Cronulla Sharks tackles marketing automation

NRL club's head of fan engagement shares why the organisation has made the decision to invest in a new marketing technology and data management approach

National rugby league (NRL) team, Cronulla Sharks, has rolled out Marketo’s marketing automation platform as well as a new data management approach in a bid to better manage member and fan engagement.

Cronulla Sharks head of fan engagement, Brad Pettitt, told CMO the decision to invest in new marketing technology was prompted by the desire to firstly achieve a single customer view, then use the insights effectively to improve communications and interactions with both known and unknown fans of the game. Cronulla Sharks encompasses both the sporting team, as well the homeground stadium and leagues club.

Like many organisations, Cronulla historically had data sitting in silos across various departments. Uniting those sources opened up the opportunity to implement a platform to act and use data more effectively to engage Cronulla’s wider fan base, Pettitt said.

Key to getting the technology investment across the line was the insight that Cronulla was seeing 100,000 unique visitors to its website each month, but only had 45,000 known prospects on its database, he said.

“People were coming to our website but we weren’t in a position to act on those or know who they are,” Pettit said. “For us, it’s about getting closer to the fans, while streamlining how our business operates.”

To deal with the data side of the equation, Cronulla implemented Tealium’s middleware solution in order to gain a central source of truth on customer data across all touchpoints. This has been fully integrated with Marketo and all data is being fed back into and actioned via the marketing automation platform.

Previously, the club used Salesforce CRM and sent emails to its customer base via MailChimp. Although there was an active content strategy and regular fan and member communications in place via digital channels, the highly manual process and lack of resource internally made investing in automation a no-brainer, Pettitt said.

“We are in a fortunate position too that football clubs have very highly engaged fan bases,” he commented. “This will allow us to track the visitors we have coming to the website, create profiles and deliver engaging content from a ticketing and membership perspective.”

Pettitt has set the conservative first-year goal of achieving a 1-2 per cent uplift in revenue, a figure that should see the data and marketing automation technology investment easily pay for itself in the first year.

Marketo and Tealium have been implemented over a six-month period and had been live for two weeks at time of writing. Pettitt said initial work is focused on plugging in data, tagging and introducing methods to capture behavioural information off the website. A series of online forms and email campaigns will assist with this process.

Cronulla’s membership and ticketing team will be the first users of marketing automation, setting up nurture and behavioural tracking campaigns linked to different content types in order to push those customers better through the sales funnel, Pettitt said. Longer term, the club will roll out the platform across the entire organisation.

“Once we build that out, and look at the performance of those campaigns, we can start to introduce this to our corporate and hospitality teams, plus our media and digital teams from a wider content strategy perceptive, then across the leagues club and game-day teams,” he explained.

The marketing campaign and data aspects of the project are being spearheaded by Pettitt, who sits in the membership and ticketing team, in partnership with his head of digital counterpart, who is responsible for creating content and the digital strategy.

Pettitt saw teams from across the club working more collaboratively to implement marketing activities, and he agreed marketing automation represented a “real change of thinking” for the organisation.

“With scarce resources, it was very attractive to have an automation system where we can flip our thinking, and come together to look at the campaigns we’ve got and want to do, what our the business objectives, what content we need and what are our measures of success, then build those into the system and let the automation do its magic,” he said.

“And of course campaigns will only be as good as the content and the data put into them.. that’s where the collaboration really comes together.”

As part of stage two, Pettitt expected Cronulla Sharks would need an additional resource to work across the system and make sure the organisation gets the most out of it. With the season so close, he added the first three months of activity will be focused on ticketing and membership, along with a trial lead generation campaign with the commercial team.

The new marketing approach is also triggering a much wider shift around how Cronulla Sharks segments its customer database, and Pettitt said the club has already started working with its partners on customer journeys and personas.

“It’s helping us build a picture of what engagement with the club really looks like for our fan bases, so we can start to tailor our content,”he said. “It’s a really important part of the process that we probably underestimated at the time. Now we’re starting to use the system, doing that work is going to make a big difference to our engagement and lead us to better results.”

While Cronulla Sharks is among the early adopters in Australia bringing on marketing automation, Marketo Australia’s regional managing director, Greg Taylor, noted the New Zealand Blackcaps also signed on to its platform to drive subscriptions and build a better bond with customers.

“Sporting teams recognise they need to develop an affinity with their supporters, just like any other business,” he said.

Check out more of our in-depth content on brands deploying marketing automation:

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