This is why your contact database is still not growing and how you can solve this

Author 22
Lorraine Moalosi
An illustration of a man sitting at his desk, in front of his computer. There is a brain in the background that is connected to different input sources to show the importance of growing a contact database

The sports industry loves social media. So much so that sports clubs published more than double the social media benchmark across all industries. Moreover, social media users love sports content. For example, out of the top three most followed Instagram accounts, 2 of them are of sports players. With Cristiano Ronaldo being the most followed and Lionel Messi, closing the top three most followed Instagram accounts at number 3. Despite all this, most sports organizations struggle to grow their contact databases. So, if you are struggling with growing your contact database, this is the blog post for you.

Your contact database will be the foundation of every campaign you send out to your supporters. Do you want to sell more tickets? You will need your contact database for that. Do you want to sell more merchandise? Same story.

So let’s discuss:

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What a supporter contact database is

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Why you should prioritise growing your contact database

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Why your contact database is still not growing

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How to solve this

Before we dive right in...

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    What is a supporter contact database?

    A supporter contact database is a a database containing names, addresses, and other information of your organizations’ supporters. This other information can include date of birth, title, and marital status. The purpose of a contact database is to give you access to your supporters so that you can communicate with them directly and easily. You will want to communicate with yours supporters easily, for example, when you:

    1. Want them to buy tickets to your games
    2. Have special offers on merchandise or in-stadium offers, such as food and beverages that you want your supporters to know about
    3. Negotiate sponsorship agreements of higher value

    While social media can be a great source of contact information, it should not be used as a substitute for growing your contact database. Meaning, you can’t just stop at having many social media followers. You need to convert these followers into contacts in your database. More on this below.

    Why you should prioritise growing your contact database

    To grow your contact database or not to grow your contact database. That is not the question at all. You need to grow your contact database if you want to sell more tickets, sponsorship packages, and merchandise. And by growing your contact database I mean a list with names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses. And why is this?

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    It’s the foundation of all your campaigns

    An image showing different sources of engagement such as mobile, TV and merchandise

    Imagine you are about to throw a birthday party for yourself. And you would love all your friends to come. So, naturally, you set out to invite them. But you realise you don’t have their phone numbers, or email addresses or postal addresses. For some of them, you only know their nicknames and not their actual names. So, you couldn’t even, I don’t know, google their phone number (which you shouldn’t anyway). Isn’t this the same exact positions that sports organizations find themselves in sometimes?

    I mean picture this:

    A football club has an upcoming game and would love their supporters to come. So, naturally, they want to send out ticket offerings to their supporters. However, they soon realize that  they don’t have phone numbers, email addresses or postal addresses of their supporters. And if they have a decent amount of social media followers, they realize that some of them use aliases and nicknames on their accounts. So this means that the football club doesn’t really even know their supporters’ real names.

    This is what I mean when I say that your contact database is the foundation of all your campaigns. You want to be able to reach your supporters, whenever you want to with all the ticket offerings that they have. Growing your contact database takes away the worry of whether or not you are actually reaching your supporters or not.

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    You get better reach and better chances of completing sales

    With your contact database, you can reach more supporters and will have better chances of conversion. That is to say, you stand a better chance of selling:

    1.  more tickets, 
    2. sponsorship packages 
    3. and merchandise 

    …when targeting your supporters in your contact database than when using just social media. That’s because having 2 000 supporters in your contact database versus 2 000 social media followers is not the same thing. 

    What do I mean by this?


    When it comes to social media platforms, you have to think about algorithms. So when you post something to your 2 000 followers, not all of them will see that post.  With the average reach on Instagram and Facebook being 13.51%, only about 270 of your followers would actually see your post. And at this point we are talking only about seeing, not them actually engaging with the post or taking any type of action.

    A graph over organic reacg for Facebook and instagram showing how it's declining over time, source social insider

    However, when it comes to sending emails to your supporters in your contact database, as long as your supporter’s email address is correct, you will reach a 100% of your supporters. Of course, the email open rate is a different question. Not everyone that receives your email will open it. But with the average open rate being 36.36%, you are more likely to sell more to your supporters through this method, than through social media. So we are looking at a pool of around 727 supporters, compared to only 270 through Facebook and Instagram.

