Inject a Phenomenom: Viral Marketing at Its Best
Fri, 03/02/2007 - 15:12 — Dan Migala
Viral marketing has become a phenomenon within the sports industry and not because it is a different way to market to people but because it works. While it is a different way to market to people, it is, more importantly, one of the most successful ways to sell to people. Acxiom Direct and Turnkey Sports and Entertainment realize this phenomenon. Their conference, The Sports and Entertainment Database Marketing & Research Conference, highlighted specific ways that teams are using viral marketing to generate sales.
The aim of this Report is to examine one particular case of viral marketing that was discussed at the conference. Dennis Nelson, Internet/Database Marketing Manager at the Rose Quarter for Global Spectrum, uses viral marketing to create awareness among fans, create unique experiences for fans, and, ultimately, increase sales leads at Portland Trail Blazers home basketball games.
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Portland Trail Blazers sold-out more than 800 consecutive home games. It was nearly impossible to find a ticket because games were sold out months in advance as the Trail Blazers turned many loyal fans away due to capacity crowds. For the Trail Blazers, selling tickets had never been so easy. Over time, the Trail Blazers’ capacity crowds have diminished as the Trail Blazers failed to sell out one home game during the 2005-06 season.
The Trail Blazers and the facility they utilize, the Rose Garden, have one of the more interesting relationships in all of professional sports. While the Trail Blazers are the primary tenants of the Rose Garden, Portland Arena Management owns the facility and has hired Global Spectrum to manage the facility. As managers of the facility, Global Spectrum is responsible for selling all club seats, luxury suites, and the first five rows for all Trail Blazers home games. The Portland Trail Blazers are responsible for selling the remaining seats in the arena for all home games.
The Trail Blazers’ share of seats inside the Rose Garden are red while Global Spectrum’s seats are black, creating a clear picture of ‘who-sells-what’ inside the arena for Trail Blazers games. Needless to say, the lack of sellout crowds has adversely affected both the Trail Blazers and Global Spectrum as many black and red seat-backs were left vacant during the 2005-06 season.
The Trail Blazers and Global Spectrum now face a challenge that has been foreign to the Trail Blazers franchise since it entered the National Basketball Association in 1970; they need to sell tickets. Global Spectrum has identified this problem and implemented a strategic plan with the hope that they can fill all the black seats in the Rose Garden just like during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
“Test Drive” at the Rose Garden
What is Global Spectrum’s strategic plan? Fans are able to test-out the experience by gaining complimentary admission to the newly renovated Lexus Club Level at the Rose Garden during a Trail Blazers home game of their choice. Similar to test-driving a car at a dealership, test-driving a Trail Blazers game at the Rose Garden is enough to wet a fan’s appetite and create warm leads for the sales staff.
The complimentary Lexus Club Level tickets create a win-win situation for Global Spectrum. Global Spectrum chose this strategy because they are using unsold inventory as a way to create awareness for the new $12 million Lexus Club Level among fans. Fans can come in and experience the game for themselves by just registering via the Rose Quarter’s CyberClub. Upon registration, fans receive two tickets so they can experience the Lexus Club Level with a friend and heighten the experience for each individual.
The viral marketing contest is made possible through TicketNet, a software product developed by DesjaLogic. DesjaLogic, a Portland-based company, has developed a reputation in Portland with TicketNet as one of the best ways for organizations to collect customer information. TicketNet contests receive high response rates because every contest involves a much-desired incentive for participants.
“TicketNet is designed to create sales leads,” says Dave Sjolin, President of DesjaLogic. “One of the strengths of TicketNet is that it thrives on high response rates and is able to generate ROI fairly quickly.”
Just how quickly? The Trail Blazers were able to generate $20,000 in new ticket sales the year after implementing TicketNet. Global Spectrum and Dennis Nelson immediately saw the benefit of using a program like TicketNet at the Rose Quarter.
Crux of the Contest
The TicketNet concept at its core involves a small ‘seed’ group of individuals from a list that are invited to receive free tickets to an event and, in Global Spectrum’s case, Trail Blazers games were the event. Once this group registers, they are then able to invite their friends and colleagues thus developing a network of referrals. When new individuals register, other individuals within the network receive points which accumulate with every referral.
