The National Football League Kicks off a Digital Transformation Program to Elevate Customer Experiences

The National Football League Kicks off a Digital Transformation Program to Elevate Customer Experiences
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As an Adobe Audience Manager consultant, I often work with customer organizations to help them maximize the value of their Adobe investment. This is typically an exercise to assess the current state of their Audience Manager platform and revisit their practices around data collection, audience strategy, and team readiness — essential to build a sustainable data management framework for optimizing marketing performance.

The National Football League — the professional American football league — is a great example of an organization implementing a data-driven marketing strategy to deliver in-the-moment personalization to their customers.

Looking at challenges — up and close

Despite being an Audience Manager user for several years, the NFL was struggling with three key roadblocks in their digital maturity progression path. These challenges were preventing them from fully realizing the value of Audience Manager — a situation many organizations find themselves in.

  • Lack of program ownership: Typically, after the go-live, the governance process plays a huge role in determining the success of an Audience Manager implementation program. For the NFL, the key issue was that there was no central owner of the program internally. This is a common problem for many companies, often resulting in technological and operational inefficiencies.
  • Poor data quality: The NFL was also struggling with overall data quality, due to lack of effective supervision. There was no one to oversee data inputs and outputs, implement and enforce data standardization, or ensure the data evolves in tandem with their business needs and go-to-market strategy.
  • Team silos: Considering program owners have the visibility to connect the dots across the organization, they are the best people to facilitate collaboration, socialize best practices, and ensure the overall success of the solution implementation and optimization program. For the NFL, similar to data quality challenges, issues related to team silos were also due to the trickle-down effect of the overall ownership issue.

The journey to digital transformation

Going into the 2017-2018 season, the NFL wanted to boost their data management efficiencies to better understand what their customers were searching for. To do this, the NFL made a significant change to their Audience Manager optimization program. They onboarded experts from Adobe Customer Solutions, and appointed a full-time program owner to oversee the Audience Manager optimization program. The key objective was to accelerate and quantify the value of Audience Manager.

The Adobe team helped provide the overall framework, strategic guidance, and hands-on support that the NFL needed to execute on that vision. From developing use cases and testing strategies to showcasing the value of individual tools, and Audience Manager and Adobe Target integration, the Adobe team helped NFL and their partner consulting teams to conduct a full technical review and gather valuable feedback from their existing and prospective Audience Manager users. This helped identify challenges, process redundancies, and potential areas of opportunity the NFL could tap into to be successful.

Game-winning touchdowns

The discovery process helped determine three primary goals for the success of the NFL 2017-18 season:

Auditing and cleaning up data: Reviewing all traits and segments and removing redundancies helped bridge the data gaps. The team also revised the folder taxonomy and implemented a standardized naming convention across all data sets.

This allowed the NFL to redefine how they viewed audience segments, leading to the creation of new and improved versions of their key audiences, specifically their Favorite Team audiences. These audiences had historically performed great, but never had to scale to drive campaigns on their own. Using a combination of new audience definitions and look-alike modeling, the NFL was able to increase their audience size by more than three times.

Improving media execution: Closer coordination between teams due to a central owner, better segmentation, and a test-and-learn approach to media execution allowed the NFL to increase their performance significantly in 2017. The NFL GamePass (a subscription-based audio and video service that allows users to hear and watch live and archived NFL games) and NFLShop (the official NFL online store) saw more than a 60 percent decrease in overall cost per acquisition.

Using Audience Manager and Adobe Target for smarter on-site personalization: The NFL ran a multivariate test for their GamePass product to determine whether personalizing the conversion page to reflect a user’s favorite team led to higher conversions. This test was also set up to determine whether the new Favorite Team definitions performed as well as the originals. The approach allowed the NFL to provide a personalized experience for over 90 percent more visitors to the GamePass site, resulting in record-breaking performance for the GamePass product in 2017.

The data-driven approach to resolving people, process, and technology-related challenges helped quantify the value of Audience Manager for the NFL while enabling them to set the foundation for a sustainable governance framework to achieve superior value realization.

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