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How Bally Sports Delivers Better Fan Experiences with Community

Written by Alida

Published July 18, 2023

The media company has embraced community on account of delivering fresh and specific insights, as well as time and money savings.

A regional sports network currently operating in 45 states, Bally Sports has made a name for itself by broadcasting local events, from high school to “big three” games (MLB, NBA, NHL). Last year, Bally launched a direct to consumer service —Bally Sports Plus— a development that has opened a new opportunity for Bally Sports to engage with their audiences.

Given how competitive and ever changing the market is, the need to keep the finger on the pulse has never been greater. In this scenario, the research team at Bally Sports has been tasked with bringing viewers closer to the game and becoming a trusted voice in a busy market.

With these goals in mind, Linear and Cross-platform Research Senior Director Susie Thomas and senior analyst Renee Martin have grown their community intending to get closer to their viewers, discover key brand drivers, and make quick decisions in the fast-paced streaming environment.

“We had the opportunity to focus on the individual regions, teams, and fans of those teams, and get hyper local at a scale,” reveals Susie Thomas. “We wanted to learn about fandoms specific to a market versus national, broad insights.”


In the beginning, there was nothing

When the project started, Thomas and co. didn’t have a lot of intelligence to go on beyond general behaviour and demographics. Certainly not a lot of specifics about how they consumed sports or how they felt about their local team.

Because the competition had access to the same data via syndicated research, it was important for Bally Sports to go to market with fresh insights, based on local and regional data. Having an insight panel with their own consumers would allow the company to have more control over their community and use creativity when approaching the members.

The idea of developing their own research panel was embraced on account of time and money savings, particularly when compared with the costs of hiring an external research party. Since they were starting from scratch, they first had to find a vendor. “Alida offered us what we needed and things we didn’t know we needed,” explains Thomas.

Bally Sports is now aiming to reach 10,000 Fan Zone community members from different areas of the US in order to get a better, rounded view of their consumers. The idea is to take deeper dives into regional analysis and understand customers’ behaviors, needs, expectations, and thoughts. They also plan to use the community to test marketing messaging, program testing, and feedback for Bally’s advertising clients.


Internal advocacy empowers insight programs

Because the intention when creating a community was to impact the whole company, executive sponsorship was key. Following meetings with department heads from across the organization to explain the concept and gauge their needs, stakeholders provided their support and feedback.

“One of the interesting things that came out of these meetings was the idea that research can really benefit everyone,” explains Susie Thomas. “Our production team, for example, realized they could find out what people thought of certain graphics, alt feeds or in-show elements. In turn they gave us ideas of what to pursue.”

With the support of the Alida team, Bally Sports’ research put together a custom blueprint. “We conducted interviews with eight different departments across the company,” reveals Renee Martin. “The interviews were educational for the interviewee to understand our goals, and for us to understand theirs.”

The Fan Zone community is expected to help grow the newly minted Bally Sports Plus. For phase one, the research team is recruiting viewers that have interacted with Bally Sports. Phase two is looking at in-stadium fans.


Pearls of wisdom

  • Manage expectations: Let your stakeholders know what to expect and when to expect it. Explain the process and the infrastructure in place to reach those insights. Don’t overpromise.
  • Be intentional and purposeful: Know the reasons behind what you’re doing.
  • Stick to your determined objectives: Don’t allow others to alter your course of action.
  • Ask for help: Other departments may be willing and able to lend a hand. The earlier they get involved, the better.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint: Starting from scratch is a long process. It demands patience and hard work.
  • Don’t set up yourself for failure: Know what you can do and when to do it.

Get access to the on-demand sessions of the Alida Activate 2023 North America here.


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