Colorado State approached Old Hat looking for a way to engage their fans and enhance their overall brand image for football. In 2018, they saw a decline in season ticket holders a year after opening their new stadium. They weren’t entirely sure what the issue was, but they needed to figure out a better way to tell the story of Colorado State. More importantly, they needed to understand the right story to tell.
CSU needed to replace the season ticket holders that did not renew AND attract new fans after the team went 7-6 in 2017. Most of the feedback received was pretty negative. The responses were very focused on what was happening “right now” – replace the coach, be better on the field – and not the long-term commitment that the University made to the program. Other feedback was around the gameday experience (“concession lines were long”, “tailgating atmosphere wasn’t terrific”). All of this was indicative of the growing pains that occur when new stadiums are opened.
The fans used two words over and over in the surveys “disappointing” and “struggling” – and it wasn’t just limited in wins and losses, but the overall effort that was being displayed on the field. This feedback reinforced that people care a great deal about the team and the program and want to see success. However, the perception was that if they weren’t giving their “all”, they didn’t intend on coming back to the stadium to watch the product on the field.
We approached them with a plan that had two stages. First, was to find the right story to tell (brand imaging). Secondly, we planned on sorting through their fan data to uncover areas they weren’t addressing (data analytics). We knew by providing them the insight and analysis that they would improve their strategy. In other words, rather than “spraying and praying” the Fort Collins area with emails, we could find specific pockets of fans to connect and engage with.
After reviewing the census data and cross-referencing it with their fan information (ticket, donor), we discovered that most of their fans were very blue collar, employed in oil, gas, and mining industries. These people expect to see a certain amount of effort from those around them in life, not to mention on the field. “Hard working” isn’t just a tagline – they need to see it.
Geographic information showed our team where every ticket was purchased – something that CSU didn’t have the details on. From this, we identified a variety of areas of opportunity, mostly in nine cities near Fort Collins. We broke down these cities by zip code, focused on the usual demographics (age, race, etc.), highlighted household income, households with children, and the most common industry that employed these residents. From there, we offered suggestions as to what kind of products and offers (single game tickets, mini plans, etc.) would be best suited for each area. Our findings pinpointed locations that were originally not on their radar and needed to be mined.
CSU staff handed over three year’s worth of data (2015-17) that included single game buyers, mini plans, season ticket holders, club levels – essentially all of their different ticket types. By uploading this information into Google Data Studio then sorting through it, we could see what was purchased and where these fans were coming from. We cross-referenced this with income info received from Data USA (DataUSA.io) to further identify these pockets of fans that haven’t been marketed to.
Our findings included, but were not limited to, the following:
- 71% of fan survey respondents did not attend CSU. Sometimes good information can come from data that seems meaningless at first glance. What CSU can take away from this stat is that respondents in the local community (most of whom did not attend CSU) are willing to spend time on a survey about CSU. Maybe they’re not ready to buy season tickets just yet, but it does tell us they care enough to let CSU know how they feel.
- 72% of previous season ticket holders that decided not to renew – did NOT attend CSU. This shows how important it is for CSU (and any program) to make a good first impression.
- 36% of respondents aged 46-55 feel tailgating location is moderately important, compared to 23% for ages 56-65 and 13% for 66+. The older the fan, the less important tailgating location is.
- 53% of those at $76-$100k household income said tailgating location was moderately to extremely important, compared to 56% for $101k-$200k and 63% for $200k+. As income increases, tailgating location becomes increasingly important. It’s important to know who is tailgating and what value the tailgating experience brings to gamedays.
- Regression analysis showed that people who bought single-game tickets were more likely to jump to a season ticket than mini-plan buyers.
- The most common income level of ticket buyers were $60k-$70k, followed by $100k.