Today’s digital innovations are excellent multitaskers. They do a lot more than help Fortune 500 companies make more money. Technological advances allow small businesses to spread the word about their brands and connect with customers. Social media channels make it easy to publicize events supporting numerous causes. Technology also benefits a number of other types of organizations, including professional athletic teams. Manchester United, a well-known and popular English football (called soccer in America) club, makes wise use of advanced tools for customer relationship management, or CRM.

CRM is a system of values, applications, and strategies for engaging with customers. It breaks down customer relations into multiple areas, including:

  • Interactions
  • Predictions
  • Analysis

The goal of CRM is to make customers’ experiences better. In doing so, ultimately CRM benefits users as well. Manchester United and other soccer franchises discovered how helpful these customer-oriented practices are in keeping and attracting new fans. Athletic team fans are a distinct type of audience. They passionately support and talk about their favorite teams. The challenge of athletic organizations is to harness that ardor so that it benefits both the fans as well as the franchises they support. Here are four ways soccer franchises like Manchester United use CRM to grow into wildly successful establishments.

1. Targeted CRM strategies make interaction easy.

A key to successfully connecting with fans is creating an easy way for supporters to interact with their favorite teams. For example, clubs use CRM apps to hold and attract fans. Manchester United and other athletic franchises learned fans like having apps for their favorite teams, but they also discovered these apps help team management stay in touch with what fans like and what they are saying.

Apps are effective bridges between clubs and fans. They allow sales representatives to facilitate more purchases and help team management gather demographic information that leads to more click-throughs. From the fans’ point of view, easy access to their favorite teams increases their feelings of personal investment. Fans are more likely to stay involved with teams and make team-related purchases such as tickets and clothing.

2. CRM lets teams send customized messages to specific groups.

Well-developed CRM programs allow athletic teams to send different types of promotions such as ticket sales and packages to targeted groups of fans through email programs. Using demographics acquired through CRM practices, teams can easily segment their fans into specific groups likely to respond to certain offers.

3. CRM strategies help increase sponsorship.

Support from sponsors is invaluable for professional athletic franchises such as Manchester United. Gaining and holding onto sponsors is an intricate dance. Successful franchises have learned the steps and stay open to sudden improvisations. Sponsors today want more personal involvement with a team’s fans. They want specific demographic information before they sign up. They want to know fan preferences and habits.

Potential sponsors want this information to determine how well team fans meet with their brand messaging and public image. Athletic clubs need to gather fan information so they can win sponsors. When potential sponsors believe a business relationship will benefit them as much as they can benefit an athletic club, a deal is more likely to happen. With strong sponsorship, teams are in a better position to attract star players who will boost fan interest and help the team win matches.

4. CRM helps franchises keep fans interested.

 If a fan buys a scarf or T-shirt today, the athletic franchise benefits. But what about next year? Soccer clubs need to keep fans excited and entertained so they will keep returning match after match, month after month, year after year. Today there are many options for entertainment. Even ardent fans can get distracted. Therefore, clubs have to work harder to make things fun through the entire fan experience before, during, and after each match. When franchises know fan behavior and preferences, they know better how to hold onto fan interest long after each match ends.

Major soccer teams have discovered the marketing treasures to be found in today’s technologies, including CRM practices. Through apps and other innovations, teams can engage with fans and acquire well-matched sponsors so that everyone benefits. The world of athletics is big business, but for fans, the relationships are personal. CRM helps keep it that way.