Loyal fans require loyalty programs. Simple as that. Sport fans, too, deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their devotion. Today, we will look closer at top 10 loyalty programs for sports clubs. Below you will find the best examples and what makes them so unique.
Overview of loyalty programs in sports
As we can all agree, sports clubs gather a tremendous amount of loyal fans and there’s a market to monetize and reward their engagement.
Loyalty programs for sports clubs are nothing new; some of the examples listed below are almost 10 years old now. But there are some new innovations that can be implemented, such as Blockchain or NFTs (see Socios and Top Shot). You can use mobile phones and push notifications to create on-demand experiences by including gamification.
If sports fans are already devoted to the team, why bother enrolling them in loyalty programs? There are several benefits of such solutions:
- Creating an even more loyal group of fans that will encourage their friends and family to follow the sports club.
- Sports teams can earn more money for continued growth, by selling exclusive apparel, memorabilia with autographs, or VIP tickets.
- Improving communication with members by push notifications, e-mails, and other media.
- Retaining customers, or in this case, fans by rewarding them for their engagement and thus boosting the revenue.
- Gaining relevant followers data to improve the line of work.
As you can see, there are quite a few benefits of pursuing loyalty programs for sports clubs. To get inspired, here’s our list of the most popular and successful examples.
Top 10 sports clubs loyalty programs
Let’s jump right into our subjective selection of best loyalty programs for sports clubs. Below you will find thoroughly chosen sports clubs that are not only among the most popular loyalty programs, but also are distinguished by their quality and professionalism.
Here are our favorite picks:
Socios is one of the biggest contractors of loyalty programs to football clubs in Europe.
The Socios app allows its members to have a real influence on decisions made within their favorite football clubs. For example, Juventus fans could choose the design of the official tour bus thanks to Socios.com.
The members use Blockchain-based tokens to influence decisions within their football club of choice. The more users interact with Socios, the more benefits they might get. The program includes rewards for the most active users, for example VIP tickets, exclusive discounts, and special fan badges.
How does it work? After downloading the app and creating an account, the user is asked to top up the digital wallet with Socios' own currency - $CHZ (Chiliz). This can be done using Visa, MasterCard or other popular payment options. With Chiliz, users can buy the tokens and participate in polls and discussions that will influence their favorite sports team. The tokens can also be won in various challenges and contests. In addition to that, users can enter the marketplace and exchange Chillz and Fan Tokens with other members.
Socios work with 120+ partners from all over the world and the app is used by more than 1.5M people. After the successful launch of the loyalty program, its app developers are now launching additional games for token holders.
2. NBA Sacramento Kings
NBA Sacramento Kings offers a loyalty program for fans that is based on tasks and gamification. The app is called Royalty Pass and with it users can follow their progress and win access to exclusive club offers.
You can create an account using Ticketmaster and quickly become a Royalty Pass member. Within the app, there’s a unique QR code that can be added to your mobile wallet. Scan the code in the Sacramento arena to get access to numerous challenges. Participate in the challenges and track the progress to unlock exclusive offers for loyal fans.
The program launched in 2020 to honor the most loyal fanbase of Sacramento Kings. The fans can interact with the team and arena, get exclusive discounts and other rewards. The mobile app uses Apple or Google Wallet where users can store their unique scannable QR code.
3. NBA Top Shot
Another NBA loyalty program for sports teams comes from Top Shot.
Top Shot offers digital collectibles based on NFT technology. After creating an account, the user gets access to virtual drops with collectibles called Moments™. Each collectible has a unique token and can be sold or exchanged in the Top Shot marketplace. The whole experience is very similar to classic trading cards, but in this case, it’s completely computerized.
The idea is to invite collectors to the digital world and reward the most loyal fans with rare and unique items that can be very valuable on the market. Users face various challenges where they can win Moment™ NFTs and show them off to other members. Top Shot is building a huge community where individual users can present showcases with valuable Moments™ and trade them.
