Pro Soccer Club Uses Fan Experience Data to Improve Engagement 

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When it comes to professional soccer in the U.S., there’s a few things you should know. 

While interest in the sport is growing in America, overall revenue still pales in comparison to the biggest soccer leagues in Europe. Gaining visibility as a professional soccer team in the U.S. sports market is a significant challenge, and without the budget to plow money into sponsored social media advertising and influencers, clubs are forced to get creative to build fan communities and generate revenue through ticket and merchandise sales.

For Oakland Roots Sports Club, a relatively young American professional soccer team playing in the USL Championship league, building engaging fan experiences has become a key marketing goal. 

Oakland Roots’ primary mission is to create positive social change by bringing soccer into the local Oakland community. In an effort to meet the organization’s goals, and elevate the sport of soccer more broadly among Bay Area sports fans, team management has begun using digital marketing. The club recently partnered with UserTesting, a technology firm that helps businesses get rapid customer feedback, on a strategic initiative designed to collect real-time feedback from Oakland Roots fans.

“The importance of creating the very best fan experience in Oakland at Roots games, as well as on our digital platforms, is essential as the club strives to offer the most fan-centric sports experience in the region,” says Edreece Arghandiwal, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Oakland Roots and Oakland Soul. “A partnership with UserTesting made complete sense for the club.”

Almost as soon as the partnership was finalized, Roots began using UserTesting’s Human Insight Platform to collect feedback from fans. That information was then funneled to the organization and used to understand the behaviors and preferences of Oakland Roots fans, and soccer fans at large.

While the approach began as a way for Oakland Roots management to make more strategic decisions in the re-design and launch of new digital experiences across the organization’s website and mobile app, it has expanded over time. Today, Oakland Roots is using the data to make many different types of strategic digital and marketing decisions to strengthen fan loyalty.

Arghandiwal says the club’s partnership with UserTesting has helped management understand the first-hand priorities of the organization’s fans and improve fan engagement across all mobile and web experiences. Oakland Roots has used UserTesting’s insights to decide which features to add to its website, settle on a priority schedule for mobile app improvements, and launch a new mobile app component. Together, this has resulted in higher engagement and an increased number of registered users. 

More importantly, though, Arghandiwal says the feedback from UserTesting has led to a deeper understanding of who the club’s fans really are, and what outcomes and expectations they have for the team.

“The marketing and digital team have been able to leverage deeper insight and feedback generated with the help of the UserTesting platform to help us better understand our fans, so we can create magical experiences that drive engagement,” Arghandiwal says. “The feedback from UserTesting has helped us re-organize our mobile app widgets, which has resulted in higher engagement and increased number of registered users.”

At Oakland Roots, collecting fan feedback has primarily been about helping the club understand consumer sentiment toward ideas and concepts, often within the same-day. Arghandiwal says this allows for faster innovation, and means club management can bring new features and experience to market with more confidence in how they’ll be received. 

Digital marketing has been playing an increasingly important role in professional sports. The proliferation of social media channels, podcasts, and independent apps means organizations have more opportunities to connect with fans, and more choices to make about how those connections should be formed. Oakland Roots’ decision to prioritize digital experience upgrades based on feedback from the team’s fans is an approach that more organizations are likely to use in the coming years.

“Data matters, because it can help guide creative thinking,” Arghandiwal says. “We, at Oakland Roots, believe in magic and the intangibles. The data that UserTesting uncovers for us helps guide the things we create. And we hope to not stop creating magical experiences.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.