A Customer Data Platform is key to effective sports & events marketing

Hockey Club Porin Ässät knows that to be successful in sports marketing, there are more things to master than just sports. That’s why HC Porin Ässät gives ten out of ten to the Custobar CDP.

Sports clubs are in the experience industry - or, industries

Like so many other consumer industries, sports clubs have been progressing towards the experience economy. At least HC Porin Ässät has. Selling ice hockey match or season tickets are no longer enough to sustain the customers’ interest or the sport club business.

“We are in the events and services industries,” says Business Director Niklas Ikonen. “Alongside league games, we organise concerts, meeting and conference events, and we run a successful restaurant, two restaurants in the summer.”

Niklas Ikonen

HC Porin Ässät can produce Antti Tuisku concerts and party conventions for the Coalition Party as easily as champion league ice hockey matches.

“We are in the business of making experiences, and that’s much more than just sports or other events.”

In other words, Hockey Club Porin Ässät knows that to be successful in consumer businesses, a sports club is not just a sports club. Selling season tickets is not the only business a sports club needs to master. To excel in sports marketing, HC Porin Ässät uses the Custobar Customer Data Platform (CDP) to thrive in all their businesses, including season pass sales.

The Custobar CDP implementation quickly brought us a 9,6% increase in newsletter subscriptions and open rates that consistently vary between 60 to 87 percent among our season ticket customers.

Tero Rantalainen, Sales Manager

From publicising to advertising

When Business Director Niklas Ikonen started at HC Porin Ässät, he had a clear purpose: to revive the sports club into a profitable business again.

“I started by analyzing our infrastructure: what we were doing and how,” Ikonen says.

The biggest problem he came across was in marketing.

“We were informing and notifying, not marketing or advertising. We had no data analysis in place, we did not know who our customers were, and none of our marketing or customer relationship systems communicated with each other. We needed to take action, immediately.”

So, Ikonen and HC Porin Ässät started to look for the right tool or tools to meet today’s demands for omnichannel, personalised, and data-driven marketing.

“Our business was large and wide, and so was our revenue, but we didn’t look the part. Our brand was closer to a sports club, when we should have been perceived as a listed company,” Ikonen says.

The events organization formerly known as a sports club needed systems that would allow them to pay tribute to what they actually were all about, and take on other big event organizers in the experience industry that were already there. Ikonen had several very specific qualities and features in mind:

“The system or systems we were looking for needed to be up-to-date, easily integratable with third party systems, and right for the systems we already had in place. We needed a software or a platform with which to do marketing to today’s standards.”


Marketing software to transform company culture

Finding the right Customer Data Platform wasn’t the only change HC Porin Ässät had to make. The company culture needed change also. Changes in the distribution of resources were made to accommodate the larger shift that was under way.

“When we implemented the Custobar CDP, my biggest fear was that we would have state-of-the-art marketing software in place, but we wouldn’t use it to the fullest.”

That fear was not futile. Utilizing the Customer Data Platform to the max required deliberate intentions, close monitoring, and getting the right player to the team. That player was Sales Manager Tero Rantalainen, who had what it takes to do successful data-driven marketing in the experience industry.

Rantalainen is happy to report some major wins along the way:

“Our newsletter subscriptions have increased 9,6% since the relatively recent Custobar CDP implementation. We now have more than 11 000 subscribers and open rates that vary between 25 and 38 percent. The open rates among our season ticket customers are consistently anything from over 60 all the way up to 87 percent.”

The biggest win for Rantalainen is that every newsletter converts into sales. Ikonen knows why that is:

“Our email marketing soars due to the right content. We always include information on our bottom line and on what’s happening in the player recruitment front. This customer relevant content is paired with personalised special offers.”

Ikonen sees marketing personalisation as an important way to increase customer engagement.

“We genuinely want to score the goal of having as many customer segments as we have customers to be able to target the right people with the right products and services,” Ikonen says.

This sports club is clearly successfully moving towards segment of one marketing as an experience industry.


The best things in the Custobar CDP for HC Porin Ässät

Customer Data Platforms are the biggest news in marketing technology at the moment. They are quickly proving themselves superior to any sports CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or systems out there, especially when sports marketing moves from consumer businesses more towards B2B and events/experience industries.

Ikonen is very clear on the reasons to choose the Custobar CDP.

“To begin with, you have some very good references, companies that I like and look up to. Your sales people were on top of your software and knew what they were talking about. The whole process was really well handled.”

After all this, and despite the Custobar CDP’s many features with competitive advantages, it is pricing that gets Ikonen’s highest praises.

“I like your pricing model and the way it scales according to our customer base. The risk is having a system that is too robust and too expensive or too limited and lacking. We got the Custobar CDP tailored perfectly to our needs.”

The user experience and feedback has also been excellent.

“I enjoy looking at the reports and finding out who our customers are and how our campaigns are converting. I like to see at a glance how our customers have engaged with our marketing strategies and how the whole campaign has done from pre-marketing to after-sales services.”

User experience has been great also for Ikonen’s colleagues.

“We have had splendid feedback from our executives to all who use the Custobar CDP in their day-to-day activities.”


Big wins and campaigns that are effective even when they are small

For Niklas Ikonen, the greatest benefit of having a Customer Data Platform in place has been the right distribution of resources within the company and the way sales and marketing are now in a harmonious symbiosis.

“The most important thing marketing does is boost sales, Ikonen says. - We now have the tools to react and act quickly on campaign level, as we see in real time what works and what doesn’t.”

Dismantling the sales - marketing silo has been accompanied with making sure that the right people can bring their all to the right things. Marketing can focus on creating more and more efficient campaigns. Furthermore, they get actionable feedback in the form of customer data.

Marketing automation, which is also an intrinsic part of the Custobar CDP, is also vital in the big picture, according to Ikonen.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected HC Porin Ässät similarly to other sports, restaurant, and event industries. Since the times have been tough for sport and event lovers, Porin Ässät wanted to do something nice for their customers soon after a purchase.

“We created a customer flow where a customer gets a free Double Burger meal in their nearest Hesburger.”

The idea was not to let the customers know about the free meal beforehand.

The campaign is accompanied with a campaign on social media: tag Porin Ässät to your post when you are having the meal and enter a draw for hockey sticks from the club’s players. This has been a way to enhance customer engagement, acquire leads, and to get the customers to take the marketing message of Porin Ässät forward to their networks.

“This was a small campaign in the scheme of things, put the point it, that it would have been impossible to realize quickly and effectively before.”


Read more about how to do data-driven sports marketing with the help of a Customer Data Platform (CDP).