Marketing and Predicting Ticket Sales with Google

Marketing-Awareness

Whenever I’m introduced to a new podcast, I like to go back to older episodes and listen to ones that peak my interest. I recently started listening to the Freakonomics Radio Podcast with Stephen Dubner. For anyone not familiar with Stephen Dubner or his Podcast, each episode “explores the riddles of everyday life”. For example, a recent episode explored how Gluten has gotten such a bad wrap, and how many have been incorrectly led to believe that gluten is unhealthy for everyone.

One of the older episodes I came across was about things that people type into Google. I would say the actual title of the podcast, but if you click through you’ll see what I mean and why I’ve opted not to include it here. The guest on the show was Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of the book Everybody Lies. In his book, he uses Google search data to explore the difference between what people claim, and then what Google would indicate is the actual truth.  I haven’t read the book, but’s it’s one I’ve added to my reading list.

On the Freakonomics Podcast, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz mentions something that I found really interesting, and is directly applicable to marketing for sports & entertainment. Using Google Search data, he mentions that he can predict voter turnout for elections with reasonable certainty. This prediction is based on how many people are searching for polling station locations and other election related queries. This got me thinking that if you can predict turnout for elections, why not other events?

Google Data

Google has this tendency to release really cool stuff for free, and Google Trends in no exception. Using data from it’s search engine, you can see what searches are trending globally, as well as on a much more granular city level. And it’s not just trends, you can search anything you’d like and see what the interest is at various scales.

For example, if you search the term “boxing” and select Canada, you’ll see a huge spike that coincides directly with the Mayweather-McGregor Fight. I’m sure this huge spike in search traffic would correlate pretty well with interest in the fight, and ultimately how many people tuned in to watch.

Now it doesn’t give you how many people searched for a specific term, but there are other tools out there for that. Google Keyword Planner will tell you how many searches for a specific term took place in a given time period.

Applications for Sports & Entertainment

As marketers, our ultimate goal is to drive attendance and revenue. But there are several steps that a potential customer must take before reaching the point of purchasing a ticket.

Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross introduced the sales team to the AIDA acronym which stands for Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action. What I like about this acronym is that it’s pretty universally applicable and shows that in order to get someone to take an action, we first must have their attention, and further, they must have some interest in what we’re saying.

Not sure if you’re like me, but these days it’s pretty rare that I actually type a URL into my web browser. More common is that I’ll type what I’m looking for into a search bar and let Google find it for me. Even if my sole intent was to go to a particular website, there’s something about typing the “www” and “.com” that seems like a waste of time. Say what you will about decreasing attention spans and so forth, but I think most people these days are like me.

So imagine you’re marketing the Toronto Raptors and want to know if your marketing campaign is growing awareness and interest. Wouldn’t how many people are Googling your team name be a pretty good indicator of that? If people are searching for your team name specifically, is it safe to say that they are interested in what you have to offer?

On a more granular level, when playing with Google Trends if you keep the time range to a 90 day window, you’ll get the daily data, which in the ticket sales business, is good to have. Maybe you notice that for every event you host, there is a spike in interest two weeks before. Knowing this can help shape your marketing spend, when to run certain promotions etc.

Overall as a marketer, what you’d like to see is that total monthly searches for your team name are growing year over year. This will tell you if you’re growing overall awareness and interest in your brand.

Conclusion

In a time when marketers are looking for measurement at every step, seems that Google might be giving us one of the best forms of measurement, for free I might add. While it’s tempting to skip steps and measure marketing solely by sales, it’s important to keep the AIDA acronym in mind. Growing awareness may not sell tickets tomorrow, but eventually if you’re moving enough people through the stages, it will.

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