How a Miami HEAT and BFO Collaboration Turned a Limited Ad Budget into a Profitable Paid Search Program for Ticket Sales
A professional basketball team, the Miami HEAT compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division, and play their home games at American Airlines Arena.
The three-time NBA champions play 41 home games at American Airlines Arena in Miami, FL, every season and have an international fan base. Like other NBA franchises, the team sells season tickets and single-game tickets through diverse channels during the basketball season.
Some say the Miami HEAT team boasts the hardest-working, best conditioned, most professional, unselfish, toughest, meanest, nastiest players in the NBA. Along with that comes an eclectic fanbase considered one of the most misunderstood and unpredictable fan bases in any sport. The fans are out of their seats before tip-off… and also before the game ends, this time, though, to go home. Yes, as much as they love their team, they love to leave the games early.
While the Miami HEAT had an active and successful paid social program in place, they did very little with paid search. In 2019, their marketing team came to BFO for guidance in experimenting with paid search leveraging Google Ads.
Paid search initiatives for the client included season ticket lead generation and single-game ticket sales.
- Limited budget, mostly borrowed from the paid social budget
- Starting in the off-season, when sales are naturally slower
- Finding, creating and targeting an audience for season tickets
- Selling single-game tickets to a geo-limited audience in a highly competitive market
- Ticket sales competition included: other ticket vendors; other sports options such as the Florida Panthers, Miami Dolphins, and Miami Marlins; and, other Miami events
With a limited budget, each opportunity required a unique and specialized approach. This included:
- Season Ticket Lead Generation
- Single Game Ticket Sales
Season Ticket Lead Generation
The client had no clearly defined audience and as such, used social response to inform paid search targeting. While including people who had bought single-game tickets, those who attended multiple games were specifically targeted for half-season ticket sales.
Taking this data, lists of people who had bought single-game tickets were layered into the campaign to inform Google’s algorithm of who best to target. Bids were also adjusted higher for anyone who did a search for Miami HEAT game tickets.
Different ads were tested, paying special attention to which copy and what players’ images produced the best response and calls to action. Ads clicked took users to a landing page to complete a form requesting a representative call. Data collected from paid search was then used to inform email campaigns.
Single-Game Ticket Sales: Single-game ticket sales featured a streamlined, low maintenance approach:
- Ads for single-game ticket sales used evergreen messaging as a potential return for uniquely targeting every game couldn’t be financially justified
- Keyword targeting expanded beyond expected search terms (“Miami HEAT tickets”) to relevant, but not immediately obvious, search terms; for example, terms might target people with related interests (“what to do in Miami”) but who were not directly searching for the product
- Retargeting campaigns were run, specifically in Display, Facebook and Instagram
- Conversion tracking was carefully monitored to notice trends and user behavior to hone targeting
- Leveraging Google’s automation was also key as it allowed for higher bids when an opportunity was identified and lower bids when data points indicated a poor match
Single Game Ticket ROAS
American Arlines Arena ROAS
Despite a limited budget, in working together, the Miami HEAT and BFO, using Google’s tools, platforms and analytics, created the justification for targeted monthly six-figure paid search ad spend.
All campaigns produced valuable learnings which now inform campaign targeting, creative and ad spend. Specific results were as follows.
Season Ticket Campaign
As a lead generation effort, the Miami HEAT now has a stable and valuable pipeline of high-quality leads. Learnings here specifically identified best prospects based on search intent.
Single Game Ticket Sales
Perhaps the most valuable result involved the marketing team learning the search intent indicating when to invest and when to pull back. Key metrics include:
- A higher percentage of primary single-game ticket sales (those sold by the Miami HEAT and not one of its brokers) on Google as compared to paid social on Facebook and Instagram
- Keyword click-through-rates between 20-30%
- A return on ad spend (ROAS) of 9x for single-game ticket sales
- A whole business ROAS of 15x when accounting for selling tickets to other events hosted at American Airlines Arena
By leveraging Google’s automation, algorithm, and analytics together with our guidance, the Miami HEAT now have a dynamic and profitable paid search program in place.
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