Buzzer Beater

Article Featured Image

A professional sports team can have a hard time selling tickets if the team’s performing poorly, or if upper management makes an unpopular roster move. That’s a day-in, day-out reality, but the sports business is still a business, which means teams need fans to fill the seats—no matter what. 

Facing not only those ups and downs but also the full-court press of an economic recession, executives at Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers and the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, decided it was time to go on offense. The play? To improve outreach by drilling deeper into customer information, and to develop innovative and immersive programs for ticket sales and renewal. 

Comcast-Spectacor had been using Acxiom software to store customer information, says Mark DiMaurizio, its vice president of technology solutions, but needed a stronger sales force automation (SFA) product that had seamless integration with marketing automation and demand generation. 

Essentially, it was time to align business challenges with what a CRM solution could deliver, with three basic drivers: delighting customers (in this case, fans), increasing revenue, and decreasing costs. But Comcast-Spectacor was no rookie. “Our first venture into CRM was back in 2000,” DiMaurizio says. “This is our ‘CRM 2.0,’ meaning we’re a little smarter and better targeted in what we want to do.”

Comcast-Spectacor evaluated Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce CRM, DiMaurizio recalls, with two major requirements in mind: strong best-of-breed functionality, and seamless integration with Eloqua, its existing marketing automation provider. “Both products played well with Eloqua and were very strong, but in our case, the tipping point was the cloud,” he says. “Salesforce was in the cloud.”

Implementation, however, was no slam dunk. Two issues had to be ironed out before the process even began. The main challenge involved Salesforce.com’s model of “one owner per account,” which didn’t jibe with Comcast-Spectacor’s structure as a sports-entertainment conglomerate. “We have a sales/service owner [for each] line of business,” DiMaurizio says. “If a particular person has season tickets for the Flyers [and] 76ers, and has done a group night for business, there will be an owner for each. That model didn’t fly well, out-of-the-box, with Salesforce.com.” A systems integrator had to help customize Salesforce CRM instead.

The other challenge involved data. DiMaurizio says Salesforce.com provides storage largely based on the number of accounts a company maintains, which works better within a B2B model. Comcast-Spectacor, though, is predominantly B2C—a 70-to-30 split, he says—so that wasn’t going to work. “You throw that out in B2C, since there are much larger accounts per sales rep…and we have a lot more data,” he says. “We were forced to create a rolling data-retention model and archive issue right away. It made us think ahead and plan for it.”

After dealing with those two pregame issues, DiMaurizio says the actual implementation took only three months, with the company going live in September 2008. No other “show-stoppers” disrupted the process, but DiMaurizio describes the initiative as a giant exercise in organizational change management. “CRM 1.0 didn’t touch every facet of our organization,” he says. “With this solution, there was so much information and power that it took six to 12 months to get all of the functionality out.” 

The effort has been well worth it, DiMaurizio says. Users now have transparency and line of sight into the leads and accounts coming through the Web site, and can respond to interactive marketing emails, follow them through the sales cycle, and maintain visibility into the direct impact and return on investment (ROI) of each campaign. “We used to [rely on only] implicit measurement on ROI,” he recalls. “Also, the forms on our Web site now immediately go to the proper representative who can get back to that person within an hour. We’re extremely pleased that we can get back to fans quickly.” Fans seem pleased, too: A recent email campaign generated ticket-sales revenue 36 percent higher than previous campaigns. 

“We have approximately 1.2 million customers in our database, and we don’t lose them,” DiMaurizio says. “We know exactly when the last time we touched our customer [was], and we can make sure we’re constantly talking to our leads and accounts. Before, we didn’t feel confident we had that sort of rigor, but now we have much better control and mastery of our customers within our database.” That mastery led to tangible results: Between the 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 seasons, the number of tickets sold shot up by 70 percent for the Flyers and jumped 117 percent for the 76ers. 

Selling single seats is great, but getting fans to come back is the real goal. “Our Salesforce.com product allows us to track leading indicators regarding people’s intent to renew based on certain characteristics,” DiMaurizio says. “With the reports and dashboards, we can get ahead of the game and make sure we’re servicing the fan exactly how [he] should be serviced.” 



Since getting the assist from Salesforce.com, Comcast-Spectacor has scored:

  • an overall increase in revenue from email campaigns of 36 percent;
  • an increase in ticket sales between the 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 selling seasons of 70 percent for the Philadelphia Flyers and 117 percent for the Philadelphia 76ers;
  • organic growth in email recipients of 12.9 percent for the Flyers and 54.6 percent for the 76ers;
  • a new metric—revenue per opt-in—so every email that is added to campaigns means $4.02 in revenue per season for the Flyers and $2.42 for the 76ers; and
  • the ability to track individual campaigns—collectively responsible for generating more than $763,000 in revenue—to determine return on investment for each one.


For the rest of the November 2009 issue of CRM magazine — a look back at the first 10 years of Salesforce.com — please click here.

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.

To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com
Every month, 
CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationCRM.com/subscribe/.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues