Mobile, Analytics Help Sports Industry Score More Sales

Organizations such as the Green Bay Packers football team and the owner of the Daytona 500 race track are using IT to produce happier fans and more revenue.

The Green Bay Packers organization knows that a winning football team and the iconic Lambeau Field are enormous fan draws. But even a storied team with 100,000 people on a waiting list for season tickets feels the effects of competing with TV and the Internet. "Whether we like it or not, we're in competition with all the things that give people a choice to stay home when it's 15 degrees in December," says Tim Connolly, vice president of sales and marketing for the Packers.

CIOs can learn much about customer experience from sports organizations that use mobile and analytics technologies to keep fans happy and understand them better, says Bill Thomas, founder of Centric Performance, a management consultancy.

For example, International Speedway, the $630 million company that owns the Daytona International Speedway and 12 other auto race tracks, recently launched a mobile application to guide fans through the dozens of activities offered during a typical race weekend, in addition to the 250-lap main attraction. "You can't force a customer to experience your business the way you want. You have to be flexible," says CIO Craig Neeb.

A key mistake companies make is assuming they know what customers want, Thomas says. They ask, "How can we make customers enjoy the most of what we want them to buy?" Instead, he says, they should find out what the customer needs next, because happy customers are big spenders.

In Green Bay, the Packers have invested in both fan-facing and behind-the-scenes IT, including high-definition scoreboards and a high-end point-of-sale system from NCR, a company that makes payment systems. The NCR system tracks item-level sales at the 129 permanent and portable concession stands at Lambeau. By halftime on game day, Connolly has a report summarizing sales and projecting a total take. A good game will yield up to $1.4 million in food and drink sales.

But sales aren't the primary goal, says Connolly. The Packers' sales and marketing group uses analytics tools to assess how concession stands should be reconfigured for the next game, to cut wait times for certain products. Say a full-service food stand sells mainly beer in the 15 minutes before kickoff. Maybe fans in that section would appreciate a portable, beer-only stand so they don't have to wait in line with people ordering bratwurst sandwiches, which take longer to serve.

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