Winning is supposed to solve all problems. When the Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2020 National Hockey League championship, with a fun team full of popular players, selling 2021 season tickets should have been easy. But COVID-19 changed all that. The 2020 NHL playoffs had been played with no fans in attendance, at two cities in Canada where the players quarantined in their “bubble” against coronavirus.
Heading into the 2021 season, it wasn’t clear how many games NHL teams would play, on which dates, and how many fans would be able to attend.
The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t have all the answers, but the organization was committed to providing its fans “communication and contingencies,” says Travis Pelleymounter, vice president of ticket sales and service.
The Lightning took a total team approach to digital communications to season ticket holders, with sales, marketing, and data analytics working together to decide who should get what messages, how many messages to send, and when to send them.
The communication effort has helped improve renewals among the team’s 5,500 season ticket holders, including some people who had said they didn’t plan to renew. And the Lightning accomplished this while sending fewer emails and increasing engagement, thanks to better-targeted messages.
Putting the right message in front of the right fan has been key to us increasing our engagement rates and reducing the non-engaged contacts from our email marketing database.
Digital Marketing Manager, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning turned to Oracle Eloqua Marketing Automation for an email communication platform that would let the team personalize messages based on an individual’s profile. The Lightning uses Eloqua’s custom data objects (CDOs) extensively to record data about customers’ preferences, so the team sends only relevant messages. Likewise, the team uses Eloqua’s responsive templates and dynamic content capabilities to execute on these personalized emails. The system also gives the Lightning fans more control over how often they want to get messages, and what information interests them.
The Lightning has seen the engagement rate with its email communication go from 12% to consistently over 40%. At the same time, the organization is sending emails to fewer people, paring its list to around 200,000 highly engaged recipients from 500,000. The marketing team credits increased personalization of messages based on better segmentation, which Oracle Eloqua enables.
Using Eloqua’s segmentation and dynamic content capabilities, the Lightning can make sure that every email sent to a season ticket holder includes the contact name for the correct salesperson who is assigned to that specific fan.
The team uses its email communication for numerous campaigns, including reaching out to season ticket holders who aren’t renewing or have put their payment plans on hold. Those messages were opened by about 40% of recipients and led to some key ticket renewals. The campaign helped boost the renewal rate among that group by a couple of percentage points and drove at least $160,000 in ticket revenue. The team also no longer contacts non-renewing season ticket holders by mail, and instead relies on email communication.
The digital marketing approach supported by Eloqua has increased the organization’s cross-team collaboration, with marketing, sales, and data analytics teams brainstorming regularly on the communication they should send out, who should get it, and what it should say. The messages give the team a means to connect often with fans during a difficult time for the city, amid a lot of uncertainty, and share the joy of welcoming the Stanley Cup back to Tampa for the first time in 16 years.
I know that if we segment out, and we message intelligently, we’re going to get engagement.
Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service, Tampa Bay Lightning