The culmination of points creates a competitive environment where registrants compete against each other for a grand prize. Every individual who registers in the CyberClub viral marketing contest accumulates points by forwarding the offer to their contacts and are awarded 100 points for every direct sign-up they had. If one of their contacts forwards it to another contact which entered, they receive 25 points for the secondary sign-up.
Incentives for the Involved
The incentive for registrants to stay engaged in the contest, other than the two $100 Lexus Club Level tickets, is a grand prize. The grand prize for the contest winner is one catered suite pass which includes 16 suite tickets, catered food and drinks, and four parking passes to the Portland Trail Blazers vs. Phoenix Suns game on Wednesday, April 19, 2006. The approximate retail value of the grand prize is $3,500. The grand prize was more than enough incentive to attract 11,127 registered participants and potential warm sales leads. Attracting more than 11,000 registered fans during one of the worst seasons in Trail Blazers’ history is no small feat and Nelson has his sights set on bigger and better goals.
“The main goal we have is expanding upon our already existing database,” Nelson stated. “We are always on the lookout for other companies and organizations that we can partner with to gain access to a larger and more diverse database.”
There is no quicker way to increase numbers than to implement a viral marketing referral system which is exactly what Nelson has done at the Rose Quarter. With the help of TicketNet, Global Spectrum has developed a database of over 150,000 residents within the Portland area and is using this database to attract individuals to Trail Blazers games and the Rose Quarter.
Keepin’ the Customer Satisfied
The important thing for Nelson to do now is to keep interested individuals engaged. Nelson said, “Offers, discounts, and specials are aimed at attracting people to products and, in the sports industry, we are no different.” One of the ways Nelson has found which keep people engaged with the Trail Blazers is by offering free tickets, “Every organization has to keep people engaged,” Nelson continued. “We use complimentary tickets and contests as a way to keep people engaged.”
Narrowing the Numbers
The first viral marketing contest, used last year, helped build Global Spectrum’s database by 11,127 individuals and, with the second contest, Nelson hopes to attract enough individuals to reach the 200,000 mark. While keeping track of 200,000 individuals may seem like a daunting task to most individuals, Nelson is up to the task. In fact, by gathering as many individuals as possible, it allows him the luxury of segmenting the database even more. By segmenting the database, Nelson can specifically address Elton John fans one week and Guns ‘n’ Roses fans the following week.
“Increased CyberClub involvement allows us to further segment our database,” Nelson said. “With relative ease, we can now inform fans about anything. What used to be done through ticketing, sales, and sponsorship can now be done through effectively segmenting a database.”
Turning a Weakness into a Strength
One of the problems with giving away free product is that there is always the risk of devaluing the product. However, Nelson feels that the opportunity outweighs the risk. Fans that have taken advantage of the CyberClub viral marketing contest are obviously interested in basketball. It is up to Nelson and his staff to turn that interest into a future sale.
Merely giving away free tickets to games without collecting information would be extremely costly because there is no way to draw that fan back in. With the Rose Quarter’s CyberClub, Nelson can continually reach out to fans and encourage them to make return trips to Trail Blazers games and experience the Lexus Club Level. It is a risk that Nelson is willing to take and it is paying off with a growing database of potential future customers.
Nelson is constantly looking for ways to increase the Rose Quarter’s database and recently came upon a sponsorship opportunity. In the past, contest entrants had to pick up their free tickets at the Rose Garden box office. Nelson is looking at bringing ticket redemption outside of the Rose Quarter and into an athletic shoe and apparel outlet. The shoe and apparel outlet will experience increased traffic and sales due to the similarities that exist between Trail Blazer fans and the shoe and apparel outlet. Opportunities like this will keep the participants engaged as well as the database growing.
The future looks bright for the Cyberclub and its viral marketing contests. In two years’ time, TicketNet, Global Spectrum, and Dennis Nelson have not only built a segmented database but they have also attracted tens of thousands of customers who have expressed interest in their product. On top of that, thousands of individuals actually got to experience the brand Global Spectrum is trying to sell. By strategically aligning their wants and needs with their potential customers and sponsors, Global Spectrum will one day have to stop offering complimentary tickets to Trail Blazers games because all of the black-backed seats will be full.
This story was originally published on December 1, 2006.
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