by Lauren Ward – August 2015
Fan loyalty is at the forefront of every team’s objectives. Loyalty is defined as “having or showing complete and constant support of someone or something.” Teams build loyalty in many ways: social media, events, player appearances and, of course, winning. Season ticket holders are a prime example of fan loyalty. They are the super fans.
Building loyalty with corporate partners presents a bigger challenge. They aren’t the super fans. In fact, they may not live in your city, or state, and could be fans of another team. So the question is: How do you create fan loyalty with corporate partners?
Listening is important in all aspects of life: school, work, relationships (trust me on this one). When it comes to corporate development, both sales and activation, listening builds the foundation for loyalty. What are your partners telling you? What is important to them? What are they hoping to get out of the partnership? How do they measure ROI? Who is their target audience? At the same time it is equally important for you to ask the right questions to assist in uncovering these answers.
“Partnerships that stand out are with teams that take the time to understand our needs and the needs of our brands. We work together to create programs in and out of the game day experience and we make sure that our programs make sense for both parties. We are simply not filling a round hole with a square peg.” – Doug Mraw, Anheuser-Busch
Understand their business
In corporate development you are not only working for your team, you are working for your client. Your client’s goals are your goals. Understanding the client’s industry will help you to accomplish this.
Do research on the company and stay up-to-date on industry news. I have found that social media is one of the best ways to stay informed. Follow your client and others in the industry on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about the client as well as be in the forefront of industry news. Is there a platform they are focusing on? For example, how can you build off of State Farm’s “assist” platform? Is there a new product they are pushing in the market? Anheuser-Busch’s big push of their new brand, Montejo is another great example. Understanding their business will help you bring new ideas to the table and make a huge impact on your client.
Now for the fun part! Use the information you gathered to come up with creative and unique activations. Be creative and stand out from what other teams are doing to separate you from their other partners. Always be sure to keep their goals and objectives in mind.
“We created a monthly newsletter for one of my biggest clients. We wanted to keep both the client and us as an organization engaged together throughout the season. Recapping their involvement with SSE each month reinforces our commitment to each other’s goals. The newsletter also makes it easy for their company as a whole to be looped in on what they’re doing with us throughout the season.” – Ashley DelValle, Partnership Activation, San Antonio Spurs
It is easier to sell and retain clients with whom you have a close relationship. Meet with your clients face to face on a consistent basis. Find out what is important to them personally. Do they have kids? Pets? When are their birthdays? Surprise them by remembering this information. If a birthday is coming up, send gift. Stop by the office with breakfast, cupcakes, or team gear on game days. It will make them feel important and make a big impact! If they aren’t local, call them on their birthdays or mail them gifts. Get creative! Go above and beyond!
At the end of the day, what your client is looking for is a return on investment. How this is measured will vary on the client. It could be growth in sales, brand awareness, capturing leads, driving traffic to their website, and much more. Customer surveys are a great way to capture this information. Do fans recognize the partner as a sponsor of the team? Are your team’s fans more likely than non-fans to be aware of, consider, buy from, or visit the website of the partner?How does that make the fan feel towards the partner? Are they more likely to recommend to a family member or friend? If you can give your client the return on investment, you’re going to have a good shot at increasing loyalty and building a successful partnership.