When the 820 consecutive home game sell-out streak ended on April 10th at Fenway Park (just two games into the 2013 season), the Boston Red Sox found themselves in a unique situation…Red Sox brand loyalty was no longer just a guaranteed thing.Since the Red Sox won the World Series in ’04 and again in ‘07, brand loyalty has come easy to the team – the fans were just there, happy to support their world champions. But after a rocky end to the 2011 season and a weak 2012, loyalty has waned and the organization actually needs to re-build that loyalty again.
So where do they start? Obviously on the field actions play tremendously into brand loyalty of any professional sports team. If the team is winning, fans will come to cheer them on and if the Red Sox continue their already hot start to the 2013 season that may help to re-build the loyalty all in itself. But besides just winning games and acquiring new and exciting players to drive fans into the ballpark - what have the Sox done to keep Red Sox Nation committed and coming back to the brand?
Commitment to the brand’s heaviest users: A new loyalty program has been put in place for the brand’s repeat purchasers (i.e., the devoted season ticket holders who come to game after game). Enrolled into a tiered loyalty program, they can earn points towards rewards (such as throwing out the first pitch at a game) every time they scan their loyalty card at the ball park or make a purchase at a concession stand. By committing to their heaviest users and brand advocates, the Red Sox are aiming to keep their best customers happy.
In-Game Promotions: To show fans they are valued and appreciated, the Red Sox put promotions in place at food stands around the ballpark for the start of the season, including Kids Eat Free and $5 Beers. Even with high ticket prices, these promotions might drive both new and old fans into the ballpark and provide them with a great customer experience once they are in the door of friendly Fenway Park.
Rebuilding brand trust: Maybe most importantly, the Red Sox have campaigned to bring trust back to its fans. The Red Sox have always had brand loyalty— even in the 86 year stretch without a World Series win – but trust kept those fans believing that soon their suffering would be over. After the 2012 season, many fans were left feeling that the team had quit on them and weren’t committed to winning. To combat this mentality in 2013, commercial, print advertisements and billboards showcase players with the message that “What’s Broken Can Be Fixed” and “162 Ways to Restore the Faith.” New manager John Farrell has also promised to do everything he can to help the team win. However, while this assurance and transparency with the fans is reassuring off the field, the team now must follow through with this commitment on the field to truly gain back the trust.
Professional sport teams are a unique brand; sometimes no matter how much loyalty the Red Sox organization might try to create – advertising, loyalty programs, promotions, none of it will matter without a competitive team on the field. However, it’s times like this when the Red Sox can show their dedicated fans they really are valued. They must maintain their brand advocates and deliver on their promise of a committed ball club in order to keep Red Sox Nation faithful even when the League Standings on the Green Monster might show the Red Sox slipping a few games behind the dreaded Yankees.
Jen Golden is a Senior Associate Researcher at CMB. She’ll never forget the first time her Dad took her to her first Sox game and she saw the Green Monster for the first time – her brand loyalty for the team has never wavered since.
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