Major League Loyalty

Apr 18, 2005

By John Hennessy

Promo P&I informs us of the launch in Tampa last month of the Players Choice Platinum Club, a new loyalty program supporting major league baseball. The program’s goal is to give fans unprecedented access to players.

Membership is $19.95 a month. The monthly membership fee is charged automatically until you ask to be removed from the program. Membership longevity is rewarded with 10,000 RBI (Rewards Batted In) points for each month you remain in the club.

RBI Reward points earned can be redeemed for authentic player autographed merchandise and passes to VIP parties. Members also receive invitations to private events and discounts on autographed merchandise. A passionate and clever Red Sox fan might want to sign up for a month just to save $1,225 off the $3,500 price for the Red Sox jersey autographed by 27 of the 2004 Red Sox.

According to Ravi V. Kothare of Affinity Club Network, which operates the Players Choice Platinum Club under an exclusive license with the Major League Baseball Players Association, “The MLB Players Association wanted the 40 million baseball fans to have the opportunity to get up close and personal with its players.”

Members will get invitations to player parties, meet and greets, road trips, exclusive player signings, charity events, golf tournaments, cruises, camps and clinics, Mr. Kothare said.

The association hopes to capture 200,000 to 300,000 members by the end of the season.

Moderator’s Comment: How can a retailer or manufacturer give its fans access that will reward and engender loyalty?

For a retailer, let’s assume total spending level or spending level in select departments is the fan’s membership fee. Rewards could be:

  • Free at-home cooking seminars with prestigious chefs for top buyers of fresh ingredients,
  • Grilling instruction for top rib, chicken and steak buyers,
  • Invitation-only parties with celebrity vintners for your best premium wine buyers.

Atkins Nutritionals has fans. There are fewer of them but they’ve still got fans.

Atkins could work with stores to identify shoppers who have eschewed white bread and cookies. With that information they could develop a series of programs
that invite shoppers and educate them on low-carb food choices and preparation secrets. A local “meat” and greet with celebrities who have had success with the program would be
a nice touch. That kind of fan appreciation program could gain you new fans and help keep existing fans longer.

There are lots of relevant ways to reward your fans.
John Hennessy – Moderator

[Note: The link in the online article for Platinum Players Club is wrong. It should take you to,
not, an award winning community soccer facility in Massachusetts.]

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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5 Comments on "Major League Loyalty"

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Al McClain
Al McClain
15 years 10 months ago
How about inviting your most profitable shoppers to a special event? Could be a book signing, wine tasting, BBQ party, whatever. The point is to make your store a place where customers would WANT to attend a party; create a sense of community, and make your best customers feel special. Close the store to “regular” shoppers for an hour or two, and have a great event. Department stores do this often, but their events seem always to revolve around a special sale, which people get tired of. One side note: it seems to me that many of the pro leagues are getting desperate to grab more cash from already high-spending ticket buyers. Something bothers me about clubs hawking autograph sessions, “meet and greet” events, etc. Used to be that the opportunity for an occasional autograph went along with the ticket price, not something for which the fan had to pay extra. The thought of a blue-collar fan having to pay $20 a month of hard-earned cash to spend 5 seconds with a 12 million dollar… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 10 months ago

Bit of a stretch on the celebrity angle, but focusing on privileges isn’t crazy. Frequent shopper programs have unfortunately mostly been about discounts, instead of special features for true frequent shoppers. That’s where retailers should focus: on privileges for their best customers. Maybe not celebrity appearances, but how about special hours? Getting into Costco one hour early is *definitely* a big draw to upgrade to that Executive card. Or how about special services that stores rarely perform anymore: extra prep on meat and poultry or special cuts. Or in clothing stores–extended return privileges. Or in electronics stores–in-home trial?

Rather than focus purely on discounts or straining to create celebrity experiences, retail loyalty programs can focus on something on which we on RetailWire constantly agree–better service; the best loyalty tactic of all.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 10 months ago

Keeping in mind that “fan” is a shortening of “fanatic,” it’s easy to see how MLB can capitalize on the devotion of season ticket buyers. It wasn’t long ago that we were discussing this same topic regarding NASCAR’s similar loyalty program.

That said, how many retailers or products generate a fanatical following? How many are you fanatical about? I can get a little fanatical about Levi’s, BMW coupes, and Talisker Single Malt, but very little else. (Well, maybe Audrey Hepburn.) And there are no celebrity “access points” for those products.

To my knowledge, the UK’s Tesco is doing the best loyalty job among retailers. You could look it up. As a result, shoppers are fanatical about Tesco. In other words, Tesco’s loyalty program created fans, exactly the opposite of MLB’s and NASCAR’s fans creating the opportunity for a loyalty program. In retailing, it seems that programs precede fans, not the other way around.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 10 months ago

I’m with Jeff. Perks that make the customer service experience all the more palatable are a plus. Keep it simple. If too much redeeming or hoop jumping has to take place in order to receive any sort of benefit, the program can instill resentment rather than appreciation. As a member of several benefits programs that I don’t take advantage of, I can only say that the more automatic the reward, the more engaged I am. Please don’t make me carry another card. Get my info computerized and make things easy. If it’s relevant and simple, I’ll think you’re cool. If it’s complicated and generic, you lose me…maybe not right away, but eventually.

Bernice Hurst
15 years 10 months ago
All right, I know I repeat myself but I will keep on saying this until the few cows still allowed out to graze on real grass come back home. The best ways to inspire loyalty are: quality, service and value for money. The latter does NOT mean cheap. At the risk of arguing with Doc and those who have been conned into believing that Tesco is best beloved by anyone other than its investors, let me suggest that it is popular because it is ubiquitous. When there is competition (and that includes Ocado’s home delivery vs Tesco’s), customers migrate in droves. Look at whose profits have risen most (percentage wise) in the UK grocery business lately. Not the one who has sold so many cheap, non-food products that they have fattened their bank balances. As for loyalty cards, pish tush, says I. You have to spend a fortune to be eligible to get anything back. Returning to the question at hand, and my favourite supermarket yet again, what Waitrose offers customers apart from the three… Read more »

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