The NFL now relies on data insights for better fan involvement.

Besides the TV sensation that is the Super Bowl, the average number of viewers per NFL game has fallen by 8%. The league now relies on data insights for better fan involvement.

The season ended in style. The first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Tom Brady was great. The 51st Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons and the victorious New England Patriots made a worthy ending to the season of the National Football League.

And yet, the NFL and some of their teams were faced with falling numbers for TV viewers. Now, teams and leagues are using data to turn this trend around and develop their fans into lucrative regular customers.

Kraft Analytics Group: Predictive Analytics

At the spearhead of this offensive is the technology company that works for the New England Patriots. The Super Bowl winners built a data warehouse as well as an analysis platform three years ago. These have information about customers and their shopping histories, as well as data on open-rates for e-mail campaigns and anonymous website traffic data.

The proprietary, cloud-based platform forms the foundation of the Force Analytics Group, launched in May 2016, helping the Patriots and other non-football organizations to develop marketing strategies based on data.

We look at the activities of the customers and use these data to predict their future behavior and to adjust our marketing (Jessica Gelman, CEO of the Kraft Analytics Group)

The platform has helped New England Patriots improve their marketing campaigns through predictive analytics, data management and data visualization.

For example, the online shop of the Patriots published merchandising with the wording “Do your job,” a well-known quote from coach Bill Belichick that season. Predictive analytics algorithms helped identify existing customers who were likely to buy these articles.

Since then, over 500,000 customers have been generated with this marketing campaign, exceeding all the expectations that were developed on the basis of other marketing campaigns. The resulting customer information was added to the database and used to market new Patriots products.

Wi-Fi hotspots at 20 NFL stadiums

Since 2015, the analysis platform of the NFL has made it possible to gain anonymous data about which applications fans use on their mobile devices when they use wi-fi in 20 of 32 stadiums. It also checks the bandwidth and response time of the network.

Michelle McKenna-Doyle, NFL’s CIO, says data helps individual teams address their fans with tailor-made marketing and social media strategies. “From a marketing perspective, it helps to get to know the behavior of the fans during the game,” says McKenna-Doyle. McKenna-Doyle, the NFL’s first and only CIO since 2012, now controls 65 full-time IT staff members.

The NFL searches for hidden audience segments

Some years ago, the data showed that a significant number of Patriots fans used social media during the game. These insights forced the Patriots to invest in additional digital space at the Gillette Stadium. These offered the fans real-time information, which included social media appearances and team-related hashtags to post their photos on the jumbotron in the stadium.

Since the NFL is looking for new ways to interact with their fans in the stadium and on TV, the use of data and analytics in marketing will continue to grow. The average number of viewers fell by a total of 8%, while tickets sold remained relatively unchanged, as the Wall Street Journal reported.

“There may be many hidden segments of potential NFL viewers who will respond positively to targeted marketing campaigns. However, the NFL must first promote these data to generate insights,” says Brandon Purcell, senior analyst at Forrester Research.