Digital & Media, Future Trends | Jan 18, 2018
Robb Heineman, CEO of Sporting Club and FanThreeSixty, on emerging trends in fan data, missed opportunities at sports organisations, and the movement to personalisation.

Robb Heineman is a Co-Owner of the Sporting Kansas City Major League Soccer team, and CEO of Sporting Club, the franchise’s parent company.

A seasoned figure in the sports marketing industry before taking on the CEO role and starting the process for building a soccer-specific stadium for the team in 2006, Heineman has been an influential figure in the collective effort to forge a distinct soccer fan culture across the North American sporting landscape.

An early innovation in his tenure at Sporting Kansas City lay in the decision to build tiers of ‘membership’ for the club’s fans, rather than marketing various season-ticket packages at them. It might have been a semantic difference more than anything, but it was illustrative of the different type of relationship that Heineman wanted to cultivate between the club and its spectators. Rather than pay any fee for initial membership, fans were asked simply to provide a set of personal details. Of course, the ‘memberships’ and the various offers within them generated revenue for the club, but the language and the whole approach were far less transactional.

And the personal details were instrumental in aiding the club to build a fuller picture of its fanbase: who they were, what they liked, when they liked it.

It was from Heineman’s initial idea at Sporting Kansas City that FanThreeSixty, a fan data and sports technology company, was formed in 2011. Tangential to his role at Sporting Club, Heineman acts as CEO of this company too, helping sports organisations across the world to process information from the myriad data points they have, in order to create personalised experiences for their fans. Children’s Mercy Park, Sporting Kansas City’s home stadium, remains as a ‘living lab’ for the company.

Interviewed backstage at Leaders Week in London in October 2017, Heineman looks ahead at what he sees as the emerging trends in fan data, and scans the landscape for the opportunities that are being missed.

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