Jays use FanFone to make pitch

Even direct marketers know the phone call. It often comes when you're sitting down to dinner, or unwinding after a long day at work. It's an unsolicited sales pitch, and if you're like most people, you begrudge the caller even a...

Even direct marketers know the phone call. It often comes when you’re sitting down to dinner, or unwinding after a long day at work. It’s an unsolicited sales pitch, and if you’re like most people, you begrudge the caller even a minute of your time.

Now imagine it’s Toronto Blue Jays superstar Carlos Delgado calling. Or his boss, Blue Jays skipper Jim Fregosi. Wouldn’t you be more likely to listen to what they had to say?

Delgado and Fregosi aren’t really placing calls to the fans, but they and other Blue Jays are helping the club in its efforts to keep and add to its season-ticket base through a recently launched initiative called FanFone. FanFone is an interactive phone system that allows the Jays to deliver prerecorded messages to season ticket holders and accept inbound phone calls from fans on a wide range of topics.

‘So far, it’s worked really well,’ says Terry Zuk, vice-president of sales and marketing for the Toronto Blue Jays. ‘We’ve had a great response. What our season ticket holders seem to like best of all is that we can send out a message to them. For example, we had Carlos Delgado record a message that wished all our season ticket holders a merry Christmas. We’ve never done it this way before.’

Developed and marketed by E-Sports Media of Annapolis, Md., FanFone is a computer-based telephone technology information and marketing system. It uses custom-designed software to distribute prerecorded messages and provide sports information 24 hours a day to fans and media.

Installing the system meant tripling the number of phone lines in the team’s marketing office to 24. According to Zuk, this new capability means the team can reach its entire season ticket holder base with 30-second messages in less than three hours. The Blue Jays have 4,500 accounts, representing 14,100 individual holders of season tickets, and are shooting for 15,000 by opening day early next month. Overall per-game attendance declined by more than 10% in 1999 to an average of 26,710 fans per game from 30,300 fans per game in ’98.

The new system enables the Blue Jays to send each season ticket holder messages regarding player transactions, special events and promotions. On the inbound side, fans calling (416) 341-1234 or 1-888-OK-GO-Jay (888-654-6529) can take trivia challenges, order schedules, get tips from players and ask Toronto Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi questions.

‘We’ve already taped around 30 messages we can use this season,’ says Zuk. ‘We can use it to let ticket-holders know about special promotions. It’s a very important part of our marketing mix.’

Other capabilities include the ability to ‘break out’ residential ticket holders from corporate or business subscribers. Should inbound callers request it, they can be connected to an operator. In that case, customer service reps can also enter customer data to enhance the team’s marketing database.

‘All of this interaction with FanFone creates an incredible database of demographic information and qualified leads,’ he adds.

Zuk says the team’s messages can easily be changed to coincide with existing promotions. Fans can, for instance, be connected directly to a marketing partner’s 800 number or retail location, or they can respond to interactive surveys or retrieve coupons via fax.

E-Sports has customized similar offerings for the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League, as well as UCLA and the University of Maryland in the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and a number of smaller colleges in the U.S.

‘This is absolutely the best way I’ve ever heard of to let your fans touch and feel the team without making a lot of demands on the players and coaches,’ says Zack Hill, public relations director for the Flyers. ‘It’s marketing made easy for the club and following the team made easy for the fans. We’re delighted to have it.’

The Jays have also outsourced their Web site development and maintenance (www.bluejays.ca) to Total Sports of Raleigh, N.C. Zuk says an e-commerce component will be added in the next few months, ‘after the bugs have been ironed out.

‘Right now, we’re just getting all our systems to be able to talk to each other,’ he explains. Visitors to the site will be able to buy licensed merchandise and bid on team memorabilia in an online auction.

‘You will see many new applications phased in over the next short while,’ adds Marie Hasnain, vice-president of sales and marketing for Total Sports. The company manages more than 125 Web sites for teams, colleges and athletic conferences, individual players and newspaper sports sections.

Hasnain – who held a similar position with Torstar before heading south – added that since Total Sports manages the servers required, it will be able to provide ad tagging, traffic and usage patterns to the Jays to help the club mould additional marketing initiatives.

Zuk says the team selected a U.S.-based service provider largely because Total Sports already had licensing agreements with Major League Baseball, and as a publisher of a sports encyclopedia, it already had the team’s entire history catalogued on a database.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.