Moments™ are short videos that are sold as NFTs. Every single one has a special digital serial number that certifies its authenticity and expresses how uncommon the Moment™ is. Moments™ serve as the framework for the Top Shot ecosystem.
The NFT videos are, of course, produced in limited numbers to increase value and serve as collectibles.
4. U.S. Soccer
U.S. Soccer Insiders is a sports club loyalty program for hardcore soccer fans. The Insiders are eligible for presale tickets, exclusive events for members only, and unique opportunities (both in-stadium and digital).
There are three tiers for U.S. Soccer Insiders.
Standard Insiders membership is free and the benefits include presale tickets, ability to vote for the player of the month, regular newsletter, access to Insider Rewards, and many more.
Premium Insider ($45 / year) has all the benefits of Standard Insider plus invitations to Insiders-Only Events, free shipping for purchases made through the U.S. Soccer store, lounge passes, and other premium profits.
The most expensive tier costs $185 a year and is called VIP Insider. VIP Insiders get even more exclusive ticket offers, matchday concierge texting service, and other VIP accesses unavailable to lower tiers.
All loyalty program benefits can be found on the U.S. Soccer Insider webpage.
5. MLB Red Sox Rewards
Boston Red Sox Rewards is another strong contender in our top loyalty programs for sports clubs.
Launched in 2021, the Red Sox Rewards is a loyalty scheme for Major League Baseball followers. All season ticket holders are eligible to sign up. You can become a Red Sox Nation Member for $19.95.
After joining, the person is given a digital membership card (a physical card is also available upon request), which can be used through MLB Ballpark app or Red Sox Rewards online platform. You can top up your card via bank transfer or on-site purchases at Fenwey Park.
Users are encouraged to earn loyalty points by engagement rather than spending (for example for watching games on TV or arriving to events early), but you can also earn by on-site purchases.
Loyalty program members have access to special auctions and marketplace where they can win experiences such as trips to clubs trainings, autographed items, promo packs, VIP passes, and many more.
6. Minnesota Gophers
The Minnesota Golden Gophers football team also launched their own loyalty program for season ticket holders and donors called Gopher Loyalty Program. The program is experience-based, meaning that you can win one-in-a-kind encounters with the Gophers’ team-members and other Gopher-related prizes.
The program is designed in such a way that every member can get customized benefit packages for participation. All Gophers supporters are eligible to join.
The more you financially support the famous Minnesota team, the higher rank in the loyalty program you get. Each tier has access to different rewards. The benefits start at simple souvenirs like Gopher sports calendar, but you can also get stadium tours, upgraded seats, or photos with the team mascot. Most of the events can be enjoyed with guests.
To participate in the loyalty program, users need to present the Gopher Sports Pass at any regular event to gain free admittance for two sports.
7. Winnipeg’s Jets Rewards
Jets Rewards Loyalty Program for NHL fans launched in October 2013 but is no longer active. Despite its discontinuation, it nevertheless deserves an honourable mention owing to its loyalty approaches. A cutting-edge program, Jets Rewards could be said to have been well ahead of its time.
Going beyond the purely transactional, Jets Points could be exchanged for more experiential rewards such as meet-and-greets, autographed memorabilia, and special promotion offers. This is something that is only becoming the norm now, which is why Jets Rewards deserves a spot on this list.
The program members earned their “Jet Points” by purchasing season tickets, regularly attending games, arriving early to the events, and making purchases at Jets Gear merchandise shop. The program rewarded activity - the more you interact with Jets, the more points you could earn.
Jim Ludlow, President & CEO of True North Sports & Entertainment commented on the program using the following words:
“Jets Rewards is truly a leading edge program for us that will benefit and appeal to all Season Seat Holders, Wait List Members and Registered Share Partners. Our fans are some of the loudest and most loyal in the NHL. We wanted to thank these groups for their passion and loyalty and this program was the absolute best way to do that. Points are redeemable for just about anything a fan could want, but most importantly, what is most meaningful to them personally. From watching warm-up from the team bench to VIP trips to NHL marquee events, there is something for everyone.”
