). Update this content to keep it current, and rotate the posts to keep it interesting.
Increasing the Wallet Share
Some of the ideas used to attract new fans also apply to getting existing fans to spend more at the game. Existing fans won’t think to look at a page designed specifically for the newbies. Instead, include a link of that information in the main body of the web site. Or better yet, creat a separate landing page for these fans.
Remind them of the seating options upgrades with a virtual tour. Show the locations of the various food & beverage stations, kiosks, clubs and restaurants in proximity to their seats, with the menus. Offer the option of having your food and beverage delivered to your selected seat so the fan won’t miss an important part of the game.
Excite the Base
Your fan-base are the connoisseurs of your team. They are true fans of the sport. They probably don’t attend every game, but they look at every write-up and box score. Give them something interesting to look at and keep them engaged. Or said in another way, show them what they are missing by not attending the game.
Every professional (major and minor leagues) and college (NCAA Division 1) sports teams have live broadcasts (radio or on-line streaming), video, social media updates, post-game write-ups, and usually photographs. Some high school teams even have this coverage for their most popular sports, albeit by their students.
Unfortunately, this information is often presented in a way that’s easiest for the people assembling the content, and not in the greatest value to the fans.
The written post-game summaries are seldom read. There is no post-game wrap-ups by the broadcasters. The video highlights are from the perspective of the press box, high above the playing field. And there is usually only one photograph used as a banner to the post-game summaries.
This same content can be made exciting with just a little additional effort.
Lead with the post-game wrap-ups using the play-by-play announcers. The announcers have the voice, words and delivery to make it sound exciting, even when the team loses. Use your field level cameras for your video highlights using the play-by-play by the announcers. Place the game photos on line and make it downloadable by the fans.
Post this information on your home page the under “Latest News.” Keep only the most current news on the home page and move the older content to a page entitled “Latest News.”
Remind your fan-base just how good your team is. Call out your top talent in the “Player Highlights” section of the home page, and link it to your “Player” or “Roster” page. Highlight a few players that are your leaders in key performance categories. Knowledge players that have just reached an important career milestone. Mention players called up from the minor league team to the major league team. And use cut-out images of the player in action against a solid background, not the mug shots used in the roster
Navigating the Site
Your web site must be visually appealing, easy to navigate and consumable when viewed on a computer or mobile devise. It should also appear consistent throughout.
Get your fans involved in the layout of your web site. Ask them what they want to see. Show them the options on what’s being considered. Ask them if example “A” is better than example “B,” Is “C” better than “D,” and so on. Often, they don’t know enough to know what’s needed.
Nearly every league provides their teams with a template for their web site. Don’t be locked in to what you think you can do with your web site. These templates are only starting points and can be highly customized.
And don’t forget to collect data on the effectiveness of the site. Common web site metrics are: total number of visits, top pages, traffic source, new versus returning visitor, time spend on site, interactions per visit, conversion rate and exit pages.
Is your web site winning for you?
Here are couple things you can do to get started, if you think it is.
Start by benchmarking your site to other teams, other leagues and other sports. There is no one perfect web site. You can gather ideas by doing some window shopping.
Talk to your stakeholders. This includes your front office team, your fans, your ownership group, your peers in other teams and your league contacts.
Consider what you currently have. Does your site have flexibility that isn’t being used? Could simple housekeeping be done to improve the flow and appearance of the site? Do you have content that you could be better using? What type of content is missing and how difficult is it to get?
Define what you would like to see from the site, and then get started and build a plan.
Copyright Andy Nietupski and Through the Lens Sports Media / 2020
About the author:
Andy Nietupski founded Through the Lens Sport Media in 2015 while on a creativity sabbatical from enterprise software sales. TTL Sports Media helps sports organizations optimize their business results using the latest digital sales and marketing techniques. TTL Sports Media publishes 1,000’s pieces of content annually and curates a catalog of more than 100,000 items. On behalf of its client interests TTL Sports Media annually publishes nearly 200 articles and makes greater than 1000 social media posts.