Why You Should Care About Fan/Customer Intensity

Marketing Insider’s February 13th lead item was SLRG President Jon Last’s perspective on the concept of fan intensity, and how measuring it can be a significant source of insight for sports marketers.


Sports marketers have likely pondered some variation of the old adage that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.  Not all fans are the same, and their relative quality should have a direct impact on a property’s marketing focus and the ways in which sponsors evaluate potential partnerships.

Listening to a recent sports talk radio debate about the importance of “fan attendance” versus “fan intensity” got me thinking about my long-held belief that pure reach is secondary to audience engagement.

I’ve written in the past about how experimental design research (through pre- vs. post-exposure testing) is a more relevant metric than GRP equivalents.  With researchers’ increased ability to integrate behavioral and attitudinal data, I believe it’s time to apply a fan or customer intensity measure to evaluate the impact of sports marketing activation and ticket marketing.

What should be included in the fan/customer intensity algorithm?

I’ve never been one to believe in one-size-fits-all solutions.   But as affinity marketers have long done in categories like travel (where affinity marketing was born), any fan-intensity metric needs to factor in lifetime customer value.  Organically this may be a large part of what drives sports marketers’ obsession with youth and the next generation.  There is a fundamental (but not always correct) belief that if you convert someone while they are young, the return on investment will be greater.  What goes into a fan intensity equation is where things could get really interesting.  Here are some initial considerations:

Recency, frequency, monetary:  This CRM staple looks at how often, how much and how recently the target audience spent on a property. It can identify best customers.

Tenure:  The duration of the relationship is important both as predictor of future behavior and as a loyalty barometer.

Breadth of engagement points: Here one looks at consumption patterns surrounding legacy and digital platforms, as well as ancillary touchpoints that can include discussion boards and merchandise.

Brand affinity for partners: Here’s where a read on pre- vs. post-activation exposure alignment with a sponsor brand triggers yields insight on engagement. Our work has often demonstrated the power of live sports in reinforcing sponsor messaging.

Satisfaction relative to expectation: Beyond Net Promoter scores, one needs to factor in the context around which targets are evaluating their satisfaction.  I might not recommend a Knicks game to someone who wants to see a home team victory, but I still might enjoy my experience.

Impact of influence: Who is the fan communicating with directly and via social media, and to what extent is that driving behaviors?

Share of customer vs. other leisure activities: Helps evaluate relative prioritization.