ESPN’s annual Ultimate Team Rankings study includes a Fan Relations component. ESPN has fans rate their team’s Fan Relations based on this definition: Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management. While ESPN is right in that some of general Fan Relations is impacted by the player/coaches/management (and – these days – the replacement referees), there’s so much more than these groups and their “openness and consideration” that truly impacts relationships with fans.
We’ve worked with clients in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS among other leagues, and typically the work is focused on Fan Relations. But the people driving much of Fan Relations are on the business operations side. They’re the ones who sell, service season ticket holder (STH) accounts. They’re the ones who field issues from those generating the majority of the ticket revenue annually. They’re the ones whose impact is significant on the STHs, in particular. They are the ones who study the concerns, get down to the root causes, and identify solutions in tickets, benefits, game day operations, game entertainment, STH events, and more operational services. In other words, these staff drive much of the true relationships with the teams.
When you study Fan Relations, you have to study what truly drives retention and renewals, what truly builds relationships, what truly resolves issues. So you have to have fans evaluate these services and staff.
ESPN provides a lot of great research, but when it comes to gauging Fan Relations, they have to do a better job of targeting STHs and ensure they study what drives revenue and renewals.
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