    In this case, the benefits of growing your contact database include:

    1. Reach more of your supporters – your supporters can’t come to the game if they don’t ever see your posts about the game
    2. Having a higher chance of selling season tickets, single game tickets, merchandise and more to your supporters
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    Give supporters what they want

    Did you know that your supporters want to receive emails from you? And that 99% of email users check their emails each day? In fact, some check their email as much as 20 times a day. Moreover, according to OptinMonster, more than half even check their email before doing anything else online (probably before even getting out of bed). The even greater news for the sports industry is that the average unsubscribe rate for emails sent by sports organizations is just 0.28%. 

    This is yet another compelling reason why you should grow your contact database. A social media follower does not need to give you their email address. Which means that you lose out on the opportunity to reach your supporters in a way that they will appreciate. In this context, your supporters actually want to receive emails from you. So not growing your contact database means turning a blind eye on such a huge opportunity.

    Pie chart showing email vs social media, first check of the day.

    So, the benefit of growing your contact database here is that you will be giving your supporters something they can appreciate. I mean, 58% of email users check their emails first thing in the morning versus only 14%, who check their social media first thing in the morning. In a nutshell, if your supporters want to receive emails from you, why would not send them some?

    Check out these other blog posts:
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     Why Sports Organizations need a CDP to grow and thrive

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     Women in sports: beyond the hashtag – time to make a difference

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    Higher return-on-investment (ROI)

    Here’s something even better: for every $1 you spend on an email marketing campaign, you can expect an estimated return of about $42. 

    Here are some more statistics on email marketing:

    1. The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media. (McKinsey). This means that, if you want to sell more merchandise, you will have more success when using email marketing than just social media.
    2. 72% of people prefer to receive promotional offers through email. Again, this goes back to giving your supporters what they want while also getting what you want. They want promotional offers via emails and you want to increase your revenue. It’s a win-win situation.

    Email marketing revenue is estimated to reach almost 11 billion by the end of 2023. (Statista,)

    Bar graph showing how email marketing revenue is forecasted to grow until 2027
    Source: Statista

    Nothing is more compelling than the idea of increasing revenue. Or the thought of gaining more than 3 000% ROI. Which is why this is a compelling reason for priortitizing the growth and health of your contact database.

    This is why your contact database is still not growing

    Although I have given two examples of email marketing so far, email marketing is not the only way of growing your contact database. It is one of the most effective ways of doing so but not the only. And this leads us to the first possible reason why your contact database is still not growing.

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    Not making it a priority

    This is really the first mistake that most sports organizations make. They don’t prioritize growing their contact databases. They believe that having enough social media followers is the best possible outcome. And this is understandable because for a long time, the conversation was centred around engaging supporters on social media. So if you have managed to grow your social media following, congratulations. But now it’s time to take the next step – grow your contact database. Make this a priority. 

    Another possible reason why sports organizations don’t prioritize growing their contact databases is that most people in the sports industry are very conservative and traditional in their thinking. We stick to what is tried and tested. Which means we are not always the quickest at jumping on the latest trends, innovations or technologies. Evidently though, a lot of the opportunities to grow your contact database come from the use of technology. But when you go back a couple of decades, this is something that was not that necessary. Supporters were loyal to their clubs and didn’t really need to be:

    1. Asked for their contact information
    2. Reminded constantly to purchase tickets 
    3. Contacted by email – word of mouth was enough
    4. Marketed to, their loyalty ran deep

    Do you identify with any of these scenarios? Have you been focusing solely on social media and traditional ways of marketing?

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    Not using the right technology

    Here we go again with this word. Technology. But it is very important. You want to use the right technology to grow your contact database. So that your contact information is always:

    1. Up to date – having the wrong contact information means you are not really reaching everyone in your contact database. And did you know that emailing invalid email addresses negatively affects your email deliverability? Meaning that your emails to valid accounts might get blocked. Meaning that less contacts will receive your emails. Remember what we said about reach at the beginning of the blog? The higher the reach, the better the chances of selling.
    2. Clean, with no duplicates – imagine having multiples of the same supporter! You think you have 5 different contacts. But in reality , it’s only one person. Consequently, this will make it hard to sell tickets and it will distort your reporting. That is, you will be expecting to sell more tickets to 5 people when in reality it can only be one.
    3. Reliable – if your contact database is not reliable, this will negatively impact your sports organization. You are less efficient when communicating with your supporters.

