If a club is relegated to a lower league you'd expect some fans to stop parting with their hard-earned cash to go and watch ‘their’ team. Which is why newly-promoted Spanish club Levante offered free La Liga season tickets to supporters that attended 85% of home matches after last year's relegation to ensure they didn’t fall through the cracks. Likewise, York City cut matchday admission prices for next season by an average of 30% following their drop into National League North to reward the loyalty of their supporters.

But rewarding and engaging fans should be a prerequisite whether you’re winning or losing on the pitch. And marketers outside of the sports arena could learn much from how the most successful clubs are achieving this.

Fans, like customers, are savvy enough to understand when they are being offered deals simply because they are firefighting – whether that be post-relegation, following a crisis or because a business is simply going through a quiet period. Arguably, however, businesses, just like sports clubs, should be investing in their customers on a consistent basis, even when they are experiencing success.

For example, in order to maximise revenues and capitalise on their promotion to the Premier League this year, Huddersfield Town has taken a long-term view of their fan engagement strategy, rewarding their loyal fans during success. Although the promotion will mean an increase in attractive fixtures, the club has set a reduced season ticket price of £100 (down from £199) for any fan who has been a season ticket holder since 2009.

Of course, they’re not the only ones. Stoke City became the first club in any of England’s top four divisions to offer free away travel to their fans in 2013. Four years on, the total number of supporters to have benefitted from the scheme is more than 45,000.

What can marketers learn?

As with fans, customer satisfaction is the lifeblood of success, and in this consumer-savvy age where every penny of a customer’s disposable income is precious, they are looking for added value. For businesses, as for clubs, it’s all about building deeper connections with customers, and creating a relationship that extends lifetime value for mutual benefit to everyone.

How to achieve this

For marketers, the best way is by rewarding fans and customers. Regardless of where a club is in the league table, or a business in the popularity stakes, reward programmes are more important than ever to assist in creating an emotional bond between you and your customer, through the bad and the good.

Rewarding good behaviour

The best loyalty programmes reward customers for what they're already doing, make redemption easy, and deliver the perks that elevate the customer’s overall experience. There are platforms available which reward users with points based on certain behaviours.

Those valuable points can then be redeemed against the cost of their next purchase with their club be it a season ticket, an extra matchday ticket or even a club shirt.

Fans sign up as a member to their chosen programme for free, and keep their club front of mind when spending away from their sport. Points mount up quickly, giving extra value to fans and driving engagement with their club or sporting venue of choice. To the fan it is a ‘no brainer’.

For clubs, this means they can offer fans a reward programme that is bigger than what they can deliver on their own and that works in the background to engage fans on what they are already doing. It also provides the club with a unique insight into where fans spend their money away from the sport, enabling them to connect their fans to the retailers and brands they are already transacting with.

Holding onto fans

Clubs need their fans just as much as the fans need their teams; particularly as every touchpoint with a fan represents an opportunity to collect the valuable data that can drive further value to the club, fans and sponsors.

Whether they’re scoring big or facing relegation, clubs are looking to reward their most loyal fans, particularly those who greatly contribute to the club’s identity or stadium atmosphere. Similarly, fans do not terminate their relationship with their club at the end of a season so sport clubs should offer possibilities to their fans to attach to the club even during the post-season period to enhance the feeling of “us” between the fans and their teams.

Savvy sports club marketers are highlighting the importance of letting your customers know how important they are, whether you are experiencing success or going through a quiet period. For businesses, it’s about reminding yourself how important happy and engaged customers are when it comes to corporate success.


By Tom Cowgill, co-founder of Rewards4

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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