The Cronulla Sharks may not have backed up their 2016 NRL premiership with a successful title defence this year but the club remains a fan favourite, with members declaring it the leader in digital communications in the National Rugby League.
The Sharks’ digital transformation and implementation of marketing technology, a process that’s been happening since 2015, has proved so successful that its expanded its implementation beyond its member base to other areas of the Sharks business including its merchandise, corporate hospitality and sponsorship offerings. And its use of marketing technology is providing a template that several other NRL clubs are following.
"Increased its membership revenue by 36 percent, recorded 91 per cent member retention, and achieved a 44 per cent increase in ticket revenue"
The use of new marketing technology underpinned by Marketo’s automation platform kicked off in November 2015 with a proof of concept trial around the club’s membership base. That trial saw payback from achieved in the first 3 months of its use. It also underscored the club’s wider digital transformation strategy of building a single customer view that could be used by all elements of the business, engaging with existing and potential members and fans via an increased number of touchpoints and building a lifetime customer connection.
“We get 1.5 million website visitors, but our fan and member database was only 42,000, so there was a disconnect,” the Sharks head of digital, Scott Maxworthy explains of the situation ahead of the Marketo implementation. “We wanted to identify people coming in, but then put lead scoring around those visitors to then feed to telemarketing to follow up membership.”
Once the first campaign on the new platform was launched, the club increased its membership revenue by 36 percent, recorded 91 per cent member retention, and achieved a 44 per cent increase in ticket revenue.
In addition, the fan and member database doubled within 12 months and having the automated systems in place meant that the Rugby League team’s premiership win in September 2016 massively increased the Shark’s data capture capability. The club was able to sign up 3,500 new leagues club members in the week leading up to the grand final alone.
"You can get a lot of functionality without a huge amount of training"
One year on, providing the best customer experience is an integral part of the clubs strategy. With a single customer view, using Marketo means the club can also segment its fan base in various ways.
“We are putting the customers at the centre of our thinking and we are better understanding their drivers. We have a really varied fan base so being able to deliver a certain message to a certain person is essential to giving then the best experience and deliver the content that’s best for them,” says Jess Goddard, group GM, communications and brand.
That includes separate weekly communication (emails) to members and prospective members, to giving fans who are in the stadium different digital messaging and dynamic content to those who happen to be interstate or watching the game at homes.
“Being able to deliver them content based on where they live means engagement is higher than otherwise,” says Goddard. “We can also see who is consuming our media and brand activations which helps reduce churn and keeps people within the communications cycle”.
Other new initiatives fuelled by the success of its marketing automation include opportunities like Sharks360 Game Week Takeover. This campaign allows a commercial partner access to all the Sharks digital touchpoints on a given week throughout the season, including PR, media, digital, social and in-stadium activation, giving the client a unique, highly customisable, omni-channel marketing solution for brand activation
A team of five to eight people within the clubs marketing and media department manages the marketing automation.
Maxworthy says that with any tech there are three parts to changing people’s behaviour.
“With Marketo we’ve been able to show our employees how it helps them in their role – in this instance it’s easy to replicate campaigns, you can get a lot of functionality without a huge amount of training and then it’s really a matter of how deep you can go with the customer,” Maxworthy says.