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    Data allows us to discover so much about sport; not just the performances of athletes and teams competing, but about the fans who watch them, too. The deeper and more intricate the data becomes, the higher its value to rights holder and sponsors. We discover how experts collect, organise and use that data.

    Knowing your fans – their demographics, behaviours, where they shop, what excites them or turns them off - has become absolutely vital for any sports organisation hoping to compete on a domestic, continental or global stage.

    In this data-led digital age, sponsors demand this information from sports rights holders so they can use it to appeal to each fan individually; stoking their passions in the way they want and, ultimately, maximising ROI.

    This desire for deeper personal data is being facilitated by GlobalSportsJobs, who are helping companies such as Nielsen Sports attract functional experts whose skills can deliver the insight that will benefit the sports marketplace.

    Nielsen’s team gather deep insights on customers, segment audiences according to their likes and behaviours, then use that information to help their clients personalise the marketing activations that each fan receives to engage and monetise them most effectively.

    Revealingly, Max Barnett, Global Head of Digital at Nielsen Sports, says: "I’d prefer to know a lot about 10% of a club's fanbase, than very little about 100%"

    "Fan DNA" is Nielsen Sports' segmentation methodology. In addition to hundreds of other metrics, they broadly split fans into three segments:

    • Connection fan – those who enjoy sport, don't particularly care about the result, but enjoy getting together with friends and family to watch.
    • Trend positive fan – they like sport because of what it says about them. They are very social. They will get into NBA or UFC, for example, because it's 'current'. They particularly love connections with celebrities.
    • Game expert – This group love the intricacies of the sport (cricket and F1 fanatics are a good example) and are typically wary of anything that disrupts their engagement with it.

    Once Nielsen's teams of data scientists has enabled them to place each fan into one of these broad categories, they can then help the client identify the content that will most appeal to each one. "It's about matching the activation to each person's level of avidity," explains Barnett.

    "Brands are starting to care less about the size of your audience, and more about what you know about them. I'm starting to see sponsorship being taken more seriously as a marketing arm purely because we can track and measure data in more robust ways."

    Nielsen's systems also now allow its clients to understand the real value of their social media output and how to tweak content to maximise engagement levels and profitability.

    Nielsen Sports are looking to the future in fan segmentation and personalisation. They plan to grow from their current segmentation and data services of marketing intelligence, commercial auditing, market research and digital media services, through the development of new technologies.

    These innovative technologies will allow clients to digest and interrogate data and benchmark it against competitors as well as having the ability to track and measure marketing activity and assess its media value.

    These new technologies will not just benefit the commercial aspect of sport but the fan experience as well. By acting on this new data, companies can develop and design more specific media and sponsorship strategies which effectively engages with fans, creating more opportunities for a greater return on investment.

    Barnett concludes, "All things stem from the fan experience! As long as they're having a good time, opportunities for rights holders are plentiful. More and more people are interested in sports and sports experiences and it all comes back to how well you know those fans. What will enhance their day-to-day relationship with their club or athlete? That's why data is so important."

    This article was produced by the GlobalSportsJobs Editorial Team

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