Believe it or not, “The Process” hasn’t only happened on the court these last few years in Philadelphia: the Sixers are also revolutionizing the sports ticketing market by leveraging analytics off the court to grow and retain their season ticket base. This past March, Braden Moore, Director of Analytics & Insights for the 76ers and New Jersey Devils, spoke about it at the 2018 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The process through which CEO Scott O’Neil has been able to efficiently separate the good people of the Delaware Valley from their wallets is actually quite fascinating.
In 2013, when Braden began his role as Director of Analytics & Insights with the Philadelphia 76ers, there were many challenges. Chief among them were a customer base of only ~3,500 season ticket members and extremely disorganized business data. Like the team on the court around that time, Braden and the rest of team made it their mission to use data to inform how to make the best possible off the court decisions moving forward. The results they’ve seen since taking on this data-driven mindset on the business side have been promising: in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Sixers led the league in new full season-ticket member sales. They’ve also consistently placed in the Top 10 across the league for renewal rates. These two patterns combined took the Sixers from 28th in 2013 in the NBA for Total Member Base all the way to 2nd in 2017. This past season, the Sixers ranked 3rd in attendance. Braden attributes this success not only to a data-driven mindset, but a true “dialogue” about how to use the data for real takeaways and actionable results. In practice, he outlines this process as a cycle of proper data collection and integration, improved models, and sales rep adoption/buy-in.
Data Warehouses and Data Arenas
The powerful data collection and integration systems offered by Kraft Analytic Group (KAGR) data warehousing allows the Sixers analytics team to focus their brain-power exclusively on improving their quantitative models and outputs. Additionally, the team engages in a qualitative dialogue to help sales reps better understand the “why” behind the direction they receive from the team. These discussions also help sanity check the feasibility of proposed strategies. Because the analytics team relies on the reps to accurately input countless bits of customer information into their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, Braden and team find it crucial to data integrity for the reps to fully understand their key role in the process at-large. In this cyclical model, better data breeds better tools and models, which in turn breeds improved efficiencies for the reps and better rep data collection.
Particularly important to this cycle has been the Sixers analytics teams’ close partnership with KAGR data warehousing. Every piece of customer information that is collected flows through the KAGR data warehousing and to the Sixers analytics team and then back to the reps, completing a 360 degree view of the customer and constantly improved account service. For example, there is a workflow notification to the reps that is triggered when a season ticket member misses three games in a row which notifies the reps to call and find out why and how they can help (i.e., sell tickets to missed games to the season ticket member can either recoup losses or gain a profit). Because I go to nearly every game, I’ve never had to worry about such call, but I’ve certainly seen this data put to use in other ways from the season-ticket holding side (court access, birthday/anniversary gifts, deals I might be interested in, etc.). All of these actions are taken with the goal of increasing my likelihood to renew my season tickets and it starts with data analysis.
Retention is the name of the game
Regarding season ticket member retention in the aggregate, this framework can be quite powerful towards enabling responsiveness from the organization. Using relative importance output logistic regressions from their large data sets, the Sixers were able to identify key variables and metrics that the reps could put into action on either passively (i.e., how many games that members go to) or actively (i.e., how many times the rep calls, emails, or in-game visits their member). This is strategically important for the organization because it takes all typically confusing logistic regression jargon, equations, and quantitative speak and boils it down to actionable behavior for the sales rep. Rather than merely writing a recipe for success, the Sixers actually teach their employees how to cook the meal.
In a short example, to address a season ticket holder like Greg, who is attending 33% of games, if a sales rep knows they only need to convince Greg to attend 41% of games (in reality, just 2-3 more) in order to drastically increase his renewal likelihood (from 60% likelihood to renew at 33% attendance to 81% likelihood to renew at 41% attendance), then they will be properly motivated to follow-up with Greg on no-cost perks (such as on-court pregame pictures for a game that is happening anyway).
In this way, the rep is able to utilize data insights to meet or exceed their sales goals. The Sixers’ analytics team is able to track this information housed by KAGR over time and create interfaces for their reps to easily monitor ticket members that they’re responsible for on quick-click dashboards.
The analytics team also uses data on the reps logging behavior themselves to motivate them to maintain data integrity. On the first day of hiring, reps shown that told they can increase the number of sales (wins) they have by up to 30% by logging information correctly. More clean data means more money for the rep’s pocket, more money for the organization, and more satisfied ticket holder. Everybody wins.
Reinforcing the “So What”
This data-driven mindset off the court has created incredible results for the Sixers organization. As they move forward and build off of this data into models that are currently in development (i.e., customer decision journey models), they’re well positioned to continue to generate and retain season ticket sales. Throughout the dregs of “The Process”, the Sixers had a saying of being “50-win ready” around the organization and believe that this model will help them sustain organizational success off the court as the team on the court continues to improve. After a 52-30 finish to the 2017-2018 season and first round playoff series win, the Sixers will look to meet the challenges of growing expectations and increased ticket demands – great problems to have if properly prepared.
Editors Note: Eric Marturano is a Sixers season ticket holder who works in market research analytics. Eric has attended the last four MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conferences. Writing for Sixers Front Office is at the intersection of business and pleasure.