Dutch Eredivisie football club AZ Alkmaar boosted its season ticket memberships by 10 per cent in its first year implementing data-driven insights, after years of decline, according to a recent case study.

The club launched an in-depth analysis of its data, which highlighted that AZ had suffered from an average retention rate of 78 per cent over the last five years.

“We wanted to turn this around, as this means a decline in revenues,” said Bas Schnater, fan engagement and CRM coordinator at AZ Alkmaar.

“We saw a drop in memberships every year, and assumed this was due to societal changes.”

Schnater, along with sports strategist Geoff Wilson, worked with the club’s partner, data-driven marketing agency Two Circles, to gain “maximum results in retention and acquisition of fans.”

The club began customising its communication with fans in each stand at games and in email campaigns, and adopted a predictive model for membership renewal as developed by Two Circles.

From there, the club developed feasible KPI’s, being 2017-18 members +1, via an increase of the retention score to 85 per cent plus acquiring new members.

According to the case study, one of most effective campaigns saw AZ use its insights to activate non-renewed members offline. The Eredivisie club distributed ‘hand-written’ flyers by the most popular player at that time and planted these flyers only on the seats that hadn’t been renewed yet.

In the note, the player thanked the fans for a great season and asked for their support during the next campaign. “The beauty is that all our supporter groups got behind it. The fans want the stadium to be sold out just as much as we do, so when I discussed my plan with them, they were happy to help. To me, this is a perfect example of optimal fan engagement,” Schnater said.

The campaign resulted in a major peak in sales after that match, with the flyered stands showing a significant increase in sales compared to the non-flyered stands. The flyer campaign accounted for 11 per cent of the total renewals.

At the end of the campaign, AZ secured a retention rate of 93 per cent, showing that the club managed to slow down the loss of memberships and turned it into growth. 

“According to our own analytical model, we will now end up with a predicted increase of around 10 per cent in memberships,” Schnater said.

Original case study by Bas Schnater on Twitter @BasSchnater and Geoff Wilson @geoffwnjwilson

Image: Jana de Blois