Season Ticket Holders are universally afforded the status as the “most valuable customer” (MVC) of the Sports Team. Their annual financial commitment is the backbone of game day revenues.
However, the demands of fans are ever increasing and are no longer limited to the experiences inside a stadium. If you work for a Sports Team, you already realise that it is essential to offer the season ticket holder a great package to retain their purchasing power.
This article is focused on how you build the value propositions for your MVCs?
Traditionally the season ticket has been sold as a “package of tickets”. Typically, this offers either offers financial benefits (i.e. guaranteed access to tickets at a cheaper per ticket price), and / or flexibility benefits (i.e. partial plans). Generally, these ticketed packages come with a few extra benefits on the side as a “Thank You”. This approach works when you there is a general scarcity of tickets i.e. the STH is guaranteed access to a limited stock. With the view, that if they cannot attend then they will pass to a partner, friend, or even resell on the Secondary Market.
What however, if scarcity does not play a part? What is the motivation to keep on purchasing the Season Ticket? Even for those Sports Teams that have a scarcity of tickets – how do you ensure that the Season Ticket Package offers real value for money? What if the STH only actually attends 70% or less of the events? – at which point does the Season Ticket lose its inherent value. The Season Ticket holder looks at question at the time of renewal and asks – is it really worth the money I have spent?
The challenge for Teams is therefore - How do you add value to the STH above and beyond the raw tickets? And how do you enhance the perceived value of the season ticket? These are universal questions for Sports Teams and many have come to Fortress with this exact problem. The solution lies in Loyalty Marketing.
So what are the top 10 actionable strategies you should look at to increase your Season Ticket retention rate, and increase the Season ticket holder attendance rate?
Make them feel special
I would guess that this is probably something you “think” you do today. But as you will read in some of my other articles on behavioural economics and reward strategy – perceived value is not always about absolutes. Remember the loyalty mantra “Status, Access, Power, Stuff” (SAPS). Most benefit programs focus on the Stuff – the freebies, discounts, offers, items. Yet these have been proven to be considerably less valued by the fan, than the other elements – Status, Access, and Power. Ask yourself what today you offer that:
Makes the STH feel like they have a unique status with the Team – private entrances, lounges, unique members merchandise, content.
Give them exclusive or priority access to experiences and services.
Give them a totem – something that demonstrates to others that they are special – “gold card” “special badges” “merchandise”
2. Give them an instant value
As mentioned above most season ticket packages today include some form of reward incentive – be it a mix of in stadium benefits (discounts, lounges) or an element of cash back incentive - $200 to spend in games. Although these are generally “communicated” at the time of renewal, they are typically fixed as a specific list at a specific time. The STH sees them and then largely forgets them until they attend a game. The problem is that the value is often lost in the moment. Why? – because their is no sense of discovery or constant rediscovery of the benefits. Worse still whatever emotional value the benefits achieve diminish over time, rather than increase. To overcome this let them choose they benefits they want – "renew your season tickets, login and activates the benefits you want". We call this “Choice benefits”. This process has a number of advantages:
FOMO – renew early to get the best pick of benefits, delay and you run the risk of missing out.
Front of mind – the STH is actively engaged in the process – they have to do something “login and choose your benefits”. When a fan performs an “action” it holds more perceived value than words on paper.
Operational – it enables you to automate and control the process of delivery more effectively.
Channel of communication – by providing a digital space for the STH to login and manage their benefit (typically integrated into your website and or mobile app), you are creating a new channel for engagement directly with the fan. Which is important for No 3.
3. Keep on giving them additional value
Rather than thinking of season ticket benefits as a line of diminishing reward (i.e. given up front to spend over the season), why not structure as a dynamic package of benefits that crescendo throughout the season and reaches maximum value post season (ideally just before the start of the next season):
Let the Season Ticket holder earn new benefits through specific behaviours through-out the season – for instance – attend 5 games and open up a new choice benefits.
