When I tell people in Sports that I specialise in “sports loyalty programs” – way too often the response from Sports executives is – “we tried that back in the 90’s”, “I don’t like points programs” or “that’s nice but we don’t have the people or the budget for it”. Whilst all these responses are no doubt based on the execs experience and firm belief, they all to some extent missing the point.
A fan facing program (let's drop the loyalty heading for a second) is, I assert, not just a “nice to have” but a “must-have” for any Sports properties today. This article explores this thesis and explains why sports teams need to re: think their engagement strategy.
If there is one thing that we can universally agree on it is that your base of avid or casual supporters is an asset of your Team. As such, if you maintain a robust database of these fans then you have not only created an asset for the organization and partners, but you can monetize the data as well.
If data is the cake – engagement is the icing.
The objective of any engagement program (call it loyalty, membership, fan club) is therefore primarily to grow this marketing database – something I call “Fan Discovery”. More specifically we aim to build first-party data i.e. data that the Team collects directly from the fan or from systems that they interact directly with (ticketing, attendance, concessions, merchandise, broadcast, social, e-sports).
You want a richer database on each fan how and where they engage in the venue and at a distance. Your CDP (customer data platform) needs to assign a unique ID to each fan (ideally at the point of discovery) and to ensure that this UID is federated across all touchpoints in your eco-system. This means that all data surfaced by your CDP is correctly attributed to a fan. Nice to say, more complex to achieve – but today CDP’s (like the system Fortress delivers) have built 100’s of integrations to ensure that first-party data capture is robust and that you can increase the value of this data across all touchpoints on the customer journey.
Database and Engagement go hand-in-hand.
Greater engagement is the desired outcome of data capture. Using this data you want to increase levels of engagement in the venue and at a distance, create new ways for your fans to engage. Enable new ways for sponsors and commercial partners to interact directly with the fans. The outcome of this increased engagement is increased monetization across your core revenue streams and opening up new, as yet, untapped streams.
Personalised marketing is about driving behaviours
A loyalty program is the layer of personalised marketing that converts customer data to customer actions. Using a platform such as ours you can generate physical and digital experiences that are personalised for the fan, based on their profile, level of engagement, and desired activity you want to promote.
The toolkit is sophisticated and extensive – points, tiers, badges, challenges, rewards – experiences, content and general stuff, fast track services, discounts, SKU based promotions, cashback promotions, live notifications, gamification, contests, sweepstakes etc... All of these are levers that you can pull to motivate the fan to undertake the desired action at the desired moment.
Whether your objective is to get the fan to renew a season ticket, attend a game, buy another ticket, spend more in the venue, spend more with sponsors, purchase more from your online store, participate in fantasy sports, spend with your betting partner, connect to your streaming OTT service, upload content to your social platforms – all start with the application of real-time activations driven by our CDP.
Which lever do I pull?
This all depends on the desired objective – the good news is that we can work with you to optimize the design of your program. We have lots of customer success stories, a team experienced in program management, a data analytics team and, of course, the team supporting the technology.
The key to running a successful program is that the levers need to be adjusted based on the data coming into the system. We can switch on auto-pilot to automate much of the delivery – but we do need to continually check and adjust the levers frequently to ensure that we hit the targets and objectives established for the programs at the start of the cycle.
Whether you market these initiatives as a “loyalty program”, “membership program” or just a plain simple “fan engagement program” (and we can help with this too) – they need to represent an authentic attempt by the Sports Team to get closer to their fan base and in doing so to maximise the value of first-party data.