April 24th, 2012 by Kelly Liyakasa

In typical conference fashion, my first day at SAS Global Forum 2012 began early, promising 12 hours ahead of sessions, conversations and various other activities. (Networking parties come with the territory, too, so let’s just say the SAS crowd knows how to have a good time.)

And because this year’s event takes place in Orlando, I had the pleasure of touring the Amway Center yesterday morning with the business strategy brain-trust behind the NBA pro-basketball team, the Orlando Magic, a SAS Analytics client. CRM magazine was given an exclusive look at how an arena operates and transitions from one event to the next, whether it’s game night or Britney Spears is coming to town.

Rooftop at Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.

The Orlando Magic moved into the brand new, $480 million sports and entertainment complex in the fall of 2010 (the old arena was 375,000 square feet; the new is 875,000) and in less than two years, has experienced close to 50 percent growth in revenue by deploying analytics, growing cross-sponsorships and functionalities, as well as enhancing the fan experience. The team is in the top ten for NBA teams in total revenue and is vying for more.

One of the most telling pieces of the Magic story is the brand’s ability to market, and to learn how to better market their product – a basketball team and a new, state-of-the-art facility that’s hosted top-rated entertainers like Lady Gaga, and a fall launch of an Eastern division hockey league, the Solarbears. “When you get a new arena, people think it’s about adding seats, but it was all the other things-the amenities, the fan experience. The things they experience when they come to the game that allow us to sell products that are more suited to the customer base,” explains Anthony Perez, director of business strategy for the Orlando Magic. It also doesn’t hurt that the Magic boast an accolade now as having the largest digital scoreboard in the NBA.

Orlando Magic interactive fan experience

What many don’t know is that the NBA places a strict, but understandable limitation on venue marketing-meaning the Magic cannot market their team or events outside of a 75-mile radius, so as not to hinge on the Miami Heat market, for instance. That means the Magic, a regional team (that is not in a Chicago or LA-size market) must measure and retain as many loyal fans as possible while building new avenues for sales, which could include adding more suites, retaining more season ticket holders and building other premium products for corporate growth down the road.

Jay Riola, the Magic’s business strategy manager, says the team sold the entry space to the venue to Disney, now called the Disney Atrium, and “we estimate 75-80 percent of our fans enter the building through this space.” The remainder of the arena is a recipe for branding, like the sponsor-backed Nutrilite Magic Fan Experience, a hodgepodge of interactive games, photo-opps and Orlando On Demand, a city-run visitor experience with fun, historic tie-ins. The venue’s newfound caliber acts as an added bonus for the Magic brand, which finds more top-notch entertainment coming through its doors (the City of Orlando manages the entertainment component.)

Disney Atrium at Orlando Magic Arena

Riola further discussed the role analytics, social media and marketing play in the everyday Orlando Magic experience. Here are some of the highlights:

-Helping fans find their way: “We needed a way for fans to navigate the building easily if they weren’t a season ticket holder in here 45 nights a year, so we implemented a color scheme that would match your ticket (it will be orange or green,) which will help you navigate through the arena. We trained all of our service staff to be able to inform fans using color identification. All our maps are correlated as well..we studied a lot of baseball parks to see how the wayfinding system works.”

-The True Blue Passport digital season ticket: “From an analytics perspective, what that’s allowed us to do is better understand who’s coming to games, because in the past, we printed tickets and they were transferable. People would hand them out. Now, we have much more degree of certainty, that if I swipe my card, Jay Riola is at the game. Or, if I give the tickets to someone else, and I send an email and send my tickets to him, he needs an account to accept them. If he’s not a ticket buyer, we have a prospect we can target and try to sell new tickets to.”

-Influencing spending through incentive: “If you scan your ticket, card or seat locator at any concession stand, you can be entered to win court side seats to an upcoming game. That has allowed us to track spending habits and behavior in the building and help us better understand what our customers are buying, when they’re buying, and use that information for marketing purposes in the future.”

-Facebook and Twitter pushes: “We have a big social media following, and have over a million fans on Facebook. We are active, and a lot of people choose to receive text messages before the game, who we’re playing, and what the score is at halftime and post-game, it’ll deliver the score. You can follow the game on Twitter, where we tweet out updates throughout the game, and I think a lot more sports teams are becoming a lot more active, because your fan base may be younger or who can’t find tickets can find a way to connect to the team through social media.”

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