CRMTo view this study’s blinded raw data in frequency form, please click here.

In December of 2011, Turnkey invited representatives from all 141 teams in MLB, MLS, the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL to participate in an email-based study regarding data systems in the sports industry.

This is the second consecutive year Turnkey has launched such a study. Results stemming from the initial iteration of the project, launched in November 2010, can be found here.

This year’s study focused on the following topics:

  • CRM/database management
  • Ticketing
  • Sponsorship
  • Market research

The following analysis includes a profile of study respondents, a summary of the study’s key findings, an analysis of selected results, and additional observations.

Respondent Profile

64 individuals participated in this year’s study, and all of the “Big 5” leagues were well-represented in the final response set. MLB team employees led the pack, accounting for 28% of all respondents, with NBA and NHL team staffers (each accounting for 26% of responses) next in line. The remainder of respondents hailed from NFL teams (17%) and MLS teams (11%).*

88% of respondents identified themselves as being involved with CRM at their respective organizations, while 77% indicated responsibility for list purchasing, 73% reported participation in ticketing, and 58% cited involvement with their organizations’ market research initiatives.

Most respondents were officially classified as members of their organizations’ Ticketing or Marketing Departments.

*Respondents were permitted to identify with more than one league; hence the percentages above, when totaled, exceed 100%.

Key Findings

  • CRM/database management is gaining a reputation for being an increasingly important component of teams’ day-to-day business practices. Most CRM system managers support most if not all of their organization’s key departments. Their organizations are investing more in CRM than they were in 2010, and becoming more sophisticated users.
  • The ability to integrate CRM with other systems (ticketing, etc.) is a critical driver of CRM manager satisfaction (or, in many cases, dissatisfaction).
  • Both MS-CRM and users are more satisfied with their platforms than those using Archtics for CRM, and are very likely to stick with those platforms when their current contracts expire.
  • The NBA is considered to be the most CRM-savvy “Big 5” league. On the team side, the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Boston Red Sox are considered most sophisticated when it comes to database management.
  • Teams in the same league are likely to utilize the same CRM and ticketing platforms. On the ticketing side, Ticketmaster is that provider in every league except MLB, where holds court. With regard to CRM, MS-CRM is the provider of choice among the majority of teams in every league except MLS, where most teams use Archtics.
  • Though using the same ticketing platform facilitates the sharing of best practices between same-league teams, it doesn’t appear to result in batches of highly fulfilled customers: clients of both Ticketmaster and are just moderately satisfied with their respective ticketing systems overall (and significantly less satisfied with key individual elements). They blame the systems’ status as monopolies for the systems’ shortcomings and lack of innovation.
  • Dynamic pricing has resulted in increased revenue, and (not surprisingly) is gaining steam in the sports industry.

Detailed Results

Ticketing: System Usage

The majority of respondents (including all of those from MLS, the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL) named Ticketmaster as their organization’s ticketing provider. MLB teams, by contrast, were most likely to utilize – 71% did.

Overall, many teams were not overly satisfied with their ticketing providers. There is a prevailing sentiment that the ticketing companies have no incentive to improve, since teams have few alternatives to compare when selecting providers. “The interface and ease of use are just two of the many problems with Ticketmaster,” said one respondent. “In general, the product is lacking due to the monopoly it has on the market.”

Ticketmaster and drew similar “overall satisfaction” scores from users, who rated them at 4.5 and a 4.6, respectively, on a labeled seven-point scale (7 being “completely satisfied” and 1 being “completely dissatisfied”). Just 7% of Ticketmaster users and no users identified themselves as “completely satisfied”.

Users of both systems identified “uptime”, customization capabilities, and access to an open API as the platform features most important to them/their organizations. However, these users differed in their levels of satisfaction with these capabilities: Ticketmaster users expressed dissatisfaction with their system’s lack of integration and customization capabilities, while the majority of users did not have the same complaints regarding their system.

Overall, Ticketmaster was identified as the industry leader by 67% of respondents (including 63% of Ticketmaster users).

When asked what ticketing company they would prefer doing business with, though, only 29% of respondents chose Ticketmaster. 39% had no opinion.

