The relationship between fan and organization continues to evolve. Teams and leagues are experimenting with many bold ideas to increase engagement and drive the bottom line with each passing season.
Toronto-based company Stadium Digital did just that for a high-profile client, the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who sought their help at exactly the right moment. The firm — which specializes in the creation and management of content and technology to deliver products in the areas of sponsorship, fan engagement, and e-commerce — made an instant impact for a franchise moving into a brand new stadium.
Fresh off that success, Stadium Digital reached out to another partner with hopes of driving more innovation: Smooth Commerce. Betting on its sports app as a primary tool to attract a scaled audience, Stadium Digital and the fellow digital commerce leader have now launched a partnership to raise the sports client engagement experience to the next level for fans in Canada and across North America.
THE SUCCESS OF TICATS ALL ACCESS
Founded in 2014, Stadium Digital has built an impressive footprint across much of Canada in a very short amount of time, having secured clients in two of the nine franchises in the Canadian Football League (CFL), and other entities such as NBA Canada, Golf Canada, and three Major Junior Hockey Leagues of the CHL (OHL, QMJHL, and WHL), among others.
Driving content with a well-regarded fan engagement platform, Stadium Digital has maintained the focus on maximizing the worth of each client’s brand. With the Tiger-Cats, in particular, the team has made incredible strides.
Hamilton is a unique market, right next to the footprint of the Greater Toronto Area — located between Canada’s largest city and Niagara Falls, but still a major population center in its own right. The CFL’s Toronto Argonauts are just up the road.
For years, the Ticats (as they’re affectionately known) toiled away in the venerable Ivor Wynne Stadium before moving into the brand new Tim Hortons Field midway through the 2014 season. Stadium Digital entered the picture in 2015 for the first full season at the venue; expectations were high with the new facility, and the results soon matched.
Strategically, the company focused on metrics such as season-ticket holders, revenue, and fan satisfaction. Amassing deliverables of a redesigned website, a new loyalty program (Ticats All Access), and mobile ticketing and concessions, the firm even presented the first Facebook live stream of professional football in North America. This marked the first professional sports event streamed from start to finish in Canada on Facebook. In particular, Ticats All Access took off and generated instructive data that helped the club meet and exceed strategic objectives.
Tiger-Cats to live stream June 16th preseason game, exclusive to Ticats All Access members!
— Hamilton Tiger-Cats (@Ticats) June 8, 2017
One unique way the Tiger-Cats leveraged the loyalty program at the onset was an effort to offer complimentary preseason game tickets to existing season ticket holders. The idea and practice was for them to pass these along to friends and family who would then be enrolled in the program. The resulting leads helped generate an additional 62 percent in incremental ticket revenue which was directly attributed to the All Access program.
Success was also generated in the stands as the Ticats later became the only team to sell out every home game in 2015. The team’s partnership with Stadium Digital was also awarded the CFL Rouge Award in 2016, and now, the next step is a partnership with Smooth Commerce to bring even more to the table this season and beyond.
TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE
So, why did Stadium Digital and Smooth Commerce forge a partnership?
While Stadium Digital possesses the leading fan engagement platform in Canada, Smooth Commerce brought to the table transactional expertise within digital commerce and a strong background in analytics. The multi-year partnership with the focus on creating apps for franchises and facilities serves purposes for each company.
We are ecstatic to announce a multi-year strategic partnership with @stadiumdigital to power apps for sports properties and facilities! @Ticats are the first to launch on the combined platform with the Ticats All Access App. Read the full story here: https://t.co/UsvpQeuM0n pic.twitter.com/n54Z6ENpvE
— Smooth Commerce (@smoothcomm) June 27, 2018
For Smooth Commerce and CEO Brian Deck, the opportunity is their first foray into the sports industry and allows for a combined solution that offers instant credibility and client testimonials. Meanwhile, Stadium Digital President Mark Silver said the value proposition is packaging the best of the two firms’ technologies in a more integrated offering.
