Game on: Sports fan data a new frontier
Can sports clubs turn local and global fan loyalty into an everyday commercial opportunity through spending data in stadiums?
If clubs can properly leverage tech-enabled loyalty programmes, the benefits to sponsors could be immense; while also expanding fans’ interaction with their clubs from match day, to their day-to-day lives.
- English Premier League club Aston Villa is combining season tickets with a fan loyalty programme through an RFID-enabled (radio-frequency identification) card in partnership with fan engagement platform Fortress and UK bank, Barclays.
- Through the RFID technology, clubs like Aston Villa will gain access to fans’ spending data, opening up new commercial opportunities that inform match-day experiences and value to sponsors.
- The card will be usable in stadium at games, and everyday purchases outside of the stadium that earn points to reward loyalty, such as club shop discounts, early releases of replica kits, match-day experiences and digital rewards.
- It moves fans’ relationship with the club from match day to everyday, opening up new revenue streams with partners and retailers, and appealing to local and international fanbases.
- Other Premier League clubs and Premier rugby club Harlequins are also in talks with Fortress to offer the loyalty scheme to their fans.
While sports clubs’ revenue has shifted over the years from a heavy reliance on stadium attendance, to broadcasting rights, commercial revenue from fans remains an untapped opportunity.
Currently, clubs’ access to fan data is basic. Member data includes name, address, date of birth, sometimes where they sit within the stadium (unless clubs have general admission) and website behaviour, if the fan has logged in. Data from infrequent fans who purchase tickets via a ticketing agent is lost to a third party. Macro trends and the performance of the sport and club are reliant on data and research from the sports’ respective governing bodies. Even though the clubs have the relationship and experience with the fans on match days, it still surprises me how little clubs know about their fans and their behaviours.
As a sports fan, I have seen the transition from paper passbook ticket, towards an electronic card – although these cards have either been focused on members and engaged match day fans only. Broadening its use and partnering with a bank to include everyday transactions away from the stadium enables fans to earn reward points, while helping their favourite club.
In turn, the spending data about fans can be utilised by clubs to find out more about them and incentivise them to spend in stadium or the club shop, create more personalised experiences, and conceive a different proposition with sponsors that can prove fan ROI.
We know that data is transforming marketing, and allowing clients and brands to better understand their customer. But the gap at times for most marketers is in what they do with it. The data that sports clubs could access through the technology in this loyalty card will create commercial independence from the codes and ticket agents, prove the supporter value to the club, and illustrate the spending power of their fans to brands.