Why Data Is Transforming Fan Loyalty & Creating ‘Sports Wallets'

This year’s Leaders Week, held earlier this month, took a long hard look at the future of sport. 



From broadcasting rights to marketing, technological innovation and governance to commercial growth. The organisers reported 2,000 executives joined the event as it made its Twickenham debut. 


As well as private meetings, masterclasses, corridor encounters, and power huddles, Leaders ran a series of panel sessions on the technology and innovation stage. Joining the NFL, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspurs and Olympique Lyonnais, Rewards4 attended its first panel joined by Paul Fisher, Managing Director, Jockey Club and Tom Rowell, Head of Marketing & Ticketing at Everton Football Club. And it was the subject of how to boost fan loyalty, through its innovative rewards programme, which was the focus of discussion.


Rewards4 started its rewards offering eleven years ago with a brand new golf loyalty programme.  The premise was simple, reward fans every time they spend money on their sport and wider retail transactions.  The company now has two million members across six different programmes and works with over 60 sports organisations.  So how has the programme attracted the likes of The Jockey Club and Everton FC.  And how are they driving fan loyalty as a result?


Using fan loyalty to drive commercial growth

Paul Fisher, Managing Director of The Jockey Club explained how the programme has driven their growth: “We started by looking at how we could get people to come to the races more often. 


“We have 1.5 million racegoers and wanted to look at ways of encouraging them back more regularly.  We now have over a  million people on the Rewards4Racing programme and we have found innovative ways of rewarding our customers.


“The platform also enables us to share with our partners what fans are spending their money on and that is what they are interested in.  For them it’s about the richness of data as they want access to our customers so they can engage with them and sell more product.”


Tom Rowell, Head of Marketing & Ticketing at Everton FC explains how loyalty is fundamental to the success of the club, adding: “We all live and die by loyalty.  We are always looking ahead at ways of improving the fan experience and for us the Rewards4 scheme was a no-brainer. 


“At Everton, as well as using the programme to drive the commercial side of the business, we’re also able to use the data to improve our marketing.  We have quite an in-depth market segmentation model and we’re able to personalise the message to our different customers and improve the way we target them.”


What are the future opportunities in sport?

Tom Cowgill, Director and co-founder of Rewards4, doesn’t see any reason why the programme can’t work for every single sport, stating: “We see the programme working for any sport and we’re just about to launch Rewards4Football with Everton FC. The programme is established across racing, golf, rugby, rugby league and cricket and there is no reason why it isn’t transferable to any mature sports market.


“The programme represents a rewards currency that can incentivise fan behaviour. With Everton we’ve looked at where fans are spending money not only inside the club but more interestingly outside the club. 


“It’s this kind of insight into fan spending behaviour that helps with driving sponsorship both identifying new sponsorship partners, but also looking at how existing partners are leveraging the programme.”


Tom goes onto explain that the success of the programme is largely down to the integration with a club’s existing retail and ticketing system.


“For us the integration is key.  It ensures a seamless journey through the ticketing and merchandising platforms.  It’s important to keep that simple so that you get that customer flow of collecting points on the way through their purchasing journey and then returning to use their points on future purchases.”


Looking ahead, Rewards4 believes there are endless opportunities for points redemption and as future fan behaviour changes, so too will the programme describes Tom Cowgill; “We’re often asked about what other areas could we explore in terms of points redemption for fans – for example have we ever worked with a broadcaster? The answer is limitless.  We already work with Racing TV and fans can already redeem points on their TV subscription.  So, we will continue to explore new opportunities to ensure we continue to stimulate the fans of today and tomorrow.”


Image: Leaders – Paul Fisher, MD Jockey Club, Tom Cowgill, Director, R4 and Tom Rowell, Head of Marketing Everton Football Club