San Jose Sharks build fan engagement with analytics

Seeking better insight into its marketing efforts, the NHL hockey team is breaking down data silos between business functions and leveraging data in new ways to maximize fan revenue.

San Jose Sharks build fan engagement with analytics
San Jose Sharks

Fan engagement is essential to professional sports franchises, and teams in most sports are building their data capabilities to help their marketing teams and sales teams better reach fans and keep them happy. Teams especially focus on season ticket holders, who are their most loyal fans, providing dependable ticket revenue and merchandise sales.

“Season ticket holders really are the lifeblood,” says Neda Tabatabaie, vice president of business analytics and technology for the San Jose Sharks. “When you buy one game ticket, you’re just committing to the one game. But when you buy the whole season, it’s 44 or 45 games you’re committing to. And like every other business, we know that the cost of retaining a customer is less than the cost of bringing in a new customer.”

Iranian-born Tabatabaie immigrated to Toronto at 20 and spent nine years working in database marketing for the Toronto Maple Leafs before moving to San Jose as vice president of business intelligence of the Sharks in 2015. Over the next few years, the marketing team struggled to measure campaign ROI and churn risk for season ticket holders and was running into issues with siloed data as well.

“The nature of our business really put us in a situation where we started with disparate or siloed data sources,” Tabatabaie says. “Almost every team has a ticketing vendor and a food and beverage vendor. You have a retail vendor on the side, and sometimes there is a third party online. Then you have a mobile app provider. Your website is this whole other entity. And some of these things are legacy systems.”

At the time, the Sharks could track ticket sales and email opens per fan but couldn’t correlate the two events to understand how an email campaign translated to ticket sales.

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