How One NHL Team Scores A Goal With Their MVCsJune 4th, 2018
Every brand has a customer base. However, some brands, especially those considered luxury or those related to an experience-centered brand like a sports team, have what are called MVCs. They are a brand's Most Valuable Customers. To keep these MVCs on their brand team, these companies often go above and beyond in creating special experiences or exclusive products to engage and reward them.
The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team is a prime example of a brand that knows how to engage and reward their season ticket holders. As Shawn Tilger, EVP and chief operating officer for the Philadelphia Flyers, explained there are many best practices that other brands can take away from how this NHL team treats its MVCs.
Why Engage and Reward?
Tilger noted there is a very simple answer to that question. "Our season ticket holders are the lifeblood of the organization. Full and partial season ticket holders account for up to 85% of capacity on a given night. And, our base is the third largest in the NHL. They’re incredibly engaged and loyal. Some have been with us for 51 years now." Tilger considers all season ticket holders to be a critical part of their organization and its success both on and off the ice, adding that "it’s a no-brainer for us to treat them like they are family."
In looking at the Flyers' stats for season ticket holders, there are 16,000 current full and partial season ticket holders. There is a 92% renewal rate, year over year. Plus, 3,100 seats are currently on accounts that came over from their previous arena, The Spectrum, in 1995. Also, 8,840 seats are currently on accounts that are 5+ year season ticket members. Now, that's brand loyalty.
Special Treatment at the Game
Successful sports brands like the Philadelphia Flyers realize that they have to treat their MVCs to special experiences while they are at the game as well as when they are not at the rink. It's the only way to carry the engagement through during the off-season periods. The brand knows the value of ensuring that their season ticket members receive additional value over and above their physical tickets.
This includes VIP experiences. For example, season ticket holders get access to pre-game warmups where they can watch from the team bench. Additionally, they get to ride the Zamboni during intermissions. There are also production booths tours and other behind-the-scenes opportunities.
Also, members enjoy admission to an exclusive Season Ticket Member Lounge programmed with activities, giveaways, and refreshments. As Tilger further explained, "We have also built Season Ticket Member and Fan Appreciation Appreciation Nights into our schedule. More than $150,000 in big-ticket prizes are given away. Additionally, players present our members and fans with jerseys off their backs and game-used sticks."
Other Perks Away From the Rink
Then, there are the "away from the rink" experiences. These include an array of additional benefits like the annual Town Hall Meeting. This allows members to speak directly with our management on a more intimate level. Also, the NHL brand has a “Meet the Team” event where members get to meet every player on the roster. Tilger added, "We’ve increased the scale of our Tenure Program in the past few years. Members now receive a gift when they reach a tenure milestone (40, 25, 10, and five years). This includes access to a smaller, more exclusive event with members of the team as well as a Season Ticket Member Hall of Fame induction."
For the Philadelphia Flyers, these events and incentives increase the value of the memberships. Also, this strategy helps the sports brand connect with its most dedicated base in a mutually beneficial way. "It’s important to us to create a community for our members that they wouldn’t get just by buying a single game ticket," stated Tilger.
Handling the Challenge of Constant Engagement
One of the challenges that many sports teams have is knowing when to engage a fan versus when not to. For example, if the team is playing well versus when they are not doing so well. These challenges often arise during the flow of a game itself as well as over a period of time where there is a winning or losing streak for a team.
Certainly, the Philadelphia Flyers have had this same experience. Tilger explained that they address this challenge by respecting the intelligence of their fans. "They know the game inside and out, and it would be inauthentic of us to sugarcoat or appear not cognizant of the ebbs and flows of the game and team performance. We maximize opportunities when things are going in our favor, and we stabilize when performance is not as strong. This strategy is applicable to a number of different focuses including game entertainment, broadcasts, and social media."
The Key to an Optimal Customer Experience
When I asked Tilger what the key was for providing an optimal customer experience, his response was engagement. "Without opening up the door for feedback and accessibility for our ticket holders, we wouldn’t be able to exceed expectations. It can be as simple as walking the concourse during games, welcoming members to chat and really listening to their feedback."
Tilger believes that engaging in two-way communication is central to everything they do for their fan base. "And, we’ve invested time, attention, and talent toward this – from our dedicated customer service representatives to a scaled up retention team."