events & legacy

Is data the untapped resource for your city’s events?

Sep 13, 2017

Using Data to Drive Attendance – “Host cities have a huge opportunity to harness data and use customer insight to both increase awareness of their sporting spectacles and sell them out.”
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Many factors contribute to the success of a sports event; the fundamental measure, however, is attendance. Attendance is not only important from a revenue perspective, but it also impacts fan experience – sell-out crowds create a unique atmosphere, positively impact sponsors and media coverage, and in the long-term, demonstrate a city’s strengths in planning and hosting events in the future.

Data, therefore, can play an important – and sometimes vital – role in driving attendance, and should be central to all three phases of hosting an event: planning, execution and post-event.

1) Planning

It’s key for cities to understand not just the size of their market, but the make-up of their customer base. This understanding gives a more complete picture of not only how many people will attend, but who is likely to attend (age, gender, families, behaviour etc.). This insight informs decisions on how to communicate with ticket purchasers, as well as which venues will be most suitable, both in terms of size and their facilities.

Many cities will have hosted previous events – and they should aim to gather as much insight from these to guide planning and communications. However, existing insight should always be improved by gaining a deeper understanding of event attendees – by surveying current or past event attendees, for example – and understanding more about a specific sport’s attendees, speaking directly to the sports governing body about the insight it has into its event-goers.

In general, there are two groups of attendees at a sports event: the first consists of the ‘core fan’ and is characterised by having an affiliation with the sport, which is likely to be their number one; the second consists of ‘event fans’ and is typically categorised by those who enjoy sport but attend solely to experience the event itself. Only very few events can rely on the first group of fans alone to sell-out – for most events a city will need to reach out to the second group.

2) Execution

Stage two is about executing the plan by communicating with the audience effectively. One of the first places to start is to understand the power of a city’s own media channels: who’s visiting official websites, following on social media channels, and generally engaging with a city on a regular basis. By looking at the data, cities can understand how much of a city’s audience engaging through various channels match the target market, and help inform an efficient marketing campaign around the event.

For the ‘core fan’, this might mean reaching an audience through local sports clubs and governing bodies. For the ‘event fan’, however, it might be harder to know where they are and the best ways to communicate with them. This is where previous event data can come in useful; an understanding of the profiles of these types of customers can help a city reach a wider audience by targeting similar demographic groups.

Scarcity can also drive earlier sales, using owned and bought media channels to create a buzz around an event and allow for better planning from a host city. Whilst not all events will sell-out early, there are still ways to promote scarcity and encourage interest, including ticket ballots, which increase excitement before an event takes place, build anticipation and act as a useful data collection tool.

3) Post-event

The legacy of a sports event – how successfully it has positively impacted the city and increased opportunities for greater sports participation and event attendance – is a key topic of conversation. Data can play a key role here, helping cities understand who is likely to get involved in new participation programmes, who might attend future events and how many visitors they’re likely to get through hosting events in the future.

The ‘core fan’ may already be involved in sports programmes and be aware of ongoing events and programmes, so it’s key to work with relevant governing bodies to ensure both are providing them with messages they want, rather than duplicating communications about their sport.

The area for growth will be around the ‘event fan’. Being able to communicate directly with them, getting their feedback on events in their city and engaging with them on a regular basis based on their interests allows cities to nurture and grow relationships with this group.

Done well, this can help a city achieve the Holy Grail: create a community of event fans that want to support their city as a sports host, attend events on a regular basis, and be inspired to be more active.

Two Circles is a data-driven sports marketing agency that helps sports organisations grow relationships with their audiences and partners to drive commercial growth. Working with some of the biggest rights-holders in sport across the UK, North America and mainland Europe, the business helps its clients improve customer experience, increase revenue and enhance their partner proposition. In April 2017, for the second time in its six-year history, Two Circles was named Agency of the Year at the BT Sport Industry Awards.

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