Working in market research, there is always the fear that a lot of time and effort will be spent on a project just to have the final report sit on a shelf somewhere to be forgotten and the findings never used. Of course, it’s very rare for someone to commission a project with the intent of ignoring the results… but sometimes logistics, personnel changes and conflicting opinions lead to that very scenario.

The Washington Redskins, however, recently became a perfect example of how to make the most out of market research and use data to make changes that had a meaningful impact on the fan experience. For several years, the NFL (with Turnkey Intel’s assistance) has conducted the Voice of the Fan project to collect feedback on the gameday experience across all 32 teams. The project is conducted via online surveys sent to each team’s season ticket members.

One year ago, Redskins President Bruce Allen noticed that his team continually ranked last in the league across a variety of gameday aspects. Instead of accepting or ignoring the data, he wrote a letter to fans promising changes and asking for further input at a fan forum.

The survey data that had been collected identified aspects of the gameday experience that needed improvement. In the Redskins case, they identified some solutions that could be implemented right off the bat – for example, opening more gates to get fans into the game more quickly, and providing free Wi-Fi throughout the stadium. For other areas of concern, including entertainment options at the game, the Redskins utilized the fan forum to source ideas straight from fans.

Following up a survey with a focus group or fan forum like the Redskins did is a great approach – it enables the property to understand exactly what contributed to fans’ survey responses, and vet potential solutions.

The final critical step after implementing changes is to evaluate their effectiveness. Instead of assuming fans are happy, it’s better to ask them directly, which is exactly what the Redskins did via the 2015 Voice of the Fan study. Data from that study clearly showed the success of the team’s initiatives: many relevant ratings improved, particularly around the gameday traffic. And for those who may think ratings improved because of the team’s winning record and promising play: many fans specifically praised the effect of the new parking policies that improved the traffic issues. The Redskins plan to hold another Fan Forum this year to further build on the successful changes they implemented last year.

In the end, the Redskins’ gameday experience improvements made their fans happier, the fans felt valued because their opinions were heard and acknowledged, and the team benefited from the fans’ goodwill. Other teams can learn a lot from the Redskins’ approach, and how they were able to use market research in a way that had a real impact on the satisfaction of their fans.

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