A first-party data strategy is key to fan engagement

With 85% of organisations seeing data as a primary asset, it’s no surprise that data collection and ownership is a top priority for sports organisations. After all, data brings fans closer to the sport they love. But not all types of data are created equal. Today, a first party data strategy is key to success.

First-party data allows sports organisations to build relationships with their customers which drive customer loyalty, revenue and fan engagement. When Google and Boston Consulting group completed a study into the results of first party data strategies they found that first-party marketing initiatives typically saw uplifts of 2.9 x revenue and 1.5 x cost reductions. 

Recently, privacy concerns have brought about legislative changes which are making it more difficult to collect third-party data and reducing its effectiveness in the process. In April 2021, Apple’s IOS 14.5 update brought about a change in how apps could track online behaviour. For the first time, users were given control over how apps could track them. And whilst Firefox and Safari already block third party cookies, Google Chrome the market leader with over 63% of total market share announced it will stop supporting third-party cookies by the end of 2023.

Customer demands for personalised experiences are also fuelling the move to a first-party data approach. 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions, whilst 76% are frustrated when this doesn’t happen.

These factors are giving sports organisations the opportunity to invest in first party data collection.

What is first party data?

First-party data is data that your business has gathered directly from your audience with their consent. It’s the most effective data for marketers - it’s clean, unaltered, reliable and trustworthy. Sources of first party data can include company websites, a fan app, CRM, payment data, payment data, surveys and customer feedback. 

How first party data differs from second party & third party data

Second-party data is data that you didn’t collect yourself. Instead, it’s another organisations’ first-party data. You acquire it directly from the person or company that collected it.                      

Third-party data is collected by one party and sold or shared with an unrelated third-party. Digital marketing audience targeting has until now heavily relied upon third-party data to serve ads at ‘lookalikes’ for example.

The challenge: It's getting harder to keep fans engaged

It’s no secret that today, fan engagement is a challenge for sports organisations. The at-home fan experience has never been better. There’s no replacement for soaking up the atmosphere in a stadium, but improvements in the quality of broadcasting and technology, the comfort factor not to mention the expense all make the idea of staying home to watch the game more enticing.

Furthermore, demographic trends show that sports organisations are struggling to recruit the next generation of fans who have more competing options for their time and money including gaming, social media and streaming.  

The pandemic brought into sharp focus the data gap that so many sports organisations have on their fans. They may have known some limited details on the ticket buyer, but by no means every single person that walked through the entrance. When stadiums closed and the fans stayed away, many organisations found they didn’t have the available data to communicate directly with their fans. Sports organisations must build more resilience against future disruptions and a data-driven strategy for fan engagement is key.

First party data boosts fan engagement

How much do you know about every single person that walks into your stadium? What they buy, from which concessions and when? Do you engage with them digitally, before, during and straight after the game? Or are you relying on Facebook to talk to your audience?

Not only does first-party data identify your digital fans via their name, location, and language, but it builds a picture of each fan in a way that allows an organisation to personalise that specific fan’s experience. 

By taking ownership of your first party data, you can deliver a first class experience for your audience before, during and after the game; an experience which boosts fan engagement and loyalty.

Got a fan app? You’re actually missing a vital piece of first-party data

Sports fan apps are ubiquitous these days. But there are so many sports organisations that don’t own the transactional data which is generated when the user makes a purchase. 

Instead, when the user buys their items and the data is collected it is sent to and therefore owned by the third party payment provider. You will know how many beers were sold and at which concession, but you’re unable to link any of this information to your individual fans. You can’t identify who bought what or when. 

So what's the solution?

To collect first party payment data, data which is normally held by third party payment companies, you need to implement a white-label mobile wallet. Much like Apple Pay, users simply register their payment card with the app but the difference with a white label mobile wallet is that you get all of the transaction data, instead of a third party payment provider. And this missing piece of the big data puzzle unlocks huge opportunities. 

No fan app? No problem

If you’re a sports business without a fan app, that doesn’t need to hold you back from collecting first party transaction data either. Instead, a white-label web wallet will give you the same insights. Fans can access a web wallet by simply scanning a QR code onsite. The QR code is displayed on various signage around the stadium or venue. Simple.

What can you do with the first party payment data you collect from going cashless?

Once you’ve implemented a white-label mobile wallet you can gather deep insights into your audience’s purchase behaviour. This powerful data can be harnessed in many ways to increase fan engagement and loyalty. For example: 

Reward and engage fans with personalised offers

Reward your fans for their loyalty with targeted promotions and giveaways based on the products they’re interested in, just at the right time; keep them returning to stadiums again and again.

Incentivise behaviours

Whether you want to encourage fans to arrive earlier, stay longer or simply make more purchases, create targeted and timely promotions that will help you incentivize behaviours. 

Unlock new revenue streams

Let your sponsors get direct access to your fans via their wallets, by running their own rewards and incentive programmes. Use the data from those campaigns to build stronger, more successful sponsorship deals. Convert guests who aren’t existing customers to a sponsors’ product.

More sponsorship opportunities

Leverage data and insights to sell to new potential sponsors. Convert guests who aren’t existing customers to sponsors’ products. Demonstrate the impact of sponsorship - show changes in behaviours across the season.

Operational improvements 

Use data to make real-time improvements to fan experience and make future events more successful.


Going cashless unlocks valuable first party data for businesses. By collecting payment data on every single member of your audience, not just the ticket buyer, you can build a picture of every fan and use this data to drive fan engagement, customer retention and profit. 

If you’d like to know more about how Tappit’s mobile pay solution could work for your business, then get in touch.

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