Discovery – build into the program new benefits that drop the “3rd Thursday each month” (the date is irrelevant but static frequency is). Say the STH can choose 6 benefits then they can hold back 2 of them to wait and see what may drop later in the season.
Sweepstakes – run instant competitions for limited edition events. Each season ticket holder should be able to enter the sweepstakes (one per event) and the lucky few will win access to the limited edition event.
The big drop – run a separate loyalty counter that accumulates through-out the season – this could be based on level of attendance. The winner of this big drop should have a really exclusive reward – “free season ticket for next season”, “fly with team on plane” etc…
4. Content is King
The stock of valuable experiences, be it meeting the player or being in team photo, are by their very nature limited. Therefore dreaming up, adding and managing new STH experiences is often a challenge for such programs. But be creative – if it is authentic then it will have value to the STH.
Any form of content – digital, video, virtual zoom meetings, team sheets, interviews etc… if it is authentic can be added to the STH program. Enlist the help of your content creators (marketing, social media teams). But make sure that the content is only restricted to your STH’s, before it is released to the general fan base. A priority to view an interview (pre-release) is a valuable benefit.
5. Involve STH’s in the process
Sitting under the “power” heading – let the STH’s base have some say in how the program is run. Where possible let the STH have their say in some of the Team decisions – from big decisions on rebranding through to player of the match the choice of benefits etc…A season ticket holder counsel member or forum is also an option.
6. STH’s are your best story tellers
Every single time a STH is wins something, meets someone, has a surprise – make sure that the story is captured and displayed in the STH portal. Percieved value is as important as absolute value. The fact that another STH had a great experience, and I get to see and hear about it, will demonstrate that being a season ticket holder is more than just the tickets. It makes me part of a community. A community I do not want to leave.
7. Discount v Cashback
Most Teams today offer their season ticket holders a general discount at concessions and retail. Although a discount is always welcome, it is rarely a motivator (unless perceived a really substantial). You will not be able to compete with the 50-60% discounts offered on the high street (nor would you want to). So you need to be smarter to capture the attention of STH’s. Try these:
Dynamic discounts – surprise and delight your STH’s by delivering surprise discounts (either personalised based on a fans attendance record, or simply a surprise – “20% extra for a 3 game win record”).
Cashback – as an alternative to discounts think about cashback – rather than a discount you can offer your STH’s a cashback % on the value of the transaction. This cashback sits on the account of the STH and they can utilise the monies to purchase additional items in the stadium, online or in ticketing. This approach has a number of advantages:
You can be more generous – a 10% discount reduces your earnings by 10%. A 10% cashback reduces your earnings by the value of the costs ultimately purchased with the cashback – which is less.
It promotes additional spend – if I have $value in my account then the fan has an active incentive to spend (spend it or lose it). At which time it is highly likely that they will also purchase additional items.
It promotes renewal – at the end of the season it is likely that the fan will have a remaining balance on their cashback account. We have found that even relatively small amounts of balance are enough to incentivise the STH to renew to prevent losing the value.
8. Reward Credit
Some Teams further incentivise renewals with a $ credit on their STH account “$200 credit if you renew”. This $200 is for spend at concessions, retail or in some cases additional tickets. The challenge with Reward Credit is that it is a perceived as a one off benefit. Think about adding a dynamic element to this. Perhaps cashback or special promotions if you use your reward credit to purchase an item.
9. Think Off Season
Most Teams tend to focus on rewarding the fan during the season. The most effective programs however continue to offer real benefits (events, digital content, experiences) through-out the year. Design your reward calender so that the STH has a big win (valued benefit), just before they think of renewing.
10. Partners & Kids
Behind each primary account may sit a further 3 share partners, friends, family or kids. Design the program so that each primary account holder is incentivised to register these additional members. This would be so they can share benefits amongst this grouping or even earn additional benefits as a group. Kids programs represent a distinct subset of fans – but if you can keep the kids engaged you can often keep the parents engaged as well. So include the ability to nominate your kids and build specific rewards for them linked to the season ticket holder account.