'Tis the Season of Season Ticket Holders
News We asked the front offices of major sports franchises for an inside look at how they go about creating memories and lasting connections with fans. Here’s what they had to say.
Director of Fan Relations, Seattle Sounders
President, New York Jets
Senior Director, Wrigley Field Event Operations
Marketing Program Manager, San Francisco 49ers
Describe the ideal customer experience you want your fans to enjoy when they attend your game.
Mikaela Purvis: Sounders FC is focused on creating a unique match day experience and considers the creation of these experiences a core part of the brand. There are a number of activities for fans to engage in while at the match that differentiate our match day from other sporting events. Our focus is to ensure fans are aware of these opportunities ahead of their arrival and maximize their time before kickoff.
Neil Glat: We want our fans to walk away with great memories and an unforgettable experience, filled with thrilling moments the minute they drive into the gates with fan activities and tailgating through the end of the game watching their team make incredible plays on the field and celebrating with Jets Nation around them. We theme each game and incorporate fan engagement touchpoints and entertainment in the parking lots, in the plaza, on the concourses and in-bowl, including alumni meet and greets, varied food offerings, kids zone with inflatable rides and giveaways.
Because each game is themed differently, such as First Responders or Fan Appreciation Day, it is a different experience each time a fan joins us. More importantly, we survey our season ticket holders and fans every game to get their feedback and implement as much of it as we can to tailor the experience to what they want. Lastly, we make sure the little things are captured as well, whether it be a first game certificate for a kid or rewarding our season ticket holders with 100 points for their loyalty program when a sack is made. There’s a reason to celebrate the whole day and make it a memorable experience they’ll never forget.
Matt Kenny: Millions of people visit Wrigley Field each year to experience its traditions, like singing the seventh inning stretch with thousands of new friends or waving a W Flag while singing “Go Cubs Go” after a win. We take pride in enhancing that experience by providing exceptional service through our Marquee Moments program—like celebrating a fan’s first visit with a First Timer's Certificate, or delivering a surprise in-seat gift after discovering their special occasion on social media. Our associates are the key to this level of service. Regardless of their role, they’re empowered (and rewarded) to enhance the guest experience.
Tori Willis: At Levi’s Stadium, we aim to provide a complete fan experience from start to finish. Whether it be the ease of accessing tickets and parking through the Levi’s Stadium app or stepping away from technology to sample our craft beer selection on the concourse, we provide a variety of entertainment and amenities for all fans to engage on game days.
How do you keep your season ticket holders excited and engaged during the season so they sign on again next year?
Mikaela Purvis: For the past three seasons, we’ve offered a loyalty program to our season ticket members. The foundation of this program has been providing exclusive experiences on the pitch for fans before, during and after the match. It’s a priority for us to find ways for fans to authentically connect with players on match day and the loyalty program has been a tool to support those efforts. We’ve seen success in the program with fans who redeem the exclusive experiences renewing at a higher rate than fans without those touchpoints.
Ensuring the fan experience from parking, to gate entry, concessions and egress is seamless can be an undervalued function of retention efforts for some, but not at Sounders FC. We spend significant time considering the fan experience from each stage of match day and have added additional staff and service stations to proactively address customer service issues or anticipate needs when we make changes to the experience (i.e. mobile ticketing).
Outside of match day, we host a number of season ticket member specific events with additional opportunities to meet players, coaches and alumni, as well as our fan relations staff. We proactively use data within our CRM to customize offers to fans for events and opportunities that they’ve identified interest in prior to the season starting. When there are opportunities to provide season ticket members a higher level of access, we do it. For example, we’ve invited season ticket members to see the release of new jerseys before they are public, meet newly signed players and to join in chalk-talks with our general manager, coach and owners.
Neil Glat: As an organization, we are always looking to do more for our season ticket holders and elevate their game day experience. Our season ticket holders are at the center of what we do each and every year, and our recent innovations reflect our ongoing focus to ensuring their experiences are extremely positive. We understand our season ticket holders are choosing to experience a game at MetLife Stadium over the alternative—a game at home—which makes it all the more important we continue to offer an unparalleled game day experience.
From the minute our season-ticket holders enter our gates, they’re exposed to plaza activations, scoreboard entertainment, and many other unique stadium experiences.
We are also always seeking to reward them for their loyalty, which is why we introduced Jets Rewards, an exclusive points program that rewards season ticket holders for their ongoing support and passion with the opportunity to get unique prizes and experiences such as dining with Joe Namath.
Tori Willis: Nothing beats the rush of game day at a 49ers home game, sitting alongside 70,000 of one’s fellow football fans in the stands. Season ticket members are encouraged to participate in Faithful 49 presented by Esurance, the 49ers’ loyalty program, and receive yards (the digital currency of the program) for participating in actions that they already do, such as scanning tickets or viewing online content at 49ers.com. Members then can bank yards and turn them into special 49ers experiences, such as a pair of pregame field passes or even a road trip to an away game experience.