“It’s a solution that’s flexible enough to play with other systems,” Silver said. “The offer is to bridge traditional platforms — the website, fan engagement, and loyalty. We want to know more about who they are, identify them, create content that engages, and bring them closer to the team they cheer for. The attempt is to create relationship-based engagement that rewards the user at every touch point — physical ones, as well.”
The focus on the app as the centerpiece is intentional as Silver noted that it can simplify fan activation and interactions on the smartphone —making content, offers, and promotions less difficult to find.
“It’s easy to see the logo of the app on your phone, open, and engage,” Silver said. “Contrast that to the work that goes into pulling in engagement through social media. The trick is scheduling content and engaging fans outside of the gameday window. Think of a newspaper or a talk show. People know those schedules and grow to expect content at certain times. We want to similarly reach fans before and after the game as well. You must have a relationship with the end user. All of this is voluntary. It’s important that we generate value for each segment of fans.”
An analogy offered by Silver was to consider the telecommunications industry or one whose service is based on a contract or subscription. Do they offer consistent value both for new customer acquisition as well as existing customer retention — or do promotions heavily favor acquisition?
“What we see as a priority is delivering tremendous value and memorable experiences for the customer. For the client, we empower them with the data and the ability to act on it to increase revenue,” Deck said. “The keys are personalization and segmentation. You need to know the customer. Our two companies do this well together by offering shared value for customers. This engagement solution saves the fan time. No one wants loyalty cards in their wallet anymore. The world is now digital.”
For Silver, the focus immediately began with increasing value as well. “We want to promote the value of our brand to properties. The combined strategy and execution with Smooth Commerce back this up.”
With value unique to each company and shared for the customer and fan alike, looking ahead, the two executives shared that they are strictly targeting North American markets for the initial rollout.
TURNING STRATEGY INTO DESIGN
Ticats All Access was resounding success for Hamilton in its first life and as the first client to launch for Stadium Digital, but now as a native smartphone app powered by the two companies, more is possible.
“It’s about a seamless user experience that weaves facets of fan engagement into a one-stop shop that holds inherent commercialization space on a mobile device,” Silver said.
Within that one-stop shop of the app, here are the bevy of tools available to fans:
- Loyalty Card
- Geofenced Content — exclusive to stadium attendees
- Game Statistics
- Exclusive Fan Engagement Content – before, during, and after games
- Fantasy Contests (Gameday Predictor Challenge)
- Sponsor Promotions & Contests – some displaying only if in the stadium
- Concessions – pre-order and prepay (future enhancement)
- Season-ticket holder account access through Ticketmaster (future enhancement)
Loyalty meets gamification within the app, as well. The loyalty program stands apart in wanting to measure quality in addition to quantity spent on things like tickets and merchandise.
Use of a loyalty “yardage” scoring system rewards users for scanning your ticket, logging onto stadium WiFi, watching exclusive content, buying merchandise, and interacting with sponsors. Those yards go into opportunities for exclusive benefits and offer an overall gamification feel to the experience making interaction more pleasant and fun for the end user.
A unique way this has been leveraged in the past is a Designated Driver program administered through the app. By signing up and taking the pledge not to consume alcohol at the game — including identifying yourself and your seat location to serve as a designated driver, yards were earned on the loyalty system and additional responsibility was encouraged.
Think you've got tomorrow's game all figured out? 🔒 in your picks!
— Hamilton Tiger-Cats (@Ticats) July 27, 2018
Another successful feature within the app is the Gameday Predictor Challenge, which drives more interaction with fans, but a key to the design of the overall fan engagement solution is to serve various fan personas from the casual fan all the way to the diehard and season-ticket holder. The challenge is designed specifically for the casual fan to be able to step in and participate on a level playing field against fellow Ticats fans of all stripes.
“We want to cater to both active and passive fans,” Silver stressed.
Technology is meant to drive convenience and efficiency, and here, the partnership of Stadium Digital and Smooth Commerce is poised to succeed. Using their combined technological prowess to increase fan engagement, the two companies have a product that can open doors in the sports world for fans and clients alike.