Sports fans are always looking for outlets to engage their heroes. There is no better medium than mail, whether in traditional hard copy mode or of the electronic variety. A response to a fan correspondence can create a lifetime of cherished memories and a strong level of devotion to a player.
For athletes, fan mail can cultivate a loyal base, which if leveraged properly, can translate into endorsement deals and income opportunities on and off the field. In addition to monetary benefits, it can also bring an athlete a sense of humility. “I think it’s an honor that a fan thinks enough to take the time to write,” says Gena Pitts, who has experience handling fan mail for her husband Mike, a former defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles.
But athletes are often inundated with commitments. Some do not have the time or resources to respond to every fan who reaches out to them. “It can be very tedious and time consuming,” admits Gena, who is also the founder and publisher of The Professional Sports Wives Magazine.
To face this dilemma, one company, Mercury Communications Group, has come up with a solution.
Using patented technology called My Fan Relationship Management (“myFRM”), a web-based software solution which generates responses to mail, athletes can now engage their base on a whole different level.
But myFRM does more than increase engagement. It also functions as a marketing tool which creates greater synergies for marketers, advertisers and sports leagues through targeted databases.
Mercury, which sports clients in all four major sports leagues, was borne out of a reunion at the Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, in Glendale, Arizona. “I was teaching at the school,” says Jason O’Brien, the company’s executive vice-president of sales and marketing. “It was a rugby alumni weekend. One of my co-founders had been working in the area of fan mail fulfillment many years ago for an NFL player. He believed there had to be a better way to handle the mail, understanding that fan relationship management was a key priority for a lot of athletes. We got to talking and came up with a technology system which would allow things to be more efficient for athletes, fans and the business side of things.”
The company uses myFRM for both snail and electronic mail. “For hard copy mail, we capture the return address, scan the letter in to the system and it becomes an electronic copy,” says O’Brien. “For electronic mail, it’s simply sent to our technology platform. Then based upon the dialogue within the letter, the words go through an algorithm.”
“Based on a point system, a corresponding response letter is selected and sent back to the particular fan. We are able to catalog information and report on who the fan is, where they are, and exactly what they are saying. In its simplest form what we are doing is creating a multidirectional correspondence.”