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.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group