Virtual Reality: A New Retention Strategy for the Phoenix Suns

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By Tiffany Grau, @tiffany_grau (Old Dominion University)

In its 2017-2018 renewal campaign, the Phoenix Suns will be sending all 2,500 full-season-ticket accounts a virtual reality kit. Image via Chunk Media

In its 2017-2018 renewal campaign, the Phoenix Suns will be sending all 2,500 full-season-ticket accounts a virtual reality kit. Image via Chunk Media

According to most professionals within the marketing industry, customer retention is a lot less costly than acquiring new consumers. The same is true for the sports industry. So what do you do when your team is struggling on the field (or court) and it is time to start renewing season ticket holders? You entice them with a virtual reality kits, of course.

According to an article published by the Sports Business Journal, written by John Lombardo, the Phoenix Suns Organization is attempting to persuade its current 2,500 full-season-ticket holders to renew their season tickets for the 2017-2018 season, by adding a virtual reality kit.

The VR kit that is included in the Phoenix Suns 2017-2018 renewal campaign includes a cardboard box with VR goggles. Recipients will insert their mobile phone into the VR goggles and view a three-minute video that was produced by the team. This VR video includes practice footage and a message from Devin Booker, asking fans to renew their season-ticket packages.

Although the cost of the VR kit or the price of the entire renewal campaign was not disclosed, Suns President Jason Rowley stated that the organization, “saved a significant amount by not going to a third party to film it. Our content department has VR capabilities and we have already invested in the software and equipment.”

The VR content may have been produced in house, but the hardware was produced by other Arizona based companies.

The box, which holds the goggles, was produced by Prisma Graphic, a company based out of Phoenix, AZ. Prisma Graphic has worked with other Arizona based sport teams such as the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals, and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Furthermore, the goggles were produced by Chunk Media, a marketing & advertising company based out of Mesa, AZ.  

VR has been used by the Suns and other NBA teams to market individual ticket and sponsorship prospects, but the NBA has confirmed that the Suns are the first team in the NBA to include VR into an overall renewal campaign. Rowley says that he, “thinks the wow factor will be significant,” and that “being able to personalize it with one of our players speaking directly to fans appeals to a lot of people. We need to find a way to stand apart.”

According to statistics from ESPN, the Phoenix Suns have not made a postseason appearance since the 2009-2010 season, and every season thereafter has not ended in the best results:

Season                                 Record (W-L)                        Standing in Conference (Western)

2010-2011                                 43-39                                                   10th

2011-2012                                  33-33                                                   10th     

2012-2013                                 25-57                                                   15th

2013-2014                                 48-34                                                  9th

2014-2015                                 39-43                                                  10th

2015-2016                                 23-59                                                   14th

According to espn.com’s NBA Attendance Report, the Suns average attendance for a home game in 2017 is 17,341, ranking them 17 out of the other 30 NBA teams.

The effectiveness of the VR renewal campaign obviously cannot yet be measured. However, if the utilization of VR in this renewal campaign is successful in retaining season-ticket accounts, we may see a trend in the sales use of VR or other innovative forms of technology, giving fans a more personable experience.

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