    So, although customer relationship management (CRM) systems, for example, are a good start, they have their limitations. Read here to learn  more about these limitations. It is a Customer Data Platform (CDP) you want to be using for growing your contact database, as it will bring all your contacts together, removing duplicates (unified supporter data in the image below). And it will do this continuously, so you never have to worry about your database being out of date and therefore, unreliable. But most importantly, you will be able to share this database easily with the rest of your team in your sports organization.

    An image showing the difference between CDP and CRM
    a 3D dashboard from Data Talks CDP analytics framework

    To see how this would look in action, explore the Data Talks CDP demo >>

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    Not thinking outside the box

    Let’s continue with the birthday party analogy. You have somehow, miraculously, managed to invite your friends to your party, even though it was hard to reach them. And this time, you get their contact information to avoid having the same issues next year. But then you proceed to throw the same party every single year. Soon enough, you notice that some people start to ignore your calls. Others block you. And others say they will come, but they never do. You might be tempted to say, well they were never my friends to start with anyway.

    In the same manner, sports organizations tend to use the same old tactics hoping to get new and improved results. When the truth is, sports supporters in this digital age, have so many things competing for their attention. Sports clubs, although still held in high regard, have to fight for that attention. They are competing with the likes of Netflix and other entertainment sources for this limited attention span that supporters have. So, start thinking outside the box. Here are a few examples of how you can grow your contact database without resorting to the same old tactics:

    1. Gamification – e.g. create quizzes and games that your supporters can only access after submitting their contact information
    2. Access to exclusive content – remember how we started the blog post? Supporters love sports content. So instead of focusing all your energy on publishing this content on social media, ask your supporters to sign-up for access to exclusive content.
    3. Create newsletters to satisfy your supporters hunger for content
    4. Host online contests – everyone likes the idea of winning something. Run some contests that supporters can only access after signing up.
    5. Link all your social media accounts back to your website – that way the chances of your supporters signing up for something, is higher. For example, they might subscribe to your blog post while there. They might notice that you have an app and download it.


    Read more here to get inspiration on how you can think outside the box when trying to grow your contact database.

    Here’s an example of the possibilities that come with a good contact database

    You can trust this blog post because everything I have written about thus far has been tried and tested by many of our customers. Let’s look at one such example shall we?

    PAOK FC boosts season ticket sales by targeting: the right supporters with the right message at the right time

    PAOK success story. They sent out an email which a 50% open rate and then 10% of those who opened the email bought tickets proving that selling more tickets with the Data Talks CDP is more than possible.

    Just one day before the deadline for season tickets renewals, PAOK FC:

    1. Identified who had bought season tickets in the previous season but hadn’t for the current season
    2. Then they took it a step further and looked at those who had bought season tickets for specific sections of their stadium
    3. After identifying these supporters, they sent out messages to the supporters that they knew the supporters would appreciate.

    In the end, 50% opened their email. Notice that this number is way higher than the industry benchmark I shared at the beginning of the blog post? That benchmark was 36.36%. And of those who opened the email, 10% bought the season tickets PAOK was selling. Not only did PAOK sell all these tickets, just one day before the deadline. But they also gained insights that they can use for their next campaign. They now know that high-spenders and VIP supporters are the ones that responded to their campaign in high numbers.

    This example proves what we have already discussed:

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    Your contact database is the foundation of all your campaigns

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    The chances of converting are higher when using email campaigns versus just social media.

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    Using the right technology is important. PAOK FC uses Data Talks Sports CDP. Not only did they get the results, but they also got insights to use for their next campaign.

    Do you want the same results as PAOK FC? Then why not do what they did? Try out our demo today to see how our platform can help you get results way higher than industry benchmarks.

    a 3D dashboard from Data Talks CDP analytics framework

    Getting started is easy

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