Overall, today’s ticketing system users are more devoted to their current platforms than they were in 2010; however, that level of devotion remains relatively low. 44% of this year’s respondents holding contracts due to expire in 24 months or less said they “probably” or “definitely” will not switch ticketing providers once their current contracts expire, compared to 35% in 2010. This increase may be due to the fact that NFL teams are required to use Ticketmaster, the time and effort involved in switching systems, and – again – the lack of viable options. As one respondent noted, “I would hope we would switch if there was another product out there to switch to. The market currently has no other option, and if they did, I’m sure it would be bought out by Ticketmaster like many

[in] the past.”

Just 12% indicated they “definitely” or “probably” will switch providers when their current terms expired, which is a 50% reduction from 2010. 44% were unsure, implying an ambivalence and lack of loyalty to their current providers.

As we saw in 2010, a consistent theme among respondents was the importance of system integration. Today’s users expect all systems – CRM, ticketing, lead-scoring, merchandise databases, web forms, etc. – to integrate with each other easily and seamlessly, and to enable the clean, simple exportation of data.

Ticketing: Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing is a growing area within the ticketing industry. In this study, 40% of respondents indicated that they employ it in one way or another. MLB led the pack, with 64% of baseball team-side employees indicating that they employ dynamic pricing, while 50% of NHL team-side respondents responded similarly.

MLBAM and’s recent integration with Qcue’s dynamic pricing platform most likely contributed to the fact that MLB team respondents were most likely to report employing the concept, and lent to Qcue having the largest market share across respondent using dynamic pricing: 56% said they use Qcue, while SEATS/Digonex and StratBridge were each claimed by 19%.

In terms of overall satisfaction, Qcue’s users gave it an overall score of 5.0 on a 7-point scale. Identified as a high point for Qcue’s clients was customer service (rated at 6.3), as was the ease of making pricing changes in Qcue’s system (6.2).

Notably, 60% of responding teams employing dynamic pricing reported an increase in “number of tickets sold” as a result of their use of the concept, and all reported an increase in ticket sales revenue.

CRM: System Usage

Overall, 78% of respondents reported that CRM/database management is perceived as “extremely” or “very” valuable within their organization, consistent with last year’s study. Just one respondent said his/her organization considers CRM/database management to be “not at all valuable”.

Average organizational spending on CRM systems (not internal staffing) has increased 20% from what was reported in last year’s study, from $73,077 to $88,021. Respondents working for NBA teams cited the highest average spend ($118,333 per team). 18% of respondents claimed an average annual organizational spend of $150,000 or more per year, which is a significant jump over last year’s 8%.

77% of organizations have 1-4 people dedicated to managing the CRM system full time, while 17% do not have any one individual completely devoted to that job.

Respondents working for NFL teams were most likely to use the designation “extremely valuable” when contemplating the importance of CRM, while MLB teams were more likely than others to label CRM as “moderately” or “a little valuable” to their organizations.

MS-CRM was the most frequently utilized system among study respondents – 56% identified it as their organization’s primary platform – followed by Archtics at 30%. Both MS-CRM and Archtics were selected more frequently in this year’s study than they were in 2010.

Most NBA (75%) and NHL (66%) respondents identified themselves as MS-CRM users, while Archtics was most utilized by MLS teams.

Overall, Microsoft customers were more satisfied than users of Archtics, offering a mean satisfaction score of 5.2 on a 7-point scale (Archtics garnered a mean satisfaction score of 4.4 from its users). Microsoft scored relatively well on CRM users’ biggest satisfaction drivers (ease of use, reporting capabilities, and integration with other systems), whereas Archtics performed markedly worse, especially with regard to integration potential. Said one respondent, “[MS-CRM] may have limitations, but nothing else can compare with [MS-CRM] for integrating a CRM package with direct ticketing and accounting capabilities.”


Table 1: CRM Satisfaction



Ease of use by administrators/managers



Ease of use by sales reps/account managers



Reporting functionality



Ability to integrate with other systems/platforms




The perceived shortcomings of the Archtics platform (especially its limited integration capabilities) are leading teams to consider adopting alternative CRM systems at the end of their contracts. 43% of Archtics clients whose contracts expire in less than two years said they’ll “definitely” or “probably” switch to a different system, and another 29% weren’t sure yet.

