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Chicago Fire taps SMS to interact with fans at sports games

Major League Soccer team Chicago Fire is using SMS to engage and interact with fans, as well as better target consumers in the future.

The soccer team is using a mixture of SMS marketing tools, including games and polls in the arena, as well as alerts, special offers and text-to-win promotions as a way to better understand fans. Chicago Fire is using mobile marketing company CommerceTel to power its mobile initiatives.

?Sports fans in general want information as soon as possible, but we noticed soccer fans wanting even more access to the team,? said Jessica Nolivos, marketing coordinator at the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, Bridgeview, IL.

In-stadium promotions
During each game, the Chicago Fire is running two SMS promotions for fans.

The promotions are ways to both engage with fans and for the team to collect data about who is coming to games and to better target consumers in the future.

The first promotion, sponsored by Comcast, lets fans text the keyword C1-C4 to the shortcode 88222 for a chance to win prize packs and see the results in real-time on screen boards.

There is also a text-to-win promotion where users can win Chicago Fire merchandise.

?We realized that as technology increases, more people are going to opt-in with their mobile devices, and SMS is the easiest way to reach people on the go,? Ms. Nolivos said.

?Our email subscription rates have dipped, but our SMS subscribers have steadily increased over the past few months,? she said.

Bilingual alerts
The Chicago Fire has an alerts programs for fans to receive up-to-the-minute news about the team, including game reminders, scores, injuries, special offers and other team news.

The alerts are available in both English and Spanish.

?Our fan base is largely Hispanic ? approximately 60 percent,? Ms. Nolivos said.

?Our goal is to always focus on inclusion because it?s a big part of being at a sports game or being a fan, so we wanted to include as many people as possible in our alerts system,? she said.

For English alerts there are two alert systems ? one for regular sports fans and one specifically for season ticket holders.

?We are trying to establish a level of value with our season ticket holders, whether it is with exclusive news bursts, team-sponsored events, reminders or traffic updates,? Ms. Nolivos said.

On-the-move fans
The Chicago Fire is only one team in a string of recent news about sports teams using SMS to interact better with fans.

Unlike social media and applications, SMS lets users engage with their mobile devices while not distracting them from the game.

Sports teams see SMS as a push to fans while other mobile efforts are a pull from consumers.

Additionally, sports teams are using SMS because it is already built in to phones and does not require any additional downloads or devices.

?We?re still working on our mobile strategy,? Ms. Nolivos said.

?Mobile devices and SMS have been great for us to interact with our users, but we?re also looking at what more we can do with video as well as interacting with players through texting and promotions,? she said.