8. Montreal’s Club 1909
While the Wild and Jets programs are focused on season ticket holders, the Canadiens launched their Club 1909 loyalty program in 2014 to connect with the estimated 10 million Habs fans around the world and recognize the team’s founding in 1909. According to the Canadian Press, Kevin Gilmore, the Canadiens’ chief operating officer, said the program is aimed less at selling more merchandise than at giving fans a greater sense of belonging. “We’re not looking to grow our fan base because it’s there. We’re looking to engage our fan base.”
Club members collect points for game attendance and purchases, watching a Canadiens game on television and following the team on social media. Rewards include unique merchandise not available to the general public, opportunities to interact with players and management, as well as premium seating with team officials.
Club 1909 was also initiated to provide an opportunity for fans who have moved to other cities, or even different countries, to stay connected to their favorite team and other fans through their loyalty program membership.
9. F1 The Paddock
The Paddock rewards fans for their physical and digital interactions with the team, allowing them to collect redeemable points for “money-can't-buy” rewards.
The Paddock launch has fans joining from 172 countries, with an increase in full membership of 397% the first week and 620% the first month.
The points can be easily earned via trivial things fans already do, such as reading interviews with the drivers or watching video highlights. The points can be traded for Oracle Red Bull Racing merch, digital downloads, autographed items, unforgettable VIP experiences (such as private access to the circuit or F1 Paddock Club) and more.
The Paddock members also have access to exclusive content like behind the scenes of each Grand Prix.
10. Nike Running Club
The popular sports brand gathers a loyal community via Nike Membership club.
If you are a fan of Nike apparel, this loyalty program is for you. Nike Membership offers free delivery, exclusive items, the ability to customize your products, and join Nike events, workshops, and workouts.
Nike Membership is based on mobile apps and personal account. You can download four different apps, depending on what you are most interested in:
- Nike SNKRS - for all shoes fans - exclusive deals, drops, and custom colorways;
- The Nike App - the standard Nike app for all brand fans - news, store, and community;
- Nike Training Club - an app for people who do fitness - enroll in Nike training programs, discover new workouts, and more;
- Nike Run Club - an app for runners - track your activity and share with your friends.
Data collection is a valuable part of sports loyalty programs. According to Damji of Merkle Loyalty Solutions, organizations can collect personalized fan information and preferences. “As with loyalty programs across a number of industries, there is an opportunity to use the program to collect data on your fans that is demographic (e.g. age range or geography), behavioral (e.g. check-ins at the stadium or social posts), or preference-related (e.g. reason why they like their seat location or preferred communication method).”
These memberships also give organizations the ability to reach their fans before, during and after the game. Damji suggests that “Once we have collected the necessary information on members, the power of a franchise to connect with fans over Wi-Fi live at a stadium, via an app at their local bar, or even online when purchasing tickets, is an invaluable tool in driving stronger engagement throughout a fan’s life cycle. Access to fans offers further opportunities to amplify the impact of a loyalty initiative during and after the time spent watching a game. It may even facilitate preference collection, encourage engagement with fans, and cross the chasm of the off-season to retain excitement levels between seasons.”
The loyalty programs initiated by the Jets, Socios and Canadiens all have one underlying theme: to reward fans who attend games and improve overall fan engagement. The connection teams have with their loyalty club members online and through social media platforms provides an excellent source of data to learn more about, and better serve, their loyal fans.
What do successful sports loyalty programs have in common?
As you can see from the top sports club loyalty programs listed above, they all rely on simplicity. In most cases, if you follow your favorite team or brand, you already are enrolled in the loyalty program. Depending on your activity and engagement, you gain access to more exclusive offers.
Some of the loyalty programs include Blockchain and cryptocurrency or NFTs, because this is still a novelty, and some experts predict this is our future. Perhaps, one day our physical goods will transfer to the digital world.
Right now, the most important factor is the mobile app. We interact with our phones almost all the time, so if you want to succeed with your loyalty program you have to be at hand.
For more articles like this one, make sure to follow our LinkedIn channel and stay up to date on all our latest content.