I Went to the UCLA-Arizona Game, But Nobody Knows

I was lucky enough to attend a highly touted game between Pac 12 powers UCLA and Arizona in late January. But, outside of some Tweets and Snaps, I let no trail behind.

I was the anonymous fan.

A friend has two tickets, using the “Pass” option, which guaranteed him two seats to every conference game, at a flat rate, with seat location dependent on availability, and sent to his mobile app 48 hours before game day. (This innovation merits another article altogether). Upon entering, the two bar codes in his app were scanned and UCLA only knew the identity of one of us attending.

Before the game started, I ventured around the concourse, with food options and sales tables abounding. My only stop was to purchase a bottle of water, for which I paid in cash. Again, my anonymity remained. En route to my seat, I logged on to the free, non-gated WiFi. The WiFi was money and, while my app and browsing activity was certainly tracked, my identity, for all intents and purposes, remained unknown.

The game was fun, the atmosphere electric, and it even included a halftime ceremony honoring Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to go along with the posters handed out to fans upon entering Pauley Pavilion. UCLA lost, I returned to the parking garage (for which I had paid cash to enter) and my incognito day was complete.

There is so much retargeting, digital marketing, CRM, data warehousing, and the like than ever before. While the reams of data produced by social media, by Google searches, and by website visits allows for precision targeting and marketing on those channels (none of which applied to me in this case), the fans in the building are the ones actually consuming the product. There is no hotter lead than the fan in the building yet to be added to the database. I had a great time at the game and, no doubt, UCLA would welcome the opportunity to remind me of future games, to get me to come back.

But they don’t know who I am, remember?


The anonymous fan continues to keep sports marketers up at night. Whether it’s my situation, accompanying a friend who had bought the tickets, using tickets from a school or community event, going along with a group and getting tickets from the group leader – these are all missed opportunities to add new fans, new potential future ticket buyers, into the database and marketing and engagement funnel.

There no easy panacea, but there are some potential solutions that exist. The next step is testing each of them, evaluating effectiveness, minding the lead source to fully appreciate the value of that lead, and investing in a thoughtful approach to capture the identity of these heretofore anonymous fans.

There are enter-to-win sweepstakes, data exchange or WiFi, a free ticket or souvenir or concession deal that requires giving information to receive, various calls to subscribe or follow or download.

There is no one size fits all, but one thing each organization successful in this space has in common is they recognize the problem and put time, thought, resources, and effort into discovering a good solution. Every business has a cost per lead, a cost to bring that new fan into the funnel, into the CRM database. We pay for search ads (not just to sell tickets, but to drive traffic and purchases on owned platforms), for social media ads and resources, and for all sorts of other channels and attempts to acquire a lead.

Would I have given over my email address for a free bottle of water instead of paying up $4.50? You bet. Would I have paid with a credit card to save $1? In a heartbeat. A lead has a value and it behooves organizations to invest in adding as many fans, especially those in the building at their games!, as possible. It may cost a little money, but that’s the cost of doing business.

You know the problem, so put resources toward solving it. It’s time to introduce yourself to the anonymous, and give them a reason to identify themselves. Everyone can win, then.

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