Pittsburgh Pirates

Using fan segmentation and insights to de-risk decisions and plan for better game-day experience

Revolutionizes season ticket sales strategy⁠—a critical revenue source

Identifies fan experience fixes in real time

Insight within 48 hours, cuts at least 2 weeks off decision-making timelines


An MLB heritage team, the Pittsburgh Pirates professional baseball team has won five World Series championships in their storied history. The Pirates, in partnership with Schmidt Market Research, are the first team in professional baseball to activate an insight community of carefully segmented fans to help them make more fan-led decisions and generate enduring fan loyalty and satisfaction.

Fast Facts


Media & Entertainment



Customer Experience

Insights professionals

Use case:

Customer experience

Marketing effectiveness

Business Outcome:

Improve customer satisfaction

De-risk decisions

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Business Challenge

The Pittsburgh Pirates needed a way to better understand fan preferences and identify new opportunities to boost the value of the game beyond the scoreboard. Historically, the Pirates attempted to do that by executing initiatives, and then measuring their impact through post-implementation studies or less structured feedback. Using a “see what sticks” approach is fraught with risk. The Pittsburgh Pirates were interested in understanding if their fan segments’ ballpark experience could be further improved via marketing-focused initiatives such as in-game promotions, entertainment, food service, and so forth. If they could align programs with the experience preferences of each fan segment, the marketing team could tailor their promotions and communication to boost fan experience and ultimately positively impact number of visits and revenue.


Working with their partner, Schmidt Market Research, the Pirates Business Analytics and Strategy group introduced the Pirates Fan Council made up of approximately 4,000 carefully segmented fans. Progressive profiling of fans based on answers to questions over time and a link to the Pirate’s CRM and purchase data, ensures a great member experience. The Pirates don’t need to ask repetitive questions and can rely on actual purchase data rather than recall only. The Fan Council is also representative of the Pirate’s fan base.

The Pirates used the Fan Council to conduct extensive market segmentation to determine how to get more people to attend games from a strategic marketing perspective. They needed to better understand how to make the game experience more exciting, and look into fan preferences about entertainment, community initiatives, promotions, concessions, communications channels, and more. These insights helped the Pirates understand the specific factors that drive attendance in each fan segment, so they could create relevant and customized programs, pre-test these programs with the segments, and then launch and track the impact in market.

Sports teams are facing constant pressure to preserve fan loyalty and increase engagement. The simplest way to measure loyalty is through season ticket sales. Rather than the conventional one-size-fits-all approach that’s been sold for decades, the Pirates are looking to package season ticket offers based on what they know about each segment from entertainment-seekers to families and die-hard fans. Insight from the Fan Council will make it possible to market tickets with a set of specific offers and experiences identified at scale. This evolution in package development is expected to have a big impact for the Pirates in 2020.

The impact from the Fan Council has de-risked decisions for both big and small investments ranging from their Fan Loyalty Program to T-shirt give-aways, accelerated experience optimization because agile feedback helps them cut at least two weeks off decision making timelines, and identified areas of the fan experience to fix in real-time.

Revolutionizes season ticket sales strategy⁠—a critical revenue source

Identifies fan experience fixes in real time

Insight within 48 hours, cuts at least 2 weeks off decision-making timelines

With the Fan Council we can say with absolute certainty that the decisions we make reflect the feedback from our fans. This helps us continually improve and refine our programming, and aligns the business around our core purpose and vision.

-Jim Alexander, Senior Director, Business Analytics & Strategy, Pittsburgh Pirates

Effective segmentation is an important part of any successful marketing strategy. The Fan Council has amplified the accuracy of our segmentation and improved marketing planning.

-Kiley Cauvel, Director of Advertising & Creative Services, Pittsburgh Pirates

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