It’s no secret that sports would be nothing without the fans that fill up stadium seats, scream anthems from the stands, and also buy club merchandise. Fan loyalty and engagement also remain the cornerstones of success for sports clubs. Yet sports clubs are often victims of their own success and can be guilty of taking fans for granted.
If you’re worried that your club isn’t doing enough to keep fans satisfied, you’re in the right place. This blog will discuss several proven techniques that sports clubs can use to boost profits, drive fan engagement, and reward fans for their loyalty.
- Study fan habits and preferences
- Create fan communities
- Leverage technology
However, before we dive into the deep end and discuss the techniques that sports clubs can use to drive fan loyalty, let’s really dissect what the term means.
What is Fan Loyalty?
The term "fan loyalty" describes a certain type of sports fan that is defined by a deep devotion to and identification with one sports team. A devoted fan, in contrast to a "fair-weather" fan, is not solely motivated by the team's success or performances.
Sports executives now see fan loyalty as a key factor that can be managed to boost profits and sustain a reputable brand. With the correct strategies in place, sports organisations can capitalise on new revenue sources and the enhanced potential to recruit sponsors thanks to the globalisation of sports teams and ever-increasing international fan bases.
The Current State of Loyalty for Sports Clubs
Sports fans are arguably the most loyal customers anyone could hope for. Most fans are notorious devotees of their favourite teams and will often remain supporters throughout their lives. They put countless hours, money, and effort into supporting their teams. Many non-sports businesses would kill to have the kind of fan loyalty and engagement that sports organisations have.
Yet sports clubs and teams often get away with doing the bare minimum when it comes to marketing. They often rely on the passion and sense of attachment supporters have for the club to keep the lights on, and that works most of the time. However, times are changing, and sports clubs must respond by doing more to secure fan loyalty.
Several challenges/opportunities underline the need to address shifting fan loyalty.
Fan behaviour continues to evolve, and new variables are emerging that sports clubs must keep track of. In the UK, for instance:
46% of fans aged 16 to 24 support more than one team, and 27% of those fans support three teams or more.
Sports teams can no longer afford to be flippant about their marketing efforts. The competition is heating up as fans become more open to sharing their affection with more than one sports team.
So, while success on the pitch is important, clubs and teams must also pay attention to the financial potential of fan loyalty. Successful sports clubs in both amateur and professional leagues have learned to leverage the passion of their supporters to drive revenue. They do this by constantly exploring opportunities to engage their supporters, start conversations, and provide additional value that contributes to the overall sports experience.
This proactive approach helps sports clubs increase the lifetime value of each sports fan beyond gameday purchases alone. Loyal fans don’t just buy tickets and club memorabilia; they also do the crucial job of spreading team news and infecting their social circles with their passion for the game. These word-of-mouth referrals remain one of the most effective forms of marketing.
92% of consumers trust recommendations made by friends and family over other types of marketing.
Expanding international fan bases
Technology is changing the narrative for sports clubs across the globe as they re-invent themselves to reach new audiences. It’s forcing sports clubs to reevaluate their approach toward cultivating loyalty. UK sports fans themselves now have a glut of options when it comes to not just teams, but also sports, to support and how they can engage with them.
Both the NBA and NFL are quickly gaining popularity in the UK. London has played host to several sold-out NFL games, a nationwide league has been set up by the British American Football Association, and more Brits have been betting on NFL games in the past decade. NFL betting in the UK has risen over 40%, demonstrating the growing interest in the sport.
A survey of over 2,000 UK sports fans recorded 94% of respondents saying they had knowledge of NFL games hosted in the UK, with 49% for MLB (major league baseball), and 54% for NBA games. When asked to indicate the likelihood of watching live games in these leagues, 43% expressed interest in NFL games, with the NBA and MLB receiving 21% and 23%, respectively.
Coupled with the resurgence of netball and The Hundred franchise, it’s clear to see how competitive the market has become. Different sports are clamouring for a place in the minds, hearts, and budgets of sports fans. Consider the growth of eSports, which brings the action to the fans. Imagine the prospect of never having to step out of the house to enjoy or engage with the sport you love. All this points towards sports clubs needing to do more to incentivise and reward fans for sticking around.
Reward Programmes Provide a Revenue-Building Opportunity for Sports Clubs
To an extent, sports clubs have successfully run traditional fan loyalty programmes and managed to influence fan engagement and even generate additional revenue from their members. Most clubs doing this will offer some form of loyalty-based points system for access to limited tickets.
But can you really afford to keep fans waiting for rewards?
With competition from local and international teams, sports fans now have several options vying for their attention. So, what other deals are they getting from other teams while they wait to earn enough points for a VIP ticket? It’s easy to see how such fans can have their heads turned with the right offer and have their engagement fall off. Losing fans means letting the revenue they would otherwise generate walk out the door.
Why are instant rewards important?
