New York Rangers Case Study

As most of you know, the Web is great place to sell tickets. Ticketmaster does a booming business, and eBay promotes itself as a hot spot for hot tickets. Another reason the Web lends itself to ticket sales is because for consumers, the online process is quick and easy.

The problem for many organizations is how to let consumers know about ticket availability for a show, game, or other event. Consider the case of the NHL team New York Rangers and its sister company Madison Square Garden, both owned by Cablevision Systems. The Rangers had a number of single-game seats it wanted to sell early in the hockey season.

So again, the company turned to email marketing. The Rangers have a great deal of email marketing experience, having run numerous text and HTML campaigns. This time, the Rangers decided to really grab recipients’ attention. It teamed up with H2F Media, a full-service, rich media email marketing firm. The company produced a compelling, exciting message. (As a season-ticket holder to another NHL team, I can personally attest to how enthralling that video is to hockey fans!)

The message was sent out to a house list of about 55,000 individuals last Thursday. As you saw if you clicked the link, it consists primarily of a number of color photographs surrounding a small video clip. The Rangers knew quite a bit about their business-to-consumer (B2C) list. After all, it is an opt-in, homegrown list, but the Rangers didn’t know how many recipients accessed their email at work, where Internet connections tend to be faster (on average) than in the residential market.

The result was a 25.37 percent unique open rate. The total open rate was 47.5 percent, meaning the average person opened the message twice. The CTR was 18.67 percent; and 2,583 individuals clicked on the Ticketmaster link to view the sales form and potentially purchase. I was not able to obtain exact conversion numbers, but I was told the Rangers sold more tickets with this campaign in two days than it averages in an entire week.

OK, on to the fun part — analysis:

  • Cost. My first question, of course, was cost. This eye-catching, rich media message must cost more than a standard HTML email, given all that goes into producing a video. It turns out the Rangers had already produced the video anyway (it’s shown on the jumbo screen above the rink before games). So costs for producing the message were minimized.

  • Length. The video runs 127 seconds, longer than I would have thought optimal. H2F Media’s Jeff Gaus, VP of sales and marketing, says 45-65 second videos tend to be very effective. Results show this length worked well, as 42 percent of those who opened the video watched all the way through.
  • Bandwidth. Surely, as this is a B2C message and the average home is on a dial-up connection, there must have been questions of how many people could clearly see (and enjoy) the video. As it turned out, about 85 percent had 56Kbps or greater access. That breaks down into 14.82 percent at less than 56K, 10.89 percent from 56K to 100K, 31.09 percent accessing at speeds from 101K to 300K, and 42.94 percent online at speeds greater than 300K. Clearly, most U.S. homes aren’t this wired for broadband. This suggests to me (and the folks at H2F Media) many recipients open their mail at work. Gaus hypothesizes the reason consumers don’t invest in broadband at home is because they already have it at work. Given hockey fans are fairly representative of the overall North American population, these bandwidth numbers are interesting, indeed.
  • Message format. The message was multipart, meaning those who had Windows Media Player installed saw the video with that software program, while those who didn’t saw Flash. Nearly 90 percent of recipients viewed the video with Windows Media Player, indicating the software is pervasively installed.
  • Call to action. There is a small link to Ticketmaster above the video. The call to action in the video is at the end. The Rangers had reservations about this but believed enough people would be interested enough to watch the entire video. My thoughts are that people who watch the video all the way through are the ones you want to capture. This was a good strategy: Build up their enthusiasm, then show them how to buy tickets.
  • Day and time. In H2F Media’s experience, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are the best for mailings. Typically, Thursday skews toward better consumer results, Tuesday for businesses. Sending the mailing on a Thursday allowed the Rangers to pick up weekend sales. Data shows spikes at 7 p.m. and again at 7 a.m.

If you’re considering a rich media campaign, look over your assets (have you already produced a video clip for TV?). Also look at your audience — closely. This type of campaign may not work for all companies, but it just could work for you.

Heidi will speak at ClickZ Email Strategies in San Francisco, November 18-19.

Related reading