Let's be frank about this Sports Properties may represent some of the world's most recognisable brands today but are intrinsically undervalued. They should be valued in line with SaaS or platform businesses (8-12x top line).
There is an intrinsic difference between your modern platform business and sports organizations – the latter has little knowledge of who [their] fans [or customers] are, and their direct-to-consumer (DTC) interaction/trade is limited to tickets and in-venue sales.
Sports properties have in a way been “mortgaging out” their fan base to 3rd party platforms (social, digital, broadcast) in exchange for reach – figures they have used to drive sponsorship and broadcast deals (akin to linear television values – all about the total number of eyeballs).
But this does not reflect the intrinsic value of your greatest asset – the emotional relationship between the Fan [or customer] and the Brand.
In this DTC world rights owners need to:
1. Have a firm grasp on who their fans are – your fan data lives at every point of interaction. Invest in technology that will enable you to capture, display and understand fan data. Implement a single customer ID that follows the fan across all points of interaction – physical, digital and commercial.
2. Take back control of your DTC relationships – Looking at data is one thing, but using this data to drive behaviour is another level of challenge. Understand that this is all about relationships – and membership & loyalty programs are the key relationship tools at your disposal. In Sports member-based loyalty programs have traditionally been seen as the domain of ticketing (to promote renewals and sales). But Retail brands have long understood that such programs are the gateway to data, engagement and maximising CLV. Brands from Amazon, Airlines, Hotels and Sports Wear to Coffeeshops have all used member-based loyalty programs to build their DTC relationship and construct a valuable eco-system of services that keep the customer on their platform through desire, habit or convenience. A few Sports Teams have started to move down this route and expanded the ambition and scale of their member-based loyalty programs to attract fans across their total fan audience (here, near and far).
illustration: structure of member-based loyalty programs
3. Focus on maximising the lifetime value of the relationship between the Fan and the Brand – data, program and platform enable you to personalise the customer journey and optimize the level of engagement and transaction with the Team. With data and loyalty incentives you can drive the sale of more tickets, hot dogs or merchandise. Or build valuable activations with your sponsors and commercial partners. A fan that is engaged in a loyalty program is 5 x more likely to repeat a prior behaviour – this unlocks new sales inventory.
4. Package up your data and your relationships into a tradeable asset – ultimately, through this platform your customer relationship becomes a tradeable asset – sponsors, betting partners, OTT, e-sports, and merchant affiliates all want access to your customer base. Your Member-based loyalty program is the gateway to that asset via your eco-system. No longer are you mortgaging your asset – you are 'platformizing' your asset and curating access to your fan base. At scale, this drives net revenues and lifts your valuation multiples.