Tampa Bay Lightning turn emotional playoff run into new sales


Two direct mail campaigns return over $500,000 in new ticket package sales

Lynn Wittenburg
Vice President of Marketing
Tampa Bay Lightning
Brandon Steffek
Sales and Marketing Consultant
Full House Entertainment Database Marketing

During its 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff run, the Tampa Bay Lightning conducted two direct mail campaigns to hit top prospective buyers in the team’s local market. “Going into the playoffs, our objectives were simple,” explains Lynn Wittenburg, Vice President of Marketing for the Lightning. “We were looking for companies that were potential season ticket holders.” To capitalize on the success of the team on the ice and the upcoming $40 million renovation to St. Pete Times Forum, the Tampa Bay Lightning partnered with Brandon Steffek and Full House Entertainment Database Marketing to target proven NHL ticket buyers.
With its partner, Full House, the Lightning were successful in realizing their objectives through direct mail, a true one-to-one marketing channel. Counterintuitive to some, direct mail has become a way to differentiate a brand with consumer correspondence saturation shifting from direct mail to email. “The direct mail campaign was a quick and effective way for us to make the phones ring,” Wittenburg says.
Project Details:

The Tampa Bay Lightning turned to Full House’s expertise in direct marketing to pinpoint industries that are proven season ticket buyers. In combination with Full House’s 13 years of research from across all North American sports and leagues, data was also drawn from a recent National Hockey League-specific project, Full House’s NHL Future Fan Gold Club Program. The NHL-specific research involved comprehensive analyses of customer databases from five NHL teams from across various geographies and located in various market conditions. After analyzing all the data, Full House was able to identify the top season ticket industries currently buying between each market. This information was applied to the Lightning project to target specific businesses in the Tampa Bay area based off of the proven buying industries and company sizes ascertained from the NHL Future Fan Gold Club Program. 
The campaign delivered 30,000 corporate post cards broken down into two mailings, the first consisting of 20,000 during the first round playoff series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the second batch going out to 10,000 completely new businesses distributed at the beginning of the Eastern Conference Championship series against the Boston Bruins.
The creative design of the mailers was handled by the Lightning in-house after consulting with Full House. “Brandon (Steffek) was very helpful in suggesting what he thought would work and things that he had seen other teams do that were successful,” states Wittenburg. The design also incorporated a personal touch, variably printing each recipient’s company name onto a name plate above a player’s locker in the Lightning locker room. 
The trend towards personalization in sports and entertainment gives fans a deeper sense of connection with the team. Additionally, personalizing either the company name or last name of a potential new customer onto the post cards has helped increase inbound inquiries and sales for the Lightning.

To date, the Lightning have sold 182 tickets included in 2011-2012 packages, returning $502,000. Fifty-percent of sales have been full season tickets; 40-percent have been half season tickets; and ten-percent have been ten game ticket packages.
The total cost of the first campaign (20,000 post cards) was $0.95 per post card which included the prospect leads from Full House, the variable printing costs and first-class postage. The second campaign (10,000 post cards) was $1.00 per post card. The aggregate ROI of both campaigns was an astonishing 17 to 1.
What's Next:

The Lightning are still in the process of following up with generated leads. Sales representatives are currently conducting phone calls and inviting those leads to come out to the arena for a one-on-one meeting. In addition, the Lightning sent another 10,000 mailers out in late June with the results yet to be analyzed.
In time for next year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, Full House will turn its lessons learned from the Lightning campaigns into a larger, more refined strategy for other NHL teams to follow. The blueprint will use similar practices employed by the Lightning to successfully sell ticket packages for the following season.