• October 1, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

NFL Flexes CRM Muscle

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When the NFL lockout officially ended July 25, a national cheer could be heard, as rabid fans reclaimed their autumnal Sunday afternoons. But there was never really a loss of fan interest, even during the height of the five-month standoff between the players and owners. And that’s a testament to the league’s solid understanding of what it takes to manage its customer relationships.

“The NFL lockout did not bring any change in demand for tickets,” says Tony Knopp, president, chairman, and co-founder of Spotlight, a firm that helps corporations manage their sports and entertainment tickets, suites, and hospitality assets. “With the NFL, they have a product that is in such huge demand.”

And while many loyal fans objected to being thrust unceremoniously into the middle of the conflict between players and owners and felt it was a great act of hubris to hold the season hostage in their negotiations, their passion for the game and their teams never wavered. In fact, for every single NFL game ticket sold, there is an average of 2.2 requests, meaning that demand for tickets is more than twice the number of tickets available. “NFL fans are very loyal,” Knopp comments.

The league, he says, “does a very good job of CRM and keeping football in front of people.”

Adam Kellner, director of premium hospitality for the Chicago Bears, says, “For us, it came down to an attitude of business as usual, showing customers that we weren’t worried.”

Business as usual meant conducting the normal outreach, meetings, luncheons, and other ticket-holder events during the off-season. “We took the proactive step of communicating with customers,” Kellner adds. “We figured that if we were open with them about what was happening, they would be calm about it.”

According to Knopp, the entire league “did a fantastic job of business as usual. They still sent out their season ticket packages and invoices. They weren’t waiting for the lockout to end to start selling.”

That was probably a good thing, since the season officially started in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Thursday, September 8, just six weeks after players and owners had reached an agreement.

But, just in case there were some residual effects among fans, a group of players released a video July 25 thanking fans for their support and patience during the lockout. In the video, 13 players delivered personal messages to fans. 

“I just want to say to all the fans, thank you so much for all of your support and patience during this process,” Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “We’re excited for this season to start and to have a great year.”

Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said, “We want to tell you we thank you for being supportive of us through this process. We appreciate your support. We look forward to a great football season. We got this thing done; now let’s play some ball.”

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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