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Cover Story : Pats' Pact: Fans Are Family

The New England Patriots use analytics and trigger emails to keep season ticket holders in the fold

December 2011 By Heather Fletcher
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The tousled look may have worked for James Spader in the '80s. But the era of the Brat Pack feathered-do was long gone by 2010, when New England Patriots fans were at a loss as to what to think of the thing growing on their quarterback's head. Even now, a search for "Tom Brady's hair" pulls up nearly 200,000 results.

The "Brady Mullet" was born at an inopportune time—early 2010, when a looming National Football League lockout coincided with the Pats' lowest season ticket renewal rate in a decade.

Analytics might solve one of those problems, decided Pats owner Kraft Sports Group (KSG) of Foxborough, Mass. In the summer of 2009, KSG had transitioned to an on-demand marketing platform from Boston-based email and cross-channel database marketing services provider ClickSquared.

Pulling in data KSG had been collecting since 2007, the organization chose to do behavior-based marketing—rather than demographic— using the organization's database of 2.5 million records, says Jessica Gelman, Kraft Sports Group's vice president of customer marketing and strategy.

The new strategy brought the Pats a historic high season ticket renewal rate of 97 percent for the 2010 season. But what was more important to KSG and Gelman was that this new approach to analytics allowed the organization to understand fans better and provide them with what they wanted and needed.

"We're very analytically focused and I consider us to be the voice of the customer within the organization," Gelman says. "We've evolved into a customer-centric organization where our goals are to understand our customers and be relevant/timely in our communication with them. Ultimately, we should know when renewal might not happen and be able to market and communicate to change that behavior."

Pats' Pact vs. Brat Pack
The ethos of the Brat Pack was to be morally bankrupt, money-making machines. Conversely, Gelman says, the Pats' pact with fans is to do right by them.

Granted, this is a team in the enviable position of having constantly sold-out home games and fans so loyal that the average wait for season tickets is 10 years. But, she says, KSG wants to make sure the current season ticket holders stay happy.

 

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