Steve Ryan
Steve Ryan 22 December 2021

Why Successful Organisations Have to Look at Their Business Through the Lens of Sports Marketing

It’s no secret that retaining a customer is key to a brand’s success and today it’s harder than ever to achieve it with customers having increased choice and means to shop. So how should brands approach customer retention?

The holiday season is crunch time for a lot of brands, with UK households spending over £700 more in December compared to other months.

For many, the goal is revenue and making the most sales, but it should also be a time to think about customer loyalty and how to keep buyers engaged, so they’ll shop with you throughout the year and again next Christmas. It has to be done….a customer should be for life, not just for Christmas. 

It’s no secret that retaining a customer is key to a brand’s success and today it’s harder than ever to achieve it with customers having increased choice and means to shop. Bain & Company revealed 10 years ago that increasing customer retention can increase profits by (a somewhat broad) 25-95% - a significant number that should be at the heart of a business.

A decade later that number hasn’t changed, but the conversation on how difficult it is to achieve brand loyalty hasn’t significantly moved on either. While marketing strategies have become a lot smarter, and there’s no doubt that customers are offered a more personalised experience, companies continue to struggle to cultivate customer loyalty. 

When we think about retaining customers, the aim is most likely that you get the customer to become a repeat buyer, and that’s no doubt a key part of it, but it shouldn’t stop there.

A truly loyal customer should not just buy again, but only buy from you and never be swayed by a competitor. This shift is when a customer becomes a fan and forward thinking brands need to own relationships with customers.

Supporting one Team 

To understand how creating a fan is different to a customer we need to look at the sports industry. Sports teams have achieved what a lot of brands can only dream of - they wear the merchandise, support the team in public and buy season tickets whether their team wins or loses. 

Most crucially, being a sports fan of one team means that you’re not going to support a competitor. Think about it, an Arsenal fan isn’t going to swap to Spurs because the ticket is slightly cheaper or the location of the stadium is more convenient to their house. Not with the current Spurs team anyway.

Admittedly this level of support is reserved for sport, the fundamentals of making a fan of your customer should be part of your marketing strategy. 

Turning a Customer into a Fan 

The definition of a fan is that they ‘admire and support a person or team’. Creating that passion isn’t going to be achieved with a loyalty card or personalised offers, it needs to be more than money. 

If we look again at sports fans, they have true passion for their team. They feel involved, it’s part of their history and they feel part of the success - we’ve all heard of the people who have to sit in the same seat or carry out a pre-game ritual to make sure their team wins. 

Creating passion means you might have to revive your product strategy because whatever experience you are giving your customers it needs to resonate with them, stir emotions and most importantly excite them. You need to think about how you engage with your customer, their experience from beginning to end, and what you can do differently to keep them hooked.  

Giving the Fans a Good Game 

Customer experience is every interaction a consumer has with your brand whether directly or indirectly during the buyer’s journey. A survey of 15,000 consumers conducted by PWC found that 1 in 3 will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions. 

It’s easy to silo customer experience into different categories depending on the team. For example the product development team on the interaction with the product or service, or the responsiveness and attitude of the customer services team. However, as with a sports team, everyone needs to be united to be successful and in this case create a good customer experience.

It’s also going beyond the usual touch points with a customer, and thinking about their journey as a whole. This is where you can identify the opportunities to really differentiate yourself from competitors and get customers enamoured with your brand.     

In a highly competitive market where consumers can choose from hundreds of options, many with competitive offers, at the touch of a button, it’s the experience that turns a customer into a fan and keeps them buying from only one brand or business. 

Making your Own Home Run 

The sports industry has shown us that what goes beyond price, location and ease of access is passion, and that is what brands need to tap into. It takes the whole company working together to find what their competitive advantages are in the customer experience and create a strategy that compliments that. 

Turning customers into fans isn’t just about the bottom line. Something the pandemic showed us in sport is that the interaction between fans and teams is very much a two way street.

When stadiums were closed to fans, it wasn’t only the fans who missed the game, but the players also missed the fans. When the two were brought together again, that was when a team performed at their best.

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