by Forechecker on 10/21/08 at 07:30 PM ET
Folks seem to love bashing the NHL as a business entity, but on one key front they are positioned to make good progress. Target Marketing.com has a report today on a new, customer-oriented and database-driven approach to marketing that the NHL is pursuing, with the goal of “activating the avid fans”:
Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon once said, “A rabid sports fan is one that boos a TV set.” But this isn’t the only behavior that sets avid ice hockey fans apart.
NHL data shows that avid fans attend lots of games, consume hockey through multiple media and are inclined to use high-tech products, such as broadband and high-definition television. They demonstrate a higher incidence of fantasy league involvement and are the biggest spenders of all hockey fans. Predominantly male, the mean age of avid fans is 39. About half have families with children…
At last count, the NHL had 20 million avid fans: 13 million in the United States and 7 million in Canada. That represents more than a third of the league’s 53 million fans throughout North America.
What’s interesting here is that the NHL is centrally gathering data (for instance through activity by users registering on NHL.com), and sharing that information with member teams. For example, in a recent radio interview, Nashville Predators President of Business Operations Ed Lang discussed how they might receive data on people living in the Nashville area who are registered with NHL.com as fans of other teams. When games against those teams approach on the schedule, the Predators could target those fans with specific marketing campaigns which are thus more likely to be successful.
Besides reaching out to fans who aren’t so heavily engaged in their local team, the article also talks about the role of fantasy hockey in the NHL. In many ways, it not only deepens fan involvement with the league, but it also provides a sort of cushion against seeing avid fans lose touch because their favorite team is having a bad year or two:
Ice hockey fans’ consumption habits tend to revolve around their favorite teams-a trend that’s not good for business. The NHL aims to diversify avid fans’ interests through its fantasy product, and by informing them about division and conference developments leading up to the Stanley Cup. “We’re going to take 30 tribes and make them one tribe,” Cooper says.
The bottom line is that the NHL is gathering information on its fans through a number of different channels, pooling it together in a common database, and using it to both broaden and deepen their customer base. While it may sound like common sense to do something like this, as a blogger whose mild-mannered alter ego is an IT professional, I can tell you that the challenges in putting something like this together can be daunting, but the benefits tremendous.
And I’d bet my bottom dollar that this lawsuit between the New York Rangers and the NHL was likely related to this project. Getting disparate interests to commonly pool and utilize customer information is a very touchy subject, even among teams that are supposedly in league with each other.
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