A Brilliant Use of Automated Emails as an Online Marketing Strategy Made Me Buy a Hockey Shirt

I spent the last few days/weeks computing some R functions for automating a multiple variable selection of linear models using the LASSO and the SCAD penalties. It took me time to create my code, but at the end of the day, it is freshly automated and it is able to perform a statistical task in a few seconds which would have taken me days to run using standard statistical software.

And the Relationship with Online Marketing?

So what is the relationship with Online Marketing? Well, my automated program has allowed me to save time in the future, and that is exactly an objective that should achieve any organization who wants to take advantage of web features. However, these organizations should do even more than only saving time, they should also build online customer loyalty through automated programs. My latest example is related to a sport that I cherish, which is hockey. Living in Montreal, I have the chance to live in a city which is home to the team with the most Stanley Cups in the NHL history, the Montreal Canadians who played their home games at the Bell Center. I also have the chance to be 2 hours away from Ottawa (Ontario) where the Ottawa Senators play their home games at the “Scotia Bank Place” in Kanata, which is a few miles away from Ottawa. Over the last week, I attended a game in both of these arenas. This was the third time I went to Kanata to see a hockey game during this hockey season, and every time, a day before the game, I always receive an email similar to this one presented below.

“Dear Jean-Francois,

We are looking forward to seeing you on Game Day to watch the Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs on March 6th, 2010 at 07:00 p.m.

Doors for Ottawa Senators games open at 5:30 p.m. for evening games, 11:30 for 1:00 p.m. games and 12:30 for 2:00 p.m. games.

Here’s everything you need to know to make your game day run smoothly.

• Scotiabank Place is a quick 15 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Click here for directions and a map.
• Scotiabank Place Parking Tips
• Public Transportation


Before the game:
If you haven’t already received your tickets by mail, printed them on-line or picked them up, tickets can be picked up with the credit card used for purchase and photo ID matching the credit card at any Sports Experts location in Ottawa.

Paperless tickets:
If you selected paperless delivery, your tickets have been delivered to the credit card used for purchase. Bring your credit card used for purchase and your photo identification matching the credit card to the game. DO NOT visit the box office. Go directly to the ticket taker. They will swipe your credit card, verify your identification and print a receipt displaying your seat location.


At the game:
Express Ticket Kiosks are located at Gate 1. Tickets may be picked up at the kiosks by swiping your credit card used for purchase or at the box office windows with credit card and photo ID. Wait times can be in excess of one hour so we recommend, when possible, picking up in advance!

Scotiabank Place – the place to eat. Six restaurants to suit every budget from stone-fired thin crust pizza to chef attended food stations featuring prime rib. Eat dinner then walk to your seats to enjoy the game! Reservations available at each restaurant.

Full restaurant descriptions and menus
RESERVE ONLINE or call: 613-599-2582

Score, the Ottawa Senators’ game-day program, is now available online. Along with reader favourites such as player profiles and opponents previews, Score Online features bonus links to bio pages, video highlights and photo galleries. Click here for the latest edition.”

Email I received before the Ottawa Senators Game
Email I received before the Ottawa Senators Game

And After the Game

Furthermore, after each game in Kanata, I always receive an email similar to this one below.

“Dear Jean-Francois,

We hope you had a great time at the Sens game on March 6th, 2010.


For a complete recap of the game, including player statistics and photo galleries, go to www.ottawasenators.com, your home for exclusive Ottawa Senators information.

You can also see the post-game interviews, video highlights and more on Sens TV

2010 Score Magazine Survey

Tell us what you think of Score, the Ottawa Senators’ game-day program, by participating in this survey, and we’ll enter you into a draw for two club seats to the Senators vs. Philadelphia Flyers game at Scotiabank Place on March 23.

Special post-game ticket offer

Eastern Conference battle! Watch Chris Pronger take on the Sens. Tickets starting as low as $39.14. This offer will apply to 100 ends,
200 ends and 300 upper and lower level.

– March 23 at 7:30 pm

Visit capitaltickets.ca/promo and reference the special code: XXXXXXXX

This offer ends Friday, March 19 at midnight and is available by Internet only.”

… And With the Montreal Canadians?

That’s not the end of the story, so what do I receive before and after each Montreal Canadians game? I always receive “nothing”. The tickets are always sold out anyway even when the team is playing like a minor league team, so perhaps the organization thinks there is no need for building online customer loyalty through automated emails.

My conclusion

In conclusion, I am not a huge fan of any hockey team, I like the game from an objective perspective. However, last Saturday, I decided to buy a hockey shirt for the Ottawa Senators game, the game was coined as the “Battle of Ontario” and I decided to support the Ottawa Senators by buying a “Daniel Alfredsson” shirt, and sincerely the two emails that I showed you both had an impact on my decision of buying this item. So what is the lesson of this story? Don’t take me for granted? Innovation in online sports marketing comes from organizations in markets where it is harder to load the arena? Anyway, any additional thoughts on the topic?

