3 Controllable Assets Every Sports Organization Should Be Investing In

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I’ve been pushing the idea of controllable assets for sports organizations for a while now.

My emphasis on this topic started with my conversation with Ian Taylor on my podcast, The Business of Fun. In our conversation, Ian emphasized the role that email marketing plays in his partners’ success of selling tickets consistently.

He also pointed out that even I’m guilty of putting too much focus on sales tactics.

I’m a convert to controllable assets and I have 3 that I highlight regularly:

  1. My podcast, The Business of Fun
  2. My newsletter, The Business of Value.
  3. My blog which you are reading now.

In many cases, if we don’t have these things that we own and control, we are at the whims of algorithms, platform popularity, and other outside forces that can drive us into a frenzy of chasing our tails to keep up tactically.

Organizations around the world can create all kinds of assets that they can use to communicate with their fans, ticket buyers, and prospective customers, but I want to focus on 3 that offer the highest value and can be implemented pretty quickly.

  1. Email lists
  2. Mailing lists
  3. Memberships/Fan Clubs

Let me explain why I think these are important for sports organizations:

Email lists are gold, still:

Every time we turn around it seems like someone is telling us we have to get on the newest platform.

But do we really?

I’d say in many cases the answer is no.

You can have 1,000,000 Facebook fans with 1,000,000,000 likes and it means absolutely nothing because they can change the algorithm so that your content and posts are buried, your fans may not open Facebook, or some other factor could come into play.

The numbers bear out that people still use email.

About 20 years ago, Seth Godin coined the term “permission marketing” and his idea was that marketing worked best when it was expected, relevant, and meaningful to the person receiving it.

To me, this hypothesis has held up well because we see how the average consumer is inundated with over 5,000 demands for their attention every day.

Does this mean people are paying attention to each of these demands?


Just the opposite.

In most cases, people are getting better at tuning these requests out.

The thing about email is that people still look at their email. They may be frustrated by how much they get, but they still check it.

This is an opportunity because you should be in people’s inboxes with relevant, valuable, and expected messages.

Two examples of this that reflect this point:

First, each year around my birthday, a baseball team sends me an email…it is typically the only one I get each year from this team with a discount for tickets in the future as a present.

It fails with me for a number of reasons:

  1. I’m out of market now.
  2. I only get one message a year.
  3. Tickets on-sale until months later.

Unfortunately, this is the nature of most of the communications that I see from a lot of organizations.

An example of a team that does email marketing well: Tottenham Hotspur.

The second example is from my own newsletter.

I had a colleague from a MLB team tell me recently that during the middle of the season when things are hectic and busy that one of the things he looks most forward to is receiving my email on Sunday because it inspires him and gives him new ideas.

I’ve managed to do 3 things here:

  1. Be expected.
  2. Be anticipated.
  3. Be relevant.

If you have a fan base and you want to make sure you are getting your message to them consistently, invest time in building and deploying an email newsletter that is a little bit more than a score line and an ask to buy tickets.

It shouldn’t be hard to come up with incredible content that is unique and a draw to get people to open and engage with your newsletter in a way that will drive sales of merchandise, tickets, and other monetizable items.

Mailing lists:

I wrote about the Miami Marlins a few years back and the idea that they instituted to drive sales for their premium seating areas of “sprints”.

These sprints had a few elements that are reflective of the best practices in project management:

  1. They were short and focused.
  2. They were action-oriented.
  3. They had clearly defined end dates and milestones.

This is all great, yeah!

But what is really important here is that they always kicked off the sprint with some physical mailing.

Depending on the target vertical, they may have sent something like a postcard, letter, or other typical mail.

In other instances, when the target warranted this approach, they might send out a baseball, a piece of memorabilia, or, in one instance, a base.

Where am I going with this?

The key action that drove the whole marketing campaign, the mailing at the start.

They needed to get people’s attention and cold calling, social media, email, or some other form of interruption marketing wasn’t having the desired impact.

So they targeted people with something physical.

This is important because as sports organizations, you should be using physical mail and physical assets to deepen your relationships with your fans.

If you don’t know where to start, you can use a B2B directory or buy a mailing list.

But pretty quickly you should take an approach like you might with email.

How is that?

Bribe people!

Offer them a t-shirt to sign up for your mailing list or your email list, a sticker, something…that will encourage them or require them to give you their addresses.

And, hopefully, both email and physical.

That way you can communicate directly with your best fans, buyers, and prospects because they’ve already signaled that they want to hear from you or are, at least, willing to hear from you.

Do you need ideas on this? Email me!? I’ve done some of the most creative work in political mail to get people’s attention for a candidate, issue, or initiative. If I can get people to pay attention to that stuff…anything is possible.

Besides, do you think someone isn’t going to open a cool package or letter from your team?

My bet is that the open rates and response rates will blow the typical direct mail response rate of 1-2% out of the water.

Memberships & Fan Clubs:

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed a picture I posted yesterday that mentioned it was fan club pack day at my house and my son was happier than I’ve seen lately.

And, he’s a happy kid.


His One Hotspur membership package came yesterday.

If you are in DC today and you see a 9-year-old running around with a Tottenham drawstring backpack and a soccer ball in it that’s really loud…he’s mine, I swear.

The thing is that in most cases, we aren’t really maximizing things like this to really be assets that we can use well.


I’m not sure.

I’ve mentioned this program a lot over the years because it was revolutionary at the time and I think it is still pretty unique as an example even 17-18 years later.

That’s the way that the Seattle Supersonics had a rewards program back when Howard Schultz first purchased the team.

What was unique about this program was that anyone could sign up and you’d be rewarded for your attendance at games.

After certain milestones, you’d receive a gift from the team like a discount, a free drink, a piece of merchandise, or something else that was meaningful.

I had season tickets for a few years after I moved to the Experience Music Project because my office was in the Seattle Center, I could make almost every game if I wanted to, and I love basketball.

Besides those things, the surprise and desire to see what you’d get next when you checked in at the game enticed me to jump through tremendous hurdles to scan my card.

If I had an event I was running or taking part in, I’d give my tickets to a friend under the provision that they needed to scan my card. I’d take a walk to the team store and make a purchase so I could gain access to the scanning location right inside the team store.

I mean, I did all kinds of things to be able collect scans and check-ins for all 41 home games and all the playoff games that season.

What slips me is what the ultimate payoff was, but I do know that it had something to do with a Supersonics sweatshirt that I’ve owned for 17 years and that is my most prized possession.

And, I still wear it.

I’ve gone on a tangent a little bit so that I could highlight how valuable having these programs can be.

The thing is that in 2001, the technology existed to create this kind of program.

What can we do today?

What can we reward?

What can we possibly encourage our fans and supporters to tell us about themselves and their devotion to us for the cost of a t-shirt, a beer, or some other token of our appreciation?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that, but I think they’d us a lot.

And, I think it is amazing that people aren’t spending more time on uncovering the answer.

The reality is I think that’s the case with all 3 of my examples.

What say you?

You’ll learn about controllable assets and more at my workshop in Melbourne, Australia on 18 November 2019. “Fan For Life: Creating and Keeping Modern Fans” is my first full-day workshop in Australia and it is going to be packed with ideas, actions, and examples that you can take back to your organization immediately to generate higher attendance, more attention, and increased revenue. I’m going to guess you’ll see a ROI from this workshop of 100-1, easily….so get your tickets today! 






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