USTA Partners with CommerceTel on SMS Strategy

The United States Tennis Association is significantly expanding its existing SMS strategy this year with plans to bring in-venue messaging to more events and introduce new text clubs.

For the past couple of years, the USTA has used text messaging to engage fans at specific events such as the U.S. Open. Going forward, the sports organization will bring the in-venue text messaging strategy to additional events, expand the U.S. Open program and look for ways to engage with fans via text messaging on an ongoing basis.

“Fifty-five percent of people still do not have a smartphone, and SMS is ubiquitous across most phones,” said Michael Falato, senior vice president of sales and business development atMobivity, Chandler, AZ. “Sports organizations are saying, ‘We have to build an app but SMS is still very effective.’”

“Sports organizations want to engage fans,” he said. “There is a lot of noise at events, whether it is a video board, commercials or announcements.

“A lot of sports organizations are figuring out they can activate brands with SMS and do it in a way that engages fans and helps them build a database that can be activated for the organization and brands.”

In-Venue Engagement
The USTA is working with Mobivity to develop and execute a text messaging strategy as part of a three-year agreement.

Mobivity is a mobile messaging platform that was acquired last year by CommerceTel. The latter also acquired Txtstation and Boomtext last year and, going forward, all four will be under one umbrella and will use the name Mobivity.

Previously, Mobivity provided an in-venue text messaging program for the U.S. Open and text clubs for a series of tournaments leading up the U.S. Open.

The USTA will deliver HD-quality graphics and animation on in-venue digital boards to drive fan engagement via text messaging across more events, including the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series and for the U.S. Davis Cup/U.S. Fed Cup teams.

Fans in the audience will be able to text to vote, answer a question, post a picture or send a message based on a promotion to a short code. The results will appear live on the screen in real-time.

The USTA will also be able to deliver special offers to fans in the audience.

The text messaging strategy is also being extended with text clubs for the U.S. Open for the first time.

These will include alerts about results, players, tickets and promotions.

Mobivity will also provide support for USTA’s national conferences. The company is also working with the USTA to craft a broader mobile strategy that could include a general text club for the USTA and in-app alerts.

Close Ties
Text messaging gives sports organizations a way to have a closer relationship with the fans who attend their events.

Many companies purchase tickets to sports event in bulk and the tickets are given away. As a result, fans wind up at games that the sports organization has no way of identifying.

By encouraging these fans to sign up to receive text alerts, the sports organization is able to establish an ongoing dialogue with them.

“Texting in mobile is a great way to identify who is at the event and develop a one-on-one relationship and see if you can sell them merchandise or tickets,” said Brad Dolian, vice president of client services at Mobivity.

Text messaging also enables sports organizations to leverage their various promotions, sponsorships and other activities and disseminate this information to fans.

“Fans are choosing how they want to interact with events and there is a growing segment that chooses mobile,” Mr. Dolian said. “If fans want to receive text alerts, it is on the sports organization to provide them – if they do not, it is a big loss.”