There is simply no replacing instant gratification in this situation. The modern consumer responds to convenience and timely service. Satisfy this need by offering instant partner brand offers, deals, and discounts to customers with their purchases.
Not only does it create a unique value proposition, but it also gives fans extra value for every pound they spend. This presents a revenue-building opportunity for you to partner with brands and businesses to give fans relevant rewards for their loyalty. These rewards need to address your fans’ pain points to deliver value where it’s most needed. It goes beyond simply bundling sponsor merchandise with tickets.
Delivering real value means understanding what your fans need—often before they even know it. Predictive analysis of fan behaviour will help you provide hyper-targeted, personalised rewards that fans can look forward to with each purchase. This allows you to create memorable experiences and form meaningful relationships with your supporters, giving them another reason to stick around.
Examples of instant rewards for sports fans
Hotel discounts for away games
One effective way to reward sports fans for their loyalty is to offer discounts at local hotels for away games. Fans often have to travel long distances to attend away games, and it can be challenging to find the right accommodation. Partnering with local hotels close to the game venue and offering discounted accommodation when fans purchase game day tickets will boost ticket sales and generate more revenue.
Also important is the psychological effect that this reward has on the fans. It creates a sense of belonging in the minds of your supporters and shows them that you’re committed to delivering real value. Leaving lasting impressions is crucial for securing fan loyalty for years to come.
Discount stadium tours
Sports fans always relish the chance to walk the hallowed walkways and retrace the steps of their heroes in the stadiums they’ve come to love and even call "home." A discounted stadium tour is an excellent way to ingrain the long-standing affection that fans already have for the club.
Offering special prizes regularly to reward members is another effective strategy. Prizes could be anything from pitch-side seats to signed jerseys. This gives fans a reason to engage with your loyalty programme and reminds them that they are more than just wallets with legs.
Club shop discounts
Offering instant discounts on club shop purchases will motivate fans to spend more and contribute to gaining their trust. It’s also a great way to get fans interested in the merchandise you sell in the shops. It could be discounts on player shirts and club memorabilia or at food and beverage stands.
Free tickets for kids
The love of the game is often passed down through generations, so why not give your fans the opportunity to continue that tradition? Free junior tickets give families the opportunity to make a day of it and enjoy the game together. It also helps lay early foundations among young fans, which will yield dividends in the future.
Partner and sponsor discounts
Deals on fitness devices and accessories, as well as sportswear and gameday fashion, are sure to get fans’ attention. The good news is that these businesses have customer bases with similar interests as sports fans. Indeed, many of them are already sports fans. You would be giving them an opportunity to save on products they actually need from some of their favourite brands.
3 Must-have Features for Your Fan Rewards Programme
Study fan habits and preferences
Your rewards programme should be informed by customer data that highlights their habits and preferences. Offer unique benefits that add real value and enhance the fan experience. Give them access to exclusive content and fan events that get them closer to their team and favourite players. Providing rewards with an element of exclusivity and personalisation encourages fans to join your rewards programme.
A one-size-fits-all approach will not accommodate everyone’s needs. Some fans, for instance, might never get the opportunity to visit the stadium, so on-site offerings might be redundant. Tailoring rewards to match their needs and behaviour should be your top priority.
Create fan communities
Technology continues to open up new channels to create engaging fan communities beyond official club channels. These virtual communities have grown in popularity and have since become a proven technique for driving fan loyalty and engagement, particularly on social media.
Communication in these communities adds value to the average fan’s experience with the club and helps provide valuable data for tailoring the offers you provide to them. This often means fans spend more time engaging with the brand—even outside stadium grounds, attending pre-match events, and spending more on club merchandise.
Speaking of technology…
Sports clubs should invest in technologies that allow fans to engage with the club in new, creative ways. This could be with gamified products, exclusive experiences, or streaming products that reward their loyalty with additional benefits.
Blockchain technology has emerged as a viable approach that can boost fan engagement. Offering fans digital tokens not only rewards them but also drives engagement and establishes a sense of community among fans.
Enhance the fan experience and strengthen your relationship with your fans by leveraging technology to provide new experiences and offer unique rewards that have real value.
Launch Your Rewards Programme Today
Over 90% of businesses use a loyalty programme to keep customers coming back and spending money. The sports industry has been slow to adopt this technique. Over two-thirds of sports businesses with a sizeable social fan base don’t have a loyalty programme.
Sports clubs guilty of this miss the opportunity to use fan behaviour data to better understand their audience and serve their needs. To increase the income generated from direct sales of club merchandise and services, clubs need marketing strategies like reward programmes that capitalise on the value of intrinsic fan loyalty and actively engage and inspire supporters.
More data from fans means more sponsorship opportunities, which in turn increase indirect revenue. Creating a rewards programme will open new pathways to connect with and engage fans while simultaneously increasing revenue growth.
Launch your rewards programme with Propello to give fans the value they deserve and drive revenue for your business.