The Twickenham-based club is looking to mirror the way Premier League football clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal use insight from their fans to develop more targeted promotions in partnership with its sponsors such as Etihad and Greene King.
It is overhauling its social media strategy in the coming months to boost short-term revenues and foster long-term relationships with its supporters. Facebook and Twitter fans will be offered incentives and exclusive club content for attending matches and purchasing products from the club’s commercial partners.
Additionally, the club is using all its online channels to source feedback from its supporters on how it can make match-days and corporate hospitality events a better customer experience.
David Ellis, chief executive of Harlequins, says the strategy is being fuelled by a “data-intensive” approach to marketing, which revolves around enhancing the customer experience across its branded assets and commercial partnerships.
He adds: “In the past we would just broadcast to fans and expect them to turn up every Saturday and spend money, without bothering to find out what they wanted from the club as a brand. We weren’t really trying to get to know them. We’re using the insight we’re getting from the fan data to develop more targeted marketing campaigns in partnership with our sponsors.
”Our goal is to ensure that that our commercial revenue streams are greater than our ticket revenue streams. For most clubs, ticket revenues are their main source of income. We want to move away from this model as fast as we can.”
The club’s first head of customer experience Wendy Plumb is managing the strategy, an appointment Ellis claims is also a first for the Rugby Union. She will work alongside communications specialists Two Circles and Harlequins commercial director James Kendall, who joins next month (5 November), with a brief to grow the club’s roster of global partners.
Unlike the Premier League, where a global fanbase and multi-million broadcast deals mean most clubs are able to exploit their commercial worth, the lesser-known Rugby Union clubs depend on ticket sales for financially sustainability.
With the 2015 World Cup to be hosted in England, Ellis predicts clubs will start to move away from this traditional business model as the profile of the sport rises.