Jean-Francois Belisle

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10 thoughts on “A Brilliant Use of Automated Emails as an Online Marketing Strategy Made Me Buy a Hockey Shirt”

  1. This is a very good example of customer-relationship building. This is a good practice for online marketing because it makes customers feel a connection to the product and the company. This strategy benefits the company in such a way that it gains the loyalty of customers.

  2. Hey Jean François,

    What is sure is that it is not possible that the Montreal Canadians Marketing division has not thought about this well known strategy (that I personally experienced when buying tickets on Ticketmaster)…Indeed, when you take a look at the Montreal Canadians’ website (http://canadiens.nhl.com/fr/index.html), you can see pretty quickly that hundreds and hundreds of hours and dollars have been invested to develop its appearance as well as its numerous functionalities.

    This is why I believe that the absence of automated emails is more a marketing strategy/choice than a question of taking customers for granted. More precisely, when one pays attention to the section named “Fan Zone” on the Montreal Canadians’ website, one can observe all the efforts the Marketing team is doing to build customer loyalty (and, of course, retention): Fan Forums, Online Contests (called “the streak is on”), a “future canadians fan club” section, a presence on Twitter and Facebook and finally the possibility to subscribe to a newsletter…All these examples show that they are trying to create a loyal community.
    Also, I think there is another important point that you correctly raised: The fact that the stadium is always crowded. This might has a role to play, a negative one as the success of the hockey team probably prevents the marketing team from “justifying” its actions to the other departments of the company. The “Hippos” of the company might believe that developing an automated emails program is not necessary (necessary meaning profitable for the company) because people will keep watching the Canadians no matter what (As if the franchise was acting as a monopoly).

    Who knows the truth? What is sure is that the Canadians definitely miss an incredible-but-simple-to-implement tool to make their fans the most satisfied and happiest people on the earth!

  3. Yes the Montreal Canadiens website is well designed and offers their users some neat functionalities but that does mean they have to neglect on their after-sale services. It’s an important part of a marketing strategy and they cannot afford to over lock this element just because they have a very strong and loyal fan base.

    This attitude is not uncommon among very successful businesses that don’t feel the pressure to innovate because they’re all alone on the top of the mountain. But the question is : For how long?

    The “Bleu Blanc Rouge” should learn from the mistakes of such companies like for example Microsoft in the poor managing of their internet explorer browser. Internet explorer was once the most popular and almost the only browser that was used worldwide. That all changed because of Microsoft’s lack of innovation of their part and their ability to correct in timely manner some major security problems. The result? The immerging of third party browser that offered better web surfing solutions like FireFox, Opera and now Chrome. Microsoft has since then update their browser but the damage has already been done because they are no longer alone.

  4. Talk about managing the consumer experience!! And, I am disappointed that you picked the Alfredsson shirt LOL

  5. @Vigrace, thanks for your comments, I completely agree.

    @Marc. You raised a good point by mentioning that the Montreal Canadians have surely thought about it before. However, it can be possible that they may haven’t thought about it, since they don’t employed that much people dedicated to online marketing, surely not more than 10, which are surely all underpaid as it is generally the case in sports marketing. Furthermore, related to your second argument, these kinds of emails when not necessary could be perceived as spam by some users, so this could be one reason why they are not using these tools.

    @Mauricio. Thanks for your comments, that’s quite appreciated. I totally agree that automated emails should be a way to make people converge to websites, since even though the Bell Center is full, it is always possible to increases sales in products associated with the team. However, I don’t think the Montreal Canadians have to worry about competition, since they are the only team in a top professional league in Montreal. It would take multiple decades of ultra-bad managing and the emergence of a NBA and MSL team, and the comeback of a hockey team in Quebec City, to perhaps have some problems, we are far from that, I think.

    @Bob. Thanks for your comment Bro. Who would you have chosen instead of the Viking Alfredsson? He’s approaching the milestone, all with the same team, a future Hall of famer. I know that from a Montreal Canadian perspective, he should be the most hated, lol, as Chara was booed tonight for the Boston Bruins at the Bell Center. Or I could have picked “Chris Neil” shirt if I were in a testosterone peak, that would look amazing for an academics, lol. Maybe next time.

  6. Jean-Francois,
    These emails are not only examples of great marketing, they follow my principle of implementing features that bring visitors back to the web site. They are not seen as spam because they bring great value. Additionally, the help establish a relationship that enhances conversion rates. Keep up the good work.

  7. It’s great to hear that the emails enhanced your game day experience.

    Speaking as the guy that pushes the buttons to make those automated emails work, I’d like to add that even with their value, there are people that complain or ask to be removed for whatever SPAM email list they think they were added to. Unfortunately these people didn’t read the disclaimer that says they got the email because they bought tickets to that game and likely didn’t read any of the other useful information provided in the email.

    A major difference in the Montreal an Ottawa markets that you failed to notice is the greater number of fans that can be drawn from in Montreal. Until the 1992/1993 season, Ottawa didn’t have its own fans; we were a city divided between mostly Montreal and Toronto fans. Until we have 100 years of history and generations of fans, we will have to work differently than the Montreal marketing guys to fill every seat.

    Dave MacIsaac
    Database Analyst
    Ottawa Senators Hockey Club & Scotiabank Place

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