When the NBA’s Orlando Magic opened Amway Center in 2010, the team quickly realized they possessed a wealth of untapped data capabilities. Known as pioneers in introducing AI to the NBA, they’ve since expanded their analytics and data footprint in partnership with SAS.

Outside of competing on the court, the Orlando Magic have been competing to attract fans season after season. Since fans are integral to their winning formula, the Magic have revolutionized ticketing, revenue management and customer service with analytics.

Jay Riola, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, Orlando Magic

Over the past 13 years, Jay Riola, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation, has been a key piece to the Magic’s analytical success. A part of what drives him is finding ways to use data, technology, customer personalization and other innovative practices to improve the fan experience.

During SAS Innovate in Orlando, Riola discussed how the Magic continue to use data and analytics to improve the fan experience.

How it all started

Upon opening Amway Center, the Magic realized they had access to more data than ever before. And they had a need for smarter ticket pricing, partly due to the emergence of the online resale marketplaces. Seeking tools to help the team with revenue management strategies, they chose SAS. Team leaders quickly learned they could expand their use of analytics to help with customer service, retention strategies, marketing efforts and more. Insights gleaned from the team’s analysis around season ticket member retention led the team to pioneer new ticketing products and product features, including their Magic Money digital currency program.

“We had a vision that not only interested us on ticketing analytics and the ability to better price tickets but about how data and analytics could help drive better performance overall as an entire business and with our fans,” Riola said.

3 ways the Magic are winning with analytics

The Magic use mobile app data and machine learning to personalize marketing campaigns and analyze game data.

Since the 2013-14 season, the Magic’s single-game ticket revenue has grown by 91%. Plus, the Magic consistently rank in the top five in the NBA for single-game tickets sold. Riola attributes much of that success to improved pricing, revenue management and overall marketing strategies primarily driven by analytics.

Here are three ways the Magic use data and analytics to improve the fan experience.

1. Personalizing the fan journey

Riola considers the Magic lucky that their fans love to share data with them via surveys and in the Magic's app. “Whether it’s concessions, whether it’s following the team in our app or on other digital channels, there’s a lot of data that we benefit from having access to by our fans,” Riola said.

The goal is to organize that data and make it personalized to an individual fan’s experience with the team. Whether via email, a push notification or an advertisement on the team website, Riola says there are many forms fan interactions can take. Using SAS® Customer Intelligence 360, Riola says the team has been able to build very personalized customer journeys that take fan data and put it back into action.

“Serving fans with the right advertising at the right time through channels that are going to be effective with that fan: That’s where we blend the analytics that we’re producing with SAS with the capabilities provided to us with Customer Intelligence 360,” explained Riola.

On game night, the team strives to automate a seamless fan journey. Beginning with a thank-you email for your ticket purchase, Riola says this email might highlight the team app, special promotions or any themed events during the night. As the game nears tip-off, fans who’ve downloaded the app get reminders and information about opportunities to upgrade their seats or even make reservations at the club-level restaurant.

After the game, fans get recap emails summarizing the on-court performance and promoting other offers from sponsors. Fans may receive discount offers or future game purchases within the same season as part of this engagement.

The Magic also use analytics to identify prospects for season tickets or half-season plans and tailor advertising to reach selected fans effectively. Riola says if they identify a fan as a potential candidate for a half-season or full-season plan, they may have a sales representative reach out to educate the fan about available opportunities.

Season ticket holders receive perks like fully dedicated service representatives and complimentary concessions or discounts at the team’s store. These personalized rewards and nudges are based on the analytics and data collected on each fan. Riola says this is intended to incentivize continued engagement with the team.

2. Putting the fan in control

Riola says a primary behavioral indicator of member retention is ticket utilization. Rather than navigating the challenges of reselling tickets, the Magic provide fans an alternative through their Magic Money program. The program, Riola says, originates through their use of data analysis and insights uncovered using Customer Intelligence 360.

The program makes it easy for members to return tickets they’re unable to use and convert the ticket’s dollar value into digital currency. This digital currency can then be utilized to personalize and customize their overall experience with the team allowing for spend on tickets, food & beverage, retail merchandise, or unique fan experiences offered via the Magic app.

“If that means you want to immediately return 10 games of tickets and upgrade your seats for a particular opponent or buy a bigger block of seats to treat your family to an outing, you have the agency as a fan to do that,” Riola said. The effects of the program have boosted the team’s member retention rates.

3. Instilling a data-driven culture 

Riola and his team leaders rely on various dashboards, data visualizations and real-time reports. These tools help different departments access relevant information about their respective responsibility areas to drive fan engagement and revenue. Riola says the partnership with SAS and the use of data and analytics have helped create a data-driven culture across the organization. And it’s getting many departments within the organization involved.

“It’s obviously important for us that we’re delivering the insights that they need, whether it’s descriptive statistics in reports, predictions about what’s going to happen at the week’s games, actions to drive more sales or improve attendance rates, or marketing strategies we should put into effect," Riola said. "But we certainly have driven a culture focused on data and focused on information. And SAS has helped us to achieve that."

The Magic’s commitment to analytics

The Magic stand out among its peers regarding the maturity of analytics within the organization. Their proactive commitment to technology and willingness to instill a data-driven culture has played a crucial role in that development.

The Magic remain dedicated to using analytics as a key ingredient in their operations. They continue to prioritize the integration of insights from SAS into their decision-making processes. Their commitment reflects the recognition of the value and impact that analytics can have on shaping the future of business.

Learn more about how SAS and Orlando Magic have worked together over the years


About Author

Caslee Sims

I'm Caslee Sims, writer and editor for SAS Blogs. I gravitate toward spaces of creativity, collaboration and community. Whether it be in front of the camera, producing stories, writing them, sharing or retweeting them, I enjoy the art of storytelling. I share interests in sports, tech, music, pop culture among others.

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