The Sports Industry: Top of the Email Marketing League?

The sports industry really leads the way when it comes to some of our off-the-field activities:  we’ve been supporting our communities for years (before CSR ever became a watchword), 70% of all sponsorship budgets are spent on sport, and regardless of which member of the Royal family gets married, it’s either the FIFA World Cup or Summer Olympics that can claim the title of “the biggest global TV audience ever”. But when it comes to traditional marketing, we have to hold our hands up and admit we don’t do it as well as other b2c, or indeed b2b, industries.  In fact, if you were to take a poll you’d find that most sports properties have never made a TV or radio commercial nor had a print advertising budget.  But with the advent of digital media – where content is king and sport is no. 1 in the content world – we’ve come into our own:  we’ve  embraced websites and social media with gusto, producing videos and webcasts that give fans the type of behind-the-scenes access they’ve never had before. But admittedly we’ve been slow to embrace CRM – customer relationship marketing – analysing our fans’ behaviour and patterns in order to better understand and build deeper relationships with them.  However we are waking up to the importance of this:  we understand we can no longer take our fans for granted and we’re starting to realise they’re more than just fans, they’re customers.  And we should treat them accordingly. When it comes to email marketing, a common tool to drive CRM, the sports industry demonstrates, quite literally, that it plays a game of two halves.  Sign-up-to, a leading email broadcast platform, released their latest benchmark statistics in December, analysing results taken from taken from 900 million permission-based emails sent by their clients, and the findings show that while we’re quite good at converting passes, we don’t create enough of them in the first place. Our click-to-open rates (the percentage of people clicking on a link within an email) score high at 17.82% against an industry average of 15.42%, but our open rates (percentage of people actually opening the email in the first place) score low at 16.5% against the industry average of 18.35%. To me this demonstrates something we’ve known all along – that we’re great at producing content but we’re not so good at identifying who to present it to, i.e. we don’t know enough about our customers.  So here are a few things you can do to help get your scores up: Know your audience and address them accordingly:  while we all aspire to the single customer view (SCV) we shouldn’t use the single customer list for all our email campaigns.  We should be tailoring our email campaigns to the various segments within our database built around demographic data (gender, age, geographic location, etc.) behaviour (do they open your emails, which links do they click?) and purchase history.  Correctly defined segments can result in much better responses to your emails. Use your best chat-up line:   they say you’ve got 7 seconds to make a first impression but when it comes to your subject line you’ve got just 30 to 50 characters to impress your audience so make them count!  Try to create a sense of urgency or importance, use words that your audience will respond to, and hint that the email is of personal relevance to them and their interests.  If you know their favourite player and you’ve written about them in your email, let them know! Make it personal:  a 16th century Spanish poet said that words have meaning but names have power so if you know the names of your customers, use them.  Adding it to a subject line of a marketing email has been shown to increase open rates by up to 14%! CRM is a big subject – and email marketing is just one tool within it – so there’s a lot for the sports industry to learn before we can claim to service our customers like Amazon or  But once we embrace the same approach as these customer-centric businesses, the value of our content and our fans customers’ passion for it will see our open- and click-through rates put us at the top of any email marketing league.