For years, the gate was just about the entire revenue pie for pro teams. But while ticket sales still drive a ton of value for teams, the fans that come out to games represent a sliver of fans engaged with their team. Media rights deals now deliver big dollars. And activity and interaction with fans via ever-burgeoning digital, social, and mobile channels is an illustration of why that revenue stream is primed for growth. Teams are devoting more time, resources, strategy, and content to fans that may never step in their state, let alone their venue, with their eyes, ultimately, on the organization’s bottom line.
But, to borrow baseball parlance, we’re just starting to round first base. Football clubs in Europe are selling digital rights and jersey kits to businesses and fans in the Far East. The NFL is trying to figure out the best way to maximize revenue overseas, by driving up interest and hoping it leads to increased media rights and purchases of license merchandise. Teams, not just the mega-sized ones, are reaching thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions of fans on a frequent basis. If even a puny percentage support their team with some sort of purchase, well, let’s just say the revenue pie split will change more and more.
Bowman “You need to have contact with fans that’s not just tickets and merchandise” #Leaders15
— LEADERS (@Leaders_Insight) October 8, 2015
It’s not that fans who actually represents butts in seats will be forgotten On the contrary, they’ll be treated and targeted with greater precision and personalization than ever. It’s more that all the ‘other’ fans won’t be taken for granted and devalued. They’ll be reached with more context and personalization, too. A general expectation for such relevance will be the norm for the coming-of-age digital natives and teams’ attempts to engage and monetize fans beyond their zip codes will be more effective and efficient. Fans will see the message from their local Ford dealer, not the one from the team’s home city. They’ll hear about watch party a few miles from their home, not the event at the team’s venue.
This is the present and near-future. The most savvy sports marketers, and those with the resources to do so, are monetizing fans well beyond their borders. It will soon be a part of the standard strategic arsenal for all the others. Sports business revenue is not plateauing, its structure is just changing and, in some ways, expanding. With 650 million unique Facebook users a “fan” of a League or Team Page and sports chatter dominating Twitter and Snapchat and mobile video engagement, the opportunity is greater than ever to develop a relationship with these fans and provide an exchange of value, too.
It’s a global economy. Pretty much every pro sports teams has fans that will never buy a ticket, but will engage with the team in countless more ways. The math is starting to add up. And everyone will score in the end.