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The Paradox of Loyalty Programs in Sports: A Missed Opportunity?

In the intensely competitive world of sports, where the roar from the stands is a testament to fans' loyalty, the absence of loyalty programs in most teams is both surprising and paradoxical.

At a glance, loyalty programs for sports teams appear to be a slam dunk. They provide a treasure trove of data while incentivizing fans’ behavior. However, despite the clear benefits, the vast majority of teams across the Big 5 Leagues—be it NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, or MLS—are playing without this strategic asset. Only 13.8% of these teams have a loyalty program, and of these, more than half are exclusive to season-ticket holders and largely focus on ticketing and in-stadium purchases.

This narrow scope reveals a reliance on traditional loyalty frameworks that no longer match the evolving landscape of fan engagement.

The Hurdles to Implementing Traditional Loyalty Programs

Why are sports teams benching the idea of loyalty programs when they could be scoring big? Conversations with various teams unearth a similar narrative: there’s no shortage of interest, but bandwidth and resources are in short supply. Implementing these traditional programs comes with significant operational overhead:

  • Attendance-Based Challenges: Programs pegged to game attendance require integrations with existing ticketing systems and only address those who can attend in person, excluding the significant global fanbase.

  • Transaction-Based Challenges: Managing transaction-based rewards demands constant attention—from financial modeling for points and redemptions to tackling the logistical maze of points and discount provisioning.

These technical and operational challenges have effectively side-lined the loyalty game plan for many.

Dropt: Digital Loyalty as the Game Changer

Rather than following a typical attendance and transaction-based model, Dropt shifts the play towards digital engagement:

  • Engagement Beyond the Stadium: Fans earn rewards through daily digital activities, like making game predictions or participating in polls and trivia, ensuring year-round engagement regardless of their location.

  • Recognition and Reward: A system of points and levels acknowledges fans’ digital engagement, celebrating their loyalty as visibly as they do their team colors.

  • Empowerment through Voting: Giving fans a voice on decisions like jersey designs or player awards turns everyday audiences into proactive participants, while offering teams valuable insights.

The outcome is a strategy that understands today’s digital-first reality—a play that drives engagement and loyalty from an international fanbase, every day of the year.

The Digital Loyalty Advantages

Dropt's emphasis on digital engagement offers several advantages over traditional loyalty approaches:

  • Inclusivity: It democratizes fan engagement by being accessible to anyone with a digital device, erasing geographic and economic boundaries.

  • Scalability: Without the need for extensive input, support & maintenance, digital loyalty programs can scale rapidly and efficiently.

  • Insightful Data: Digital interactions yield actionable data, allowing teams to understand and cater to their global fans in highly personalized ways.

  • Year-Round Engagement: By transcending the game-day experience, teams keep the passion alive 365 days a year, fostering a perpetual cycle of interaction and loyalty.

In the sports industry, where passionate fanbases are the lifeblood of teams, the potential of loyalty programs is vast and untapped. While traditional methods have been a challenging play to make, the shift toward a digital loyalty experience—championed by platforms like Dropt—poses a solution that's not only viable but could change the game entirely.

The real question now is: Will sports teams rise to the occasion and build the kind of global, engaged, and digitally-powered fan communities that modern loyalty strategies can foster? For teams willing to innovate, the opportunities are wide open; the fans are ready and waiting, all that’s left is to give them a loyalty program worthy of their passion.

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