Can you describe a successful engagement campaign where fan engagement was at the forefront?
Mikaela Purvis: The previous two seasons, we have activated the “Good Playoff Karma” campaign surrounding our post-season matches. The campaign challenged fans to do good deeds in order to earn karma and to help the team perform at their best in the playoffs. We were able to integrate our corporate partners, community partners and fans around the city through events (such as donating scarves or adopting puppies) and by sharing their own good deed efforts on social media.
As part of our overall brand, Democracy in Sports is also representative of fan engagement being at the forefront of our priorities. Season ticket members, as part of the Alliance, have the ability to join the Alliance Council, which provides members a voice in the overall direction of the organization in areas such as the retention of the Club’s General Manager every four years, the right to decide on two of the club’s charitable partners, the ability to advise on matters regarding match day experience, and the right to decide on matters that affect fan experience. Ownership and front office leadership regularly meet with Alliance Council to understand the voice of the fans.
Neil Glat: Jets Rewards, an innovative digital ticketing solution and rewards program, was created exclusively for Jets Season Ticket Holders. Initially rolled out in 2014, it is a program designed to recognize fans and reward them for their ongoing loyalty. By earning and redeeming Jets Rewards points, fans have the opportunity to fly on the team charter to Jets away games, have dinner with Jets Legends, acquire autographed memorabilia and collectibles and much more.
Jets Rewards cards also allow a faster and more convenient stadium entry experience. Additionally, with the launch of Jets Cash last season, the program helps users save time and earn cash back when making purchases at Jets games. With each season, we have added new prizes and experiences and value fan feedback.
Tori Willis: This year we are honoring our 70th anniversary season of the 49ers, and the campaign “Faithful since ‘46” has been a hit with our fans. We interview fans of all ages and walks of life to tell us how long they’ve been faithful and what inspired them to follow the 49ers. There are some great interview clips in the queue and we are excited to see how fans respond over the course of the season.
What outreach avenues connect with the average attendee at games and turn them into fans, season ticket holders and club members?
Mikaela Purvis: This season, we sent our mini-pack buyers a direct mail piece and custom email communication ahead of match day highlighting the key experiences they needed to see and experience ahead of the match. We’ll continue to implement efforts such as these to amplify the unique aspects of Sounders FC match day, the key reasons we believe fans will return as repeat purchasers. As we ramp up our CRM and data warehouse solutions, we’ll focus on the fan lifecycle, key touchpoints and customizing communications for fans via their preferred channels.
In addition to our targeted direct mail and email campaigns to onboard new buyers into Sounders FC fan experience culture we heavily activate around the city of Seattle to bring players to fans growing our reach to a more casual fan base. Initiatives like our Pride Night differentiate our brand and provide an important contribution to our community.
Neil Glat: We are consistently looking to connect with Jets fans, at the stadium on game day, at other Jets events throughout the entire calendar year and through our media platforms (especially social). When you enter the stadium on game day, the plaza is full of activations for fans of all ages. Our partners create unique activations that include food and drink tastings, virtual reality experiences, bands and giveaways. Jets Fest, an interactive theme park for kids, offers rides, skills challenges, face painters and a DJ is available for the younger fans.
We have events both in season and throughout the off-season that allow fans to see the team up close. Events like Town Hall, Movie Night at MetLife Stadium, Taste of the Jets, Draft parties and our expanded Training Camp provide a variety of ways to meet your favorite current player or Jets Legend, talk to front office personnel, take your picture with the Flight Crew Cheerleaders and hang out with other Jets fans.
We also try to make sure fans are always connected to the team through television programs on CBS and SNY, radio programs on ESPN 98.7, and our own digital and social channels.
Tori Willis: When a fan walks into Levi’s Stadium, we want them to feel as valued and special as the fan next to them. Whether it’s exemplary guest service, a variety of food and beverage items, or a unique tailgate experience with family, there are so many factors that contribute to a positive game day experience. It’s up to us to ensure each fan receives their tailored experience and our hope that we instill the love of 49ers football in all who walk through our gates.
Matt Kenny: Whether it’s a fan’s first time to Wrigley Field or a season ticket holder who has been coming to our ballpark for years, we’re always looking to deliver a memorable experience for our fans through best-in-class customer service and improved facilities. We’ve made tremendous strides on this front through our long-awaited restoration and expansion of Wrigley Field, known as the 1060 Project. This undertaking includes expanded concessions, new and improved restroom facilities, two video boards with compelling content, upcoming premier clubs and more. We have proudly maintained the traditions that make Wrigley Field special while adding modern comforts and amenities.