Loyalty and Sports are very comfortable bedfellows. Right now across the globe, there are fans cheering - and fans sobbing - in (socially distanced) stadiums, bars, and cafes. Fans screaming at referees, swearing at their opposing team, and celebrating the magic of their home side in front of TV screens and mobile devices.
The term “die-hard fan” exists for a reason.
And, if there is one universal truth about any sport it is that there are fewer pains and agonies than being a life-long fan of Team X. Just ask any Boston Red Sox, Toronto Maple Leaf, Buffalo Bills or Manchester United fans.
Loyalty runs deep in sports.
And it runs deep in the business of sports. And within the undisputed heavy-weight champion of sports business – The National Football League – loyalty is taking on a new dimension.
Particularly in these troubling times where Covid is taking a real bite out of the live stadium experience.
The fabled New York Jets decided to up their game this season, launching a completely revamped Jets Rewards program just before the season opened. The modernized program played a key role in enhancing Jets Season Ticket Holders' relationship and experience with the team and was designed to give the most loyal Jets fans several ways to score big. They now benefit from a simplified point earning structure, earn Jets Rewards points by spending with the team on qualified purchases and by attending Jets home games at MetLife Stadium. There is also a greater variety of redemption options, including being able to convert Jets Rewards points for JetsShop.com gift cards or Jets Rewards Cash – which can be used for food, beverage, or merchandise at Jets home games.
"We are always looking for ways to enhance the subscription benefits for our Season Tickets Holders," said Tim Kemp, Vice President of Marketing. "Using best-in-class technology, along with data insights from previous years of the program, we are re-launching Jets Rewards with a greater emphasis on the user experience along with redemption opportunities that you can't get anywhere else." Kemp added, "this program has become critical to our business, as it allows us to better understand fan behavior – which ultimately helps us create a more personalized experience."
Season Ticket Holders receive a free Jets Rewards Cash bonus to begin the season and can link a payment method to their account to earn points on qualified purchases. This comes at an especially important time as MetLife Stadium, like many others across the league, moved to a cash-free operation this season.
Mature loyalty program practitioners are always looking for ways to elegantly take friction out of the customer experience and to remove operational complexity from their own systems. It’s a Holy Grail if you can achieve both.
The most recent NFL loyalty announcement came from the Houston Texans. As part of Fan Appreciation Week in early January, the Texans’ operation redefined season ticket membership. According to Texans’ president Greg Grissom, the club is seeking to offer flexibility and savings in 2022. “We are always looking for ways to evolve to do what is best for our Season Ticket Members,” Grissom said in a statement from the team. “Together, our conversations led us to redefine what it means to be a part of the Texans family by offering new savings, more flexibility and better benefits. In 2022, Season Ticket Members will experience first-time renewal incentives, exclusive benefits and year-long rewards to express our gratitude for their loyalty.”
According to the Texans, the redefined membership will have reduced pricing on 2022 and 2023 season tickets based on Season Ticket Member tenure when a member renews early. Members will also have flexibility with renewal deadlines and payment plan options. They can swap tickets between games and will also have exclusive discounts on concessions on game day and on merchandise at the Texans’ team shop. One of the biggest perks is exclusive access to the team through special events.
Sports teams and franchise owners may have the luxury of rabid, die-hard fans who will support their team regardless of how poorly they do or how far they fall in the tables. But even they recognize that assuming a fan will continue to attend games – and regularly open their wallet – is never something they should take for granted.
With Covid wreaking havoc with live experiences, lucrative TV deals under pressure as viewership splinters and fragments, and a proliferation of different entertainment options from the explosion of e-Sports to more AR/VR options, no businessperson in sports can afford to rest on their laurels. No matter how many championship flags hang from the rafters of their stadiums.
The astute ones are constantly looking to increase the benefits loyal fans receive and tying those benefits to robust business calculations around life-time-value, churn, and acquisition. With the volumes of data these fan groups generate, developing insightful and deeply rewarding loyalty programs becomes even more feasible - and more lucrative.
For franchise owners, loyalty programs really are a killer offense and a killer defense right now.
By the way, put Hilton down for the Bills to hoist Vince’s trophy in Super Bowl 56!! Put me down for the Raiders!