Most forward-thinking organizations realize the value of a customer relationship management program that enables them to achieve increased revenue, profitability, and customer satisfaction. The Internet can provide an excellent avenue to develop and strengthen such customer relationships. Professional sports teams have not yet taken full advantage of the capabilities of the Internet to manage their customer/fan relationships; this research demonstrates how a professional sports team can use the Internet successfully to manage and develop its fan relationships. Specifically, by developing an electronic Fan Relationship Management (e-FRM) program, a professional sports team can encourage long-term relationships with its fans around the globe.
This research establishes that a strong e-FRM program must include a team Web site full of interactive features, an e-mail and text messaging fan outreach program, and in-game enhancements using the Internet; if implemented properly, fans are more likely to visit a team Web site and more likely to attend future games. An aggressive e-FRM program also can engage avid sports fans by introducing interactive features on the team Web site but still will entertain the occasional fan who enjoys participating in games, contests, and surveys on the team site. All fans can appreciate the in-game enhancements online, which will make their game experience more fun and enjoyable.
With the assistance and cooperation of the New Orleans Hornets of the National Basketball Association, the premier professional basketball league in the United States, this research developed and undertook a survey to study the attitudes of Hornets’ fans toward the use of the Internet to build and develop their relationship with the team. These survey results provide the hard data necessary to establish that a professional sports team can use the Internet to increase fan retention and loyalty; it can use the Internet to enhance fans’ game experiences; fan relationships can be expanded regionally and globally via the Internet; and fan relationships can be managed and personalized through the use of the Internet.