How to start your data-driven marketing

On November 4th, we teamed up with Henk-Frits Verkerk from Sports Alliance to give the Digital Masterclass “Data-driven Marketing – How to get started”. This article will outline the session’s most important points.

Skipping through all complicated jargon and definition, sports entities should focus on these three key pillars of data-driven marketing. 

Technology – thousands of MarTech companies are competing to offer products to clubs, resulting in a lot of noise and confusion. So what would be the best scope a sports club should consider? The three most important areas include marketing automation, CRM & data management.

Legal – Unlike other businesses, the GDPR presents a unique opportunity for the sports industry since fans have an emotional connection to their teams and are more willing to share their personal data with them.

Marketing – Sports clubs always hesitate to create a budget for anything that is not in plain sight. Therefore, marketers need to adopt a minimal viable marketing strategy and identify a clear goal, whether to increase revenue or fan engagement, get to know your fanbase, or even communicate with fans on behalf of sponsors.

Minimal Investment, High Upside

You don’t need an immense fortune to gain specific results. Data-driven marketing, when executed well, will generate revenue. Firstly, not only can it increase your database size, but it also increases the fan value over time. From Henk-Frits Verkerks personal experience, the minimal viable technology cost is average from €1000 – €2000 per month.


Now that we understand the three pillars of data-driven marketing, Henk-Frits Verkerk will show us how they work in reality.


The minimal tech requirements should include a data-segmentation system, a communication channel, i.e., an email service provider, and a reporting system for targeting improvement and campaign optimization. More importantly, there should be a continuous flow of data collection, cleansing, standardization, validation, and deduplication to generate a golden record in the background of any solutions. If data is the new oil, we need to refine it to maximize its value.


First, you should think about the legal basis for processing data. Ideally, you would have their consent, but there are other ways to do that. Henk-Frits did a campaign informing fans about what will change and recording their preferences, rather than just permission. And, of course, you should have the mechanism to handle the changes in consent. Single sign-on could be an excellent option for GDPR compliance and improving the fan’s digital customer journey. For example, the fans log in to one of your point-of-sales, then you can immediately help them create a profile, thus asking them for permission to use data instantly.

More importantly, you must be in charge of the results, not the lawyers as a marketer. “GDPR literally states that you can keep data for a reasonable time. Some UK lawyers said that is two years, which it isn’t. However, I would argue that fans have a lifelong relationship with their clubs; and therefore, the reasonable period is the lifetime. Both perspectives could get extreme, but do make sure you find common ground or somewhere in the middle” – Verkerk insisted.


Every club should begin with a fan database; the ticketing system is often an excellent place to start. Here are some suggestions from Henk-Frits Verkerk to get you started:

  1. Send out regular newsletters, or newsletters with targeted campaigns with targeted audiences.
  2. Execute a season ticket campaign with follow-up
  3. Execute regular and match tickets & merchandising campaign

The first tip is to use data to measure campaign response to gain a complete picture of your revenue stream. The second one is to try the channels with the lowest cost at the start of the campaign and only utilize the more expensive ones for high-value fans to follow up or remind.


A season-ticket campaign may be used as a kickstart for your Data-driven Marketing business case. There are two types of season-ticket campaigns: Renewal and Acquisition. The former is targeted at the current season-ticket holders and gets them to renew. The latter is to seek potential new season-ticket holders from the existing fanbase. Here are some tips from the expert:

  1. Use multi-channel approach
  2. Differentiate targeted customers by categorizing them into different fan persona
  3. Differentiate your messages for each persona
  4. Consider the matchday fan journey
  5. Share your marketing campaigns and results with your management team

Case studies

PSV vs. NAC Breda:  This campaign invited supporters to purchase tickets online through a pre-match newsletter that included head-to-head info and top scorer statistics. The response was noticeable with a 31% open rate & 11% clicks-to-open.

Feyenoord has been very active to get data from fans they don’t know yet. They ran the Player-of-the-match campaign where fans can join and win prizes, in return, they get access to the fans’ data.

Oxford United: Every team has a group of supporters who open every email within 2 hours, dubbed the “fast-openers.” And there’s always someone who wants last-minute tickets.  The third-tier English side successfully maximized their matchday revenue by emailing last-minute deals to such fan groups. The result was impressive, with a 56% open rate.


  1. The key to Data-driven Marketing is balancing three key components – Technology, Legal & Marketing
  2. Sports clubs must look into Marketing Automation, CRM, Data Management as the first thing to invest in terms of the technological requirements for a data-driven marketing approach. 
  3. Sports clubs should perceive GDPR as an opportunity as it gives clubs a reason to ask their fans for permission for their data.
  4. Data-driven Marketing is a high-upside, low-risk investment as the minimal cost is negligible compared to its potential reward if done correctly

To learn full details about Data-driven Marketing, join the FBIN Network or become an FBIN Personal member to gain full access to the video of the masterclass “Data-driven Marketing – How to get started”, by Henk-Frits Verkerk from Sports Alliance.

Watch a snippet of the masterclass on Vimeo.

Looking for more exclusive insights? On Thursday, November 18, Borussia Dortmunds Managing Director APAC, Dr. Suresh Letchmanan, will speak about “The Virtual Tour – BVB Case Study on Digital Activation” in our next Digital Masterclass.

Please not that this masterclass is only available to FBIN members.


How AS Roma sells out their home games
UMPIRE: The One-Stop-Shop for Digital Needs in Sports Organisations
Top 10 job offers in football business | 2