Hockey Fans Rejoice! SAPPHIRE NOW And ASUG Showcase The Ultimate Fan Experiences

Fred Isbell

Customer sessions at the SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG conferences are always fascinating, spanning across the many industries and detailing the latest in best practices, technology, and innovative thinking. No one is left out – not even the most loyal hockey fan.

Last year, SAP CEO Bill McDermott brought the Stanley Cup – the “holy grail” of the National Hockey League (NHL) – on stage. Talk about an iconic moment! Bill was highlighting the new SAP analytics solution, which is currently enabling the NHL to calculate statistics on the SAP HANA platform and with a cloud-based solution. In fact, the NHL Network and NHL on NBC broadcasts have featured player profiles with insights generated by SAP solutions throughout this season, including the playoffs currently in progress.

Although the Stanley Cup didn’t pay a return visit to the SAPPHIRE NOW stage this year, I wasn’t at all disappointed after attending customer sessions featuring two elite hockey teams: Mannheim Adler Eagles and the San Jose Sharks.

The Mannheim Adler Eagles soar high

Mannheim is a German city that’s home to 400,000 people and the Mannheim Adler Eagles, a very successful professional ice hockey team in the German Hockey League (DEL). After winning the DEL championship seven times and hoisting the league’s version of the Stanley Cup last year, the Adler Eagles have been enjoying the limSANOW Hockey-1elight.

But with great success comes with some challenges. With an arena capacity of 13,500 fans, the team has 7,600 season ticket holders and averages 11,300 fans per home game.

The problem? The Adler Eagles didn’t know its fans as well as they would like.

And rising smartphone use and an increasing level of game fixation made this issue more apparent. The team’s organization needed to dramatically increase and tighten fan engagement before, during, and after games.

The solution was a fan app specifically designed for the Adler Eagles that runs on both Apple iOS and Android platforms. The mobile app rewards loyalty and engages fans with a coupon-center approach, where points accrued through team-related activities and ticket purchases can be used for discounted merchandise. Fans even receive points when the Eagles score a goal!

Overall, this approach is helping the Adler Eagles improve fan engagement, bring fans to the team store, and drive higher revenue. Unlike before, the team now has a much more complete profile and analysis of its fans available based on specific and real-time fan behavior. And with this information, the organization is rewarding loyalty, developing a core fan base within and beyond its season ticket holders, and personalizing marketing campaigns with greater ease.

Because this app has been so successful, Mannheim is even considering a version for the Apple Watch. The team is looking to expand its SAP solution by using wearables and sensor-based analytics that can help optimize team performance. At the same time, it will also increase its use of statistics with SAP solutions as the engine for data collection.

San Jose Sharks seize unprecedented customer insights

The San Jose Sharks, this year celebrating the team’s 25th year in existence, are one of the premier NHL franchises. Hasso Plattner, CEO of the SAP Executive Board, is the majority owner and holds a seat on the NHL Board of Governors. This is an excellent example of a midsized business with a lot happening around it – and with all of that activity comes a need for new systems.

The Sharks’ major business challenges were not unlike those of other fast-moving organizations facing new, expanded business needs. The Sharks’ business software systems were not up to speed with the business, compounded by a ticket-sales system that acted like an engine for lead management. Furthermore, every application was isolated and used as a standalone, creating islands of automation that made room for error and duplicate data.

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Consequently, there was an inherently inefficient sales process – and as we saw with the Adler Eagles, limited visibility into season ticket holders, including their renewal intent. The Sharks lacked one-on-one customer centricity and any understanding of the wider fan base. This situation significantly impaired the team’s sales pipeline and forecasts.

By turning to a solution for enhancing customer and fan engagement with a business goal of using data to turn insights into action, the team now has a holistic and 360-degree view of the customer while leveraging simplified data acquisition quickly in real time.  Responding to previous islands of automation, the new solution rapidly translates and converts information into value-added sales insight – giving the organization a single version of the truth.

The results the San Jose Sharks achieved were impressive. More than 70 people are now using the system and a quick rollout made for minimal impacts on its IT infrastructure. The team quickly realized improved sales and service processes, efficient lead management, and improved forecasting within its sales pipeline management. Season ticket renewals were at the highest level ever, thanks to better understanding of the fan experience and the ticket holders’ pains and expectations. Plus, the team is driving specific and targeted campaigns based on specific customer segments that result from the team data.

The Mannheim Adler Eagles and San Jose Sharks showcased innovative application of technology to their core sports business. And as always, the fans are the winners as they get to experience the coolest game on earth with two very successful and forward-thinking hockey teams.

For more, check our research brief on The Future of Sports Marketing: Play Locally, Think Globally, Drive Loyalty.


About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell is the Senior Director of SAP Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.