If you're an Ohio State fan you know one thing: Michigan stinks. Love the Cubs? Hating St. Louis comes with the territory. And don't get a Bostonian started on the Yankees, or you're bound to hear some salty language.

Sports is about passion and Fanatics, the market leader for authentic, officially licensed sports merchandise, is a passion brand. Understanding its customers, their preferences, and their individual needs is the difference between turning a sale, or making an enemy.

That's why Fanatics strives to deliver only the most relevant and timely messaging to fans. Email offers and Web recommendations are designed to appeal to customers personally, driven by preferences, location, historical behaviors, and other key factors.

"We want to deliver the most relevant merchandise to you, at the right time, for your team," said Jonathan Wilbur, Director of CRM. "If you're a Yankees fan, we want to make sure we're never showing you anything Boston Red Sox."

Want to know how Fanatics sends billions of personalized emails every year? Here's a few steps from its playbook for success.

For even greater detail and to find out how you can emulate Fanatics' success, download this free ebook.

Play 1: Know the score by knowing your fans.

Fanatics approaches customer segments as a series of concentric circles. It starts with smaller, more focused groups and works outward to the more general, larger fan bases. Audience Builder is key here, giving Fanatics the ability to establish groups based on any criteria, use data from multiple sources, precisely target every message, and develop a single view of every customer.

Play 2: Get on the ball with a personalized experience.

The Fanatics team classifies sporting events in tiers. They think of individual moments, like a player breaking a record, as a micro-moment. A day-to-day event would include team news or player announcements. Finally, large-scale events such as the Super Bowl make an impression on the entire fan community. For each of these events, the Fanatics team uses AMPscript to personalize the experience for every fan. That means that Broncos fans were one of 15 million that received a message from Fanatics seconds after the Super Bowl win, but Panthers fans didn't hear a peep.

Play 3: Be the first on the field.

The Fanatics team seeks to provide fans with an immersive experience that anticipates their needs and interests. To accomplish this, they use predictive intelligence data to automate highly personalized content. Do you like jerseys? Predictive intelligence can send you jersey selections. Maybe you're a bobblehead fan. You'll get recommendations for enough tchotchkes to fill every display shelf in your house.

The point is, Fanatics isn't interested in only being your go-to destination when you're searching for a t-shirt for the big game. They are using Marketing Cloud to build lifelong loyalty that fans can cheer...even in the offseason.

For more details on Fanatics email personalization strategy, check out this free ebook.