Use, Don’t Abuse, Your Email Database

I wanted to share three emails that I recently received from a couple of professional sports franchises (I’m signed up for several team newsletters, so I can follow trends and best practices in email marketing).

Email 1 from the Houston Texans (right):

While a large percentage of male football fans consider cheerleaders to be a valuable part of the football experience, I imagine most of them have little use for a cheerleader tryouts email. Now I’m sure that some people on the list may have forwarded this to friends or family that might be interested, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a larger than normal number of people unsubscribed from the Texans’ newsletter because this just wasn’t relevant to them.

If you have a niche message like this that you want to share, you either need to find a more narrow, appropriate segment of your list to communicate with (which you could identify through a regular survey of your email newsletter members or via other web-based data collection methods), or you include this message as part of a larger newsletter that provides value to all readers.

Email 2 from the Los Angeles Lakers (below):

The subject line for this email was “Lakers Fans: Ready to “TOSS” Your Reading Glasses? Turn to the Assil Eye Institute” – and that was the only reference to the Lakers in this message (other than the use of yellow and purple text). Email marketing is a very important way in which a team can drive value for their sponsors, and with a team like the Lakers that have an easy time selling both tickets and sponsorship, this is one way they can easily generate additional revenue. However, they’re doing it at the expense of their email database, because even more so than the Texans’ email, this message could end up driving more unsubscribes than click-thrus. Plus, without more integration with the Lakers brand, the partner isn’t getting nearly as much value as they could be. Let’s take a look at a more effective example from the New York Yankees and H&R Block:

This is a much better approach to a corporate partner email. There is prominent co-branding so you never forget that this came from the Yankees, which connects their brand with H&R Block. There is a relevant connection to both the team and the sponsor product through the call to action (in this case, a contest). Finally, the partner gets the benefit of reaching Yankees fans in a way that both provides the fans value and limits the chance for opt-outs.

Your email database is an incredibly valuable tool in any team’s consumer and corporate marketing efforts. While the easy solution in situations may be to simply “blast the list,” this approach has damaging implications and will rarely generate more value that either a more targeted or strategic approach.

2 thoughts on “Use, Don’t Abuse, Your Email Database

  • March 18, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Good thoughts Russell. I agree, you can’t simply blast an email list and expect to get results. Whenever I immediately get an email that is a blatant pitch, 9 times out of 10 I unsubscribe, or set a filter that goes into a newsletter box I check once in a blue moon.

    The culprit are teams who add in ’email blasts’ as part of their sponsorship packages and don’t take the time to come up with an integrated way to do it (like the Yankees)

  • March 18, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Totally agree on the last two. The NYY could have been more visually compelling but it gets to the point quick.

    I agree with your point about targeting your audience if you have a niche message. But a Texans email list is pretty targeted. You can likely make some easy demographic and behavioral assertions.

    In this case though I think the Texans handled it well. Content does seem relevant. The vast majority will be male readers and they are not going to complain about a couple of cute cheerleader pictures. Additionally, they’re likely to say oh I have a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a wife that would be perfect for this and forward it on. Every football fan would love to say “My ____ is a cheerleader”.

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