Over the past 8+ years I’ve been at Turnkey, I’ve witnessed a mini-revolution regarding how sports properties perceive consumer data. Back in, say, 2004, my colleagues and I were often starting sales calls by first defining sport market research and then explaining why a property may want to consider it. It was a true “from the ground up” process.

A few years later, though, the narrative had totally changed. We were able to skip the discussion on what research is/why it’s important and instead focus on why Turnkey’s research services and software were superior to others in the market. At that point, most properties were already sold on the value of customer research, and understood how various departments – sales, sponsorship, etc. – could benefit from having access to data collected from specific segments of their clubs’ customers.

Now, in 2014, the research team at Turnkey feels we’re entering yet another new era in sport market research. The motto of this era: “Information is incomplete without context”.

What we mean by this is simple: while collecting data from your customers is great, viewing that data next to comparative data (specifically, similar data collected by other clubs in your league or properties in your market) gives your data set context.

For example, let’s say your club executes a season ticket holder survey, and finds that 80% of your STHs are “very satisfied” with your product. Is that good or bad? Well, 80% sounds high… but you can’t say for sure until you compare it to, say, your league’s STH satisfaction average (70%) and the average in your market (60%). Those comparative benchmarks help you better pin-point what your data means, beyond what you’re able to discern by viewing your data in a vacuum or even studying year-over-year trends (though both of those approach are definitely still valuable).

Taking that approach a step further, we also believe it has become crucial for clubs to be able to view their data against comparative sets of their choosing. For example, if the Phillies consider the Yankees, Mets, Nationals and Red Sox to be their true “peer group”, the Phillies should have the ability to view their survey data against the averaged results of that four-team pack.

Late last year, Turnkey rolled out our first “research network” project to 70 FBS colleges and universities. We designed the research network to facilitate the collection of comparable data across properties, leagues and markets, and provide participants with an easy way to view their data against multiple peer groups/competitive sets. We believe this approach is the next frontier in sport market research. Now that sports and entertainment properties have a strong handle on how to collect and analyze their own data, they’re eager to add a level of analysis (and we’re eager to help them do so!).

Like what you see from blog author Emily Huddell? Follow her on Twitter at @emhuddell.

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