To boost fan engagement, a number of college athletic departments have rolled out fan loyalty programs in which fans can earn points and redeem them for free rewards, discounts and exclusive experiences directly within their teams’ mobile apps.
The most successful loyalty programs are more than just a prize grab, though: Integrating loyalty points gets fans interacting in new ways with your team, makes them more aware of events they may enjoy but not typically be exposed to and creates a digital trail of personalized interactions that bring value to both your athletic department and your fans.
Here are some starting points to consider when launching a fan loyalty program.
Capitalize on the enthusiasm of fans who are already in your venues (and create enthusiasm for those who aren’t) by starting your loyalty program at the source: game day. Tying in-person attendance to a points system helps fill the stands and drives greater visibility for numerous intercollegiate teams at your school.
To increase participation, you could also sync these behaviors with well-timed push notifications through your app to remind your fans of ways that they can earn points at specific moments or locations.
The overarching goal of your fan loyalty program may be to improve event attendance, but incentivizing micro-interactions also builds ongoing fan engagement. Rewarding fans for simple online activity is a low-cost method for reaching your fans on platforms where they are already active and for boosting your school’s brand.
Creating attainable rewards that your fans can earn after just a few interactions is key to building fan retention in your app’s loyalty program. Offer small prizes that are simple to redeem, such a coupons, concessions deals, free game day t-shirts and other low-cost merchandise items. You can then build on these prizes with top-tier incentives that require a wider range of participation and points.
Personalize rewards that are unique to your campus and school’s fanbase, and get your sponsors, boosters and campus partners involved to create high-value packages or prizes your fans can’t get anywhere else.
When setting up a loyalty program, knowing your fan profiles will ultimately help you create the most appealing combination of incentives for different types of fans. Consider which kinds of experiences would motivate your student body and how that may differ from incentives that would interest your alumni network, for example.
Don’t forget about fans who don’t or can’t attend games in person because they live out of state or have other constraints. For these fan, highlight elements of your fan loyalty program that aren’t location-dependent, like apparel and common discounts or freebies from digital retailers.
Fan loyalty programs for college sports do more than just put faces in the crowd on game day. Create a vested, long-term relationship with your fans by really getting to know your fan base and reward them with a points system built closely around their preferences and behaviors.