Membership databases – how sport is using data (Blog 3)

30 September 2022 | Written by Andy Nutting

How sport is using data in a digital world: Blog 3 from our series by Andy Nutting

In a series of blogs, our Information Governance Manager Andy explores how sports organisations are using data, drawing on our work with national governing bodies.

His third blog explores the use of membership databases.

Many sports organisations use a membership database to store, track and update member information with ease.

For many sports clubs this was traditionally done using a hardback ledger form or notebook, or more recently an excel spreadsheet.

The digital revolution has impacted how members’ data is recorded – sometimes in ways you’d never imagine. For instance, some local sports clubs have consigned the excel spreadsheet to the electronic waste bin and use a WhatsApp group or online resource to manage contacts.

From zero paperwork and a reduction in administrative tasks to being able to filter data and create instant reports, it’s easy to see the reasons for opting for digital.

More advanced Customer Relationship Management systems allow you to go further and use the system to:

  • Receive notifications about forthcoming events
  • Manage banking online
  • Automate membership renewals
  • Provide information to sporting federations/associations

Professional clubs have taken advantage of the flexibility digital allows and set up different types of membership schemes fans can opt for.

For example, the rugby Super League club, Leeds Rhinos have four membership schemes for the 2023 season, including:

  • Season membership
  • Junior membership
  • Flexi membership
  • Supporter membership

A range of benefits for supporters often accompanies membership. Again, at Leeds Rhinos, the season membership provides not only entry to all home Super League matches, but a free digital copy of the 2023 club handbook, a free digital programme subscription for home games, a bring a friend free to one selected home game and discounts on other products and services.

These types of membership schemes have become popular across professional sports clubs as the advancement of technology and digital enables closer contact to the supporter as an individual.

For many smaller sports bodies, use of artificial intelligence is limited to an experience to be had in the future.

Handling members’ subscriptions and contact details is often the extent to which they use and crunch personal data.

Some groups will have acquired different systems and applications over time and created silos of information. They are now turning to a digital ecosystem model that allows everyday technology to work together and communicate with one another.

Advantages include no significant financial outlay for a new customer system, and allow isolated data repositories to interact with each other.

Membership databases - data in sport - image of smart watch showing sports data

Other clubs and bodies are introducing digital membership cards which allow members to keep access to them right in their pocket.

Members on iPhones and Android phones can make use of digital cards, and the members’ name, membership type, status and ID number is available on a digital card.

This makes sense given many members will already have an app for boarding passes, match tickets, or loyalty cards, and can now make use of this app too.

Sports organisations find that the use of a digital card is easier to manage and allows them to see which members are attending which meeting, event, match or conference.

The use of website analytics is another digital resource some clubs are turning to, to translate member data into meaningful, actionable insights and identify areas of opportunity.

There will be more about how sporting organisations use the web in a later blog. The focus here is how the web allows membership organisations to cut costs, generate new members and find efficiencies.

Use of this technology enables clubs to manage customer’s increasing high expectations by being able to personally engage with them.

Previously they’ve relied on traditional mass communication means, such as email, newsletter, or even SMS messages.

All in all, these are exciting times for sports clubs and organisations. Going digital allows them to automate many of the traditional labour-intensive methods of membership management.

It allows a more personalised method of engagement, often allowing members to amend and update data themselves and at a time that suits them. It provides opportunities to utilise the data for other purposes too.

Of course, all this processing of personal data will need to comply with the UK GDPR, not only how it is handled and stored, but ensuring that the IT systems are secure and comply with data protection law.

If complying with UK GDPR is something your organisation needs support with, our team can help.

Have a read of our work with Basketball England and British Taekwondo, or find out more about how we support national sports governing bodies.

You can keep up to date with Andy’s blogs on his LinkedIn profile or via Veritau’s page.

Previous blog: Data analytics and data science in sport | Next blog: Marketing sports in the digital age