THE CLARUS Blog

Why MLB Teams Are Getting Into The Swing of Subscription Loyalty

Rethinking loyalty isn’t exclusive these days to retail brands.

Major League Baseball teams also want to enhance their relationships with fans and elevate engagement levels.

As the MLB regular season gets set to start on March 28, the New York Mets just announced a new Netflix-style subscription program that allows Mets fans gain standing-room-only access to nearly every regular season home game.

For $39 a month, anyone with an iPhone or Android can sign up for the app-based program and download mobile tickets to 78 games this season. Then, they can scan their mobile tickets at the gate.

The program is named Amazin’ Mets Pass.

Chris Zaber, the Mets’ Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales, said the subscription program targets millennials and “unconventional audiences. Even if you come to three games a month, it’s a great deal.”

Fans with the Amazin’ Mets Pass, which auto-renews every month, can also upgrade to seated tickets on weekdays.

Oakland A’s Changed Loyalty Program for Season Tickets

Last August we talked to Chris Giles, Chief Operating Officer for the Oakland A’s, about the team’s decision to eliminate traditional season tickets starting this year.

Team officials launched a new membership program called A’s Access. A’s Access includes elements of a premium loyalty program in that it offers attractive benefits for fans that are practical and elevates engagement.

Here are some other takeaways from our 2018 interview with Giles:

As a member, you can come to any game that you’d like. While your membership may include 10 games where you have a reserved seat, it also includes 71 games that have general admission to the ball park.

The program is like a gym membership model. Just like you might have 10 personal training sessions, you could have 10 games with reserved seats.

Giles believes that baseball is at a crossroads as far as what fans are looking for in their experience.

Traditional fans look for consistency and ownership and the neighborhood of people that sits around them for the same games as close to home plate as possible.

“We’re now seeing a rapidly growing group of fans that want something completely different,” Giles told Clarus last year. “Selling them an old package is unappealing. They want something more flexible and something more social. They liken it to a food tour or bar hopping.”

Earlier this month The A’s reported that A’s Access had drawn a team record 7,000 new customers, and renewals for existing plans were running at 95 percent.

Subscription Loyalty is Booming

Robbie Kellman Baxter, a customer loyalty expert who created the popular business term, “Membership Economy,” talked to Clarus Commerce last year about the trajectory of the subscription loyalty model.

“Subscription services are exploding now, and technology is enabling it,” she explained. “Companies love subscription models for the recurring revenue. Tracking behavior is easier. You can get much better data if someone is subscribing. It’s really appealing to the company for both the revenue and the data. Subscription services are also appealing to consumers, who appreciate the value being packaged differently, for example, access to rides without the responsibility of ownership of a care. This is a great opportunity for companies to rethink their loyalty programs to ask more and to give more.”

The A’s and Mets aren’t the only MLB teams that have rethought customer loyalty.

Two years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals launched a monthly pass that allows fans to attend as many games per month at Busch Stadium as they want for a monthly fee of $29.99.

The tickets are delivered digitally on game days and can be used for standing room areas at Busch Stadium. The subscription can be renewed automatically each month.

Also, in 2017, the Minnesota Twins began allowing fans to enter Target Field on a pass for the spring months. For $99, fans can have access to 30 games over April and May—excluding Opening Day—through a pass that is downloaded via the mobile app. Up to eight passes can be obtained per game, and the passes will allow for Ballpark Access, which the Twins formerly designated as standing room only.

What’s more, in 2017 the New York Yankees launched the Pinstripe Pass, which allows fans to enter Yankee Stadium for as little as $15. The Pinstripe Pass includes one free drink—fans 21 and over can redeem it for a 12-ounce domestic beer—and grants fans access to standing room areas at Yankee Stadium. That includes Masterpass Batter’s Eye Deck, Frank’s RedHot Terrace and Toyota Terrace, Budweiser Party Decks or AT&T Sports Lounge, the areas that have been added to the ballpark as part of its recent renovations.

The Houston Astros offer the Astros Ballpark Pass, which allows fans to enter every game in April—except for Opening Day—for $59. Fans will be able to select up to eight passes for any of the games, which will be uploaded to the Ballpark app. A text message will be sent to provide the location of the seat, with one of the eligible locations being the Torchy Taco’s Party Deck, which is a part of the new centerfield area at Minute Maid Park.

Listening to Customers

What these MLB teams have done is listen to their fans, much like retailers listen to their customers.

As Giles told Clarus last year, “baseball is at a crossroads as far as what fans are looking for in their experience.”

He said that going to 81 games a year is a massive commitment for someone who wants to buy a season ticket, and many fans are seeking more practical alternatives and the A’s believe they achieved that with A’s Access.

It seems likely that, not only other MLB teams will follow this pattern of rethinking loyalty, but other professional sports teams in general.

Don’t you want to listen to your fans and give them the best possible experience on their terms?

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