The Extra Point: Loyalty Lessons in Sports & Hospitality

Face paint, body paint, giant foam fingers, giant foam “cheese” hats, temporary tattoos, real tattoos – dedicated sports fan know no limit when it comes to showing their love and dedication to their team.

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Then why are some of the most-loved sports teams rolling out loyalty programs? Savvy teams, like savvy hoteliers, know that a loyalty program is about so much more than butts-in-seats and heads-in-beds. Teams are taking the lead from proven loyalty models to give their fans more than just points.

A well-designed loyalty program provides flexibility to do so much more than keep people coming back through the revolving door or ticket turnstile. You can reward specific behaviors, change spending habits, and create evangelists. It’s a win-win, because fans are getting closer to their teams than ever before.

Encouraging Little Changes for Big Results

Lately, it’s been tough to be a New York Jets fan. After a few years of losing seasons, it would be understandable to see a dip in fan support. However, with Jets Rewards, fans have an added incentive to keep coming back. As one of the more elaborate programs in professional sports, season ticket holders aren’t just awarded for attending games, they get extra points for arriving before kickoff. When fan noise (ostensibly) contributes to defensive success, fans are awarded handsomely. With this program, fans get to the game on time (which increases concession sales) and get loud when the time is right (which increases the likelihood of a victory).

In the hospitality world, Stash partner hotels use points in a similar way to shift and reward behaviors. For example, housekeeping is a huge expense and something some guests don’t require every single day of their stay. At some Stash hotels, guests are offered 100 bonus points for each day they pass on housekeeping. The hotel is cutting costs and travelers are happy to be getting RushHourrewarded. (Plus, mother-nature is pumped about the water savings!)

Similarly, elevator upgrades can be a huge area of guest dissatisfaction. In early 2014, Magnolia Hotel Dallas wanted to be proactive as their lifts got high-speed upgrades. The hotel created signage alerting guests when to expect a slow-down, and offered a bonus to offset the inconvenience. Either a drink voucher or 500 Stash points. Points were a big hit among guests and generated more understanding during a tricky time.

Reward Spend Behavior

Think you are the "#1 Fan"? Prove it with points.
Think you are the “#1 Fan”? Prove it with points.

A different Jets team, the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL, also has a loyalty program even though they already have a waitlist for season tickets. One of the many ways they use their program is to save costs. Season ticket holders get up to 3,000 Jets Points when they pay for their tickets in full, on time. And, if they pay via a check (or “cheque” for Canadians) the Jets Points double. Why? Fees. The team, like all vendors, has to pay roughly 1.5% of every credit card swipe to MasterCard or Visa. A mid-range season ticket cost $4,677, of which $70 goes to Visa or MasterCard. When you multiply it by the 13,000+ season tickets sold, it’s a serious cost. One the team can avoid by incenting their fans to pay with check. Hence, double points for checks.

That’s a classic move in hospitality space. There’s a reason that loyalty programs don’t award points on bookings through online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia or Travelocity – hefty commissions. Hotels have to pay the OTAs 20-30% of every booking through the site – ouch! Loyalty programs, like Stash, only award points to travelers who book through lower-cost direct channels. (More on that, here)

Score More Points with Social

Many pro-sports programs give points and perks to their fans for engaging on social media. Instagram photos, tweets, follow and more can earn ticketholders points all year round. This fosters a deeper connection and a broader reach. It give fans another way to participate and be recognized for their support.

Many hoteliers also award points for social sharing. Using services like Flip.to, hotels like The Verb in Boston and AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center give an additional 500 points to travelers who book through their website, and then share their interaction through social channels.

AT&T

VerbIn addition, Stash happily gives award points to members who invite more members into Stash through our Invite Friends program.

Awards

What good are points if you can’t redeem them for something special? This is where the pros hit it out of the park. You don’t want to redeem your points for yet another ticket sitting in the same seat you’ve been sitting in all season. You want an awesome experience. Here, the opportunities are endless: locker room tours, honorary team captain, replica championship rings, game balls, meet & greets and more.

With the chain programs, you earn all your points in a standard queen room, and you redeem them for the exact same room. Maybe in a different city, and maybe you get a king bed, but the experience is still the same.

With Stash, you get to use your points at hotels that are an experience on their own. Earn your points on business in Boston? Use them in a cabin in Kennebunkport, or a suite on your next ski-trip, or a 6-room B&B in Atlanta. Or heck, go all out and book a room for the next Super Bowl.

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