The United States Tennis Association Serves Up Relevant Email

Customer Strategy
Customer Experience

Tennis is the fastest-growing sport in the United States, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, with a 43 percent increase in participation from 2000 to 2008.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA), a nonprofit organization that promotes and develops the growth of tennis, can attest to the increasing interest in the sport and is investing in communications strategies to reach out to its growing member base of more than 700,000.

In developing the sport's growth in local communities and on a professional level, the USTA relies on an automated membership renewal model to effectively determine how and when to target members for renewal.

Quaero, a CSG company, hosts the USTA's membership database and applies predictive analytics and modeling that USTA uses to segment its customer base. Unica provides the campaign management software, which allows the organization to create and target its communications based on such information as zip radius, geographic region, age, gender, and play level.

"We're able to look at membership play data and [see] who are the most loyal customers," says Barrie Markowitz, managing director, membership at the USTA. "We can serve up more program information to them now."

Markowitz says the USTA segments the data by individual members, member services, and their affinity for tennis. The USTA calls on members it has identified as likely to renew because of their heavy involvement in tennis by sending communications to them via email and direct mail about membership upgrades and renewal notices. Avid players receive more frequent emails about promotions and USTA information. "We're using it as a way to increase revenue," she says.

The USTA also supports its section offices, which are divided into 17 geographic regions. Each office operates as a distinct entity, responsible for driving participation in their specific regions to the USTA, with the national office providing funding and umbrella support.

On a national level the USTA leverages the email campaigns to inform members about benefits and to send news and information, for example, about early access to purchasing U.S. Open tickets. On a local level the section offices tailor their communications to the cities within their geographic location.

As a result, the USTA section offices send locally driven, informational emails about such topics as how the USTA is working in members' communities to benefit the game and which players will be visiting certain markets to conduct book signings. later this year, Markowitz says, the organization will launch a new program to analyze the flex leagues' data with the goal of converting those participants into USTA members.

Since using the tools, the USTA has calculated that members who read its emails have a higher retention rate than those who don't. In addition, membership is trending upward-to 730,000 from 700,000 the previous year-an all-time high, according to Markowitz. "There are many factors that go into this," she says. "The game is becoming more popular. There's more tennis on television. We also believe that we are rolling out stronger participation programs to get kids and adults involved in the game," she says. "We are constantly looking at what information sources will be helpful to bring into the business."