49ers Hope Experiential Focus Hits Pay Dirt for New Loyalty Program

For the past three years, the San Francisco 49ers have offered fans a loyalty program called Faithful 49 presented by Esurance.

The program has been successful, but team officials sought deeper fan engagement.

Matt Crowell, senior manager of experience sales & service for the 49ers, talked to Loyalty360 about the changes that were made to the program before the 2017 regular season kicked off on Sunday.

“Every year we take a look at what we’re doing and evaluate it,” Crowell explained. “For us, we looked at who was benefitting the most from the program. When we first started the program three years ago, we were trying to engage the fans across the board. Not that those goals have shifted, but at this point, we started to look at some of the metrics related to who’s consistently engaging with the program (online/in-stadium), how many are actively tracking points, how many are identifying with the program, and what kind of an impact are we having with the program.”

Crowell said that program officials “weren’t seeing a high percentage of folks truly engaged and saw it as a powerful tool. Certainly, there is a niche of folks very engaged with it. But, at the same time, it wasn’t having a wider effect and wider impact that we truly wanted.”

Armed with that logic, Crowell said that program officials married it with Golden Opportunities, which were VIP once-in-a-lifetime game day experiences that launched last season.

“We wanted to cross-pollinate the program,” Crowell explained. “And we wanted to put that experiential inventory into the program to create a bigger and better program.”

In the past, Crowell said that program members who accrued points were reluctant to “pull the trigger on a reward or an experience. They would hoard their points, feeling like their chances of winning weren’t that great.