Miami Dolphins Connect Online, In-Stadium Loyalty

Working with TechStars alum CrowdTwist on program

NFL training camps are starting up this week. That means fans will start getting a better idea of how their teams might perform this season and what games they’ll want to check out. The teams would prefer those fans do their game-watching in stadiums, but that’s a hard sell considering ticket prices for good seats versus the couch-comfy view of one’s HD TV and the relative anonymity of both environments. But the Miami Dolphins are turning to tech as a way to bring fans closer to the field and make sure it’s not just a one-off outing.

“About a year and a half ago, our CEO had challenged us in putting together a plan for how can we maximize the utility of our digital commerce and activity online, and how do we align that to our core objectives in terms of sales and revenue, recognizing those season ticket members that have been with us for a number of years and have shown their loyalty to us,” said the team’s svp and chief technology officer Tery Howard.

In April, the Dolphins rolled out in beta the Fin Club, a social-centric loyalty program that rewards fans for interacting with the team through the site as well as through Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. For example, members can earn points for checking out the team’s site while logged in, liking the team’s Facebook page if they’ve connected their Facebook account or purchasing a team jersey or game ticket. Those points can then be put towards rewards like valet parking at the stadium, autographed merchandise or the chance to carry the team flag onto the field before a game.

The Dolphins worked with loyalty platform CrowdTwist to develop the program, and that company’s COO and cofounder Josh Bowen said The Fin Club was built to appeal to season ticket members as well as those on the periphery. Like most offline businesses, the Dolphins struggle with identifying their customers and thereby building relationships with them. “We don’t know who’s coming into our stadium. We don’t who’s interacting with us. We know what we’re selling to them, but for the longest time and even still today, we don’t know who really comes,” Howard said. That’s especially dangerous when it comes to revitalizing ticket sales because it’s the fans who have been season-ticket members for three years or less are “where they see the most drop-off,” Bowen said. “So they want to get those people to opt in, because once someone’s been a member for more than three years, they’re almost always lifers.” To that end, the Dolphins and CrowdTwist will bring The Fin Club into Sun Life Stadium.

CrowdTwist is integrating into the point-of-sale systems across more than 750 cash registers in Sun Life Stadium as well as the team’s CRM system. For members who opt in, “we’re going to be receiving every hot dog, every T-shirt, every ticket that’s purchased is going to come through our system, and we can track and incentivize a reward for it,” Bowen said. Members will then receive points for those transactions and even just attending the game in the first place. CrowdTwist compiles that data through a back-end control center so that Howard’s team can see what fans respond to and determine how to market to those fans as well as new ones.

“If you happen to be a season ticket member and you come to our game and happen to be in one of our suites, we want to know that so that we can be more personalized with you and provide you with those offerings and experiences that are very specific to you,” said Howard. “So it’s personalizing for the masses.”