RTAs the next big thing for 2022

The world of marketing and technology love their initialisms – in 2021 we saw the rise of NFC, VAR and NFT’s. So here is one for 2022 – RTAs – shorthand for Real Time Activations. This article looks at RTAs, what are they? and how Sports Teams can use them to transform their fan experience and engagement?


Let’s start with a story:

A colleague of mine was recently flying from Orlando to Houston on United. He has been flying United for many years and has accumulated a top tier status in their Mileage Plus Frequent Flyer Program. On this flight, he was approached by the Captain (no less) and personally welcomed on board. The Captain, him his business card with the passing comment, “that if he ever needed anything then just ask”. On landing in Houston, my colleague was first-off the plane, checked his messages and realised that his meeting was no longer in Houston but Austin (some 4 hours driving). The background to why this happened is not important, but what happened next is. My colleague sat down by the Gate and started to look at alternative flights. The plane emptied and finally the said Captain disembarked. Seeing my colleague still sitting at the Gate, he enquired was there a problem? On hearing his story, the Captain promptly asked my colleague to follow him. He marched him straight up to the nearest United Customer Service Desk and instructed the operator to place my colleague on the next available flight to Austin – “Free of Charge”, courtesy of United Airlines.


This is a perfect example of RTA or “real-time activation”. United (represented by the Captain), recognised my colleague, realised that his data afforded him status, understood how they could add meaningful value to that customer at that moment, and delivered him a benefit – all in real time. For his part, my colleague will dine out on that story for many months and United boosted their customer experience and future revenue potential by activating a benefit in real time.


Real-Time Activations are really powerful because they hit at the very heart of what motivates people. In my other articles in this series on Loyalty Marketing I have often focused on the SAPS concept (Status, Access, Power and Stuff). If you want to truly drive real behavioural change in your fan base then deliver rewards that trigger a sense of status and power, and focus them on providing access to items in short supply.


The ability to deliver this in real-time adds considerable weight to the experience – not only does the customer feel that the benefit is personalised to them. But immediacy provides a sense of authenticity and is deemed way more desirable than some future benefit.


10 Examples of RTAs’ ideas in action:


  1. A fan scans their ticket to access the stadium – the program recognises that they have arrived and pings them a message – “Tim (personalised) we notice that you have attended 5 games in a row (trigger), as such we have been placed on the priority list (access) for the play-off game v Team Y. Log-in to your account (call to action) within 24hrs (FOMO) to purchase your seat for this high demand game.

  2. “Jane (personalised) welcome to the game today, the temperature is dropping fast so we are offering our most loyal members (status) a free hot chocolate. Simply scan your digital member card at the concession (call to action) to keep warm whilst stocks last (FOMO).”

  3. “Andrew (personalised) renew your season ticket today and get first pick (access) of the benefits you would like add to your account this season. From experiences to live events – make your choice (call to action).”

  4. “Thanks for downloading the Team app – welcome to the community. You have been enrolled in the X membership program (real time) and start collecting our unique collection of NFT’s available exclusively to members (status). Here is the first one (immediacy), and you can earn more by ……”

  5. “Watch our game on [broadcast channel] and earn a limited game badge simply by entering your unique game code. Collect badges and we’ll give you surprise rewards and even priority access to purchase a ticket”

  6. “A free beer voucher for all members in Block C – if the NFL Next Gen Stats shows an Average Completed Air Yards of greater than X in this quarter… sponsored by [Beer Sponsor]”

  7. “Spend $ 30 on Uber Eats this weekend and we’ll double your loyalty points earned in this week”

  8. “Welcome to the 10-year Tenure Club – you have been a member for 10 years straight. This is an elite group of fans. As a thank you here is your limited-edition Jersey – wear it with pride”

  9. “Game Deal – order a pizza from [partner pizza shop] during the Game and get 100 points and 15% discount”

  10. “Riley your have 10,820 member points – did you know that you can now use these points in Starbucks – convert to Starbucks points today”


These are just a few examples of RTAs in action They are powerful motivators. Being creative is important but unlike the story above, delivering RTAs at scale requires some very very joined up technology.


Unique Customer iD – to know Fan A is doing something in real time requires Fan A to be registered with you. This is where the concept of membership comes in. The Fan opts into the program as part of his/her/their support for the Team and to access the benefits of demonstrating this loyalty. Membership is all about the Unique Customer ID, a unique customer reference that is the token by which you can link an action to a specific fan. Today this token can be delivered in multiple forms – but typically in this mobile centric world it is a digital member card integrated into your mobile app or added to mobile wallet.


Federated - this unique iD needs to be recognised across all points of interaction and engagement. In stadium - this means integrated within ticketing, access, concessions, retail, parking etc... For more advanced RTA programs you will also need to integrate digital and commercial touchpoints into the data architecture – including your sponsors and commercial partners. Here we are not talking about simple data files – you need live API feeds that not only capture interactions in real time but that can trigger specific actions in response. This, of course, is where the Fortress system really comes into its own.


Campaign management - in the background you need a campaign engine (a core application in the Fortress platform). This will enable you to build RTAs based on specific customer segments, trigger actions and set specific reward outcomes. You can also build live notifications (mobile) as well as personalised communications based on the specific fan and RTA.


Analytics Platform – The real time interactive nature of RTAs allows teams to try things out. Run a limited activation to see how a small segment of your customer base respond. If the response rate is good, then widen the audience. You will want to monitor the activation rates in real-time and iterate the campaign to optimize engagement.


So why are RTAs so important?

The power of RTAs is that they enable teams to focus, target and optimise specific behavioural and business objectives. Membership and loyalty are generally seen as mid/long term engagement activities. RTAs are much more dynamic and are designed to nudge specific behaviours and work alongside your wider loyalty marketing objectives. Simply ask yourselves (and tell us) what would you like to achieve today and we can tell you how RTAs can help.


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