By contrast, 80% of Microsoft clients indicated they would “definitely not” or “probably not” switch their CRM systems.

In general, respondents seem to be more cognizant and considering of the legwork involved in setting up (and continually building out) a comprehensive, integrated system than was the case last year. It’s possible, though not reflected outwardly in any of the collected data, that these users’ understanding of this reality had a positive impact on satisfaction (users had a better idea of what they’re in for, and could set expectations accordingly), and lowered the percentage of respondents eager to change systems.

When asked which league’s teams were, as a group, most sophisticated with regard to CRM/database management, respondents (and the majority of individuals from every league except the NFL) selected the NBA (52%), followed by MLB at 28%. When asked to identify individual teams with advanced database management systems, though, respondents’ top picks game across multiple leagues with the Philadelphia Flyers (21%), Pittsburgh Pirates (21%), Boston Red Sox (18%), New York Jets (15%), and Phoenix Suns (15%) taking high honors.

CRM: Value Added Resellers (VARs)

KORE was identified as the VAR of record by 26% of respondents, followed by StoneTimberRiver and the loosely clarified “local vendor” (each with 15%).

In terms of satisfaction, VARs are doing well – 65% of respondents said their VARs had “met expectations”, in 2011, while 15% responded that their VARs had “exceeded expectations”. KORE customers and individuals using local VARs identified as most satisfied, rating their respective VARs at means of 5.6 and 5.5 on a 7-point scale.

VAR customers’ satisfaction levels were greatly influenced by their providers’ ability to customize their clients’ CRM systems, and provide high levels of customer service. Said one respondent, “Legends and STR are great work with, from building reports to giving one-on-one attention to users to ensure [adoption]. The team makes me feel as if they care that our CRM system is a success, down to the individual users’ [experiences].”

By contrast, the most frustration seemed to stem from most users not being able to customize their systems without VAR assistance (which came at a hard cost). Said one user, “I’m not able to complete simple tasks – such as a mass delete – without contacting the main office.”

Last year, more than three-quarters of respondents (76%) didn’t have an opinion on which VAR was the “best in the industry”; however, this year’s respondents told a different story. Only 45% had no opinion, while KORE was identified by 31% of respondents as the industry leader, and Green Beacon grabbed another 12%. This jump (which was more extreme than the increase in respondents using each of the above systems) indicates that VARs may be making progress in establishing themselves in various niches of the sports and entertainment industry.


This year, respondents spent an average of $17,946 on list purchases totaling 63,750 records. This is a decrease from last year, when responded cited an average of 78,393 records purchased.

The main list providers of consumer leads were Acxiom and InfoUSA (each used by 58% of respondents), followed by resellers Full House and Turnkey, each of which came in at 42%.

The majority of business leads (67%) were purchased directly from Full House.

Like last year, the majority of respondents identified themselves as “moderately” satisfied with both their consumer list providers and their business list providers.


Respondents participating in consumer research were likely to handle at least a portion of their organization’s needs internally: 77% did at least half of their 2011 research in house, while just 10% outsourced the majority of their initiatives. These respondents typically used research to support many of their teams’ departments, including marketing (91%), sponsorship (72%), and ticketing (69%), and spend an average of $36,153 to do so.

Online surveys were the methodology of choice (all respondents use this method), with on-site research (85%) and focus groups (67%) cited as well.


Teams continue to see the value of CRM/database management systems from an organization-wide standpoint. The primary users of those systems are becoming more skilled, and are slowly being given additional resources to grow and progress.

CRM VARs are establishing a stronger industry foothold, and differentiating themselves within sports.

Ticketing systems continue to be a thorn in users’ sides and are perceived to use their status as virtual monopolies to their customers’ disadvantage. System users, though, see upside in the potential of dynamic ticketing modules and platforms, which seem to result in increased revenue across all users.

Overall system integration, seen as having a direct relationship with increased efficiency and better business, is becoming more important every day. The systems that can continue to adapt to this reality quickly and cost-effectively will gain market share, while more rigid, stand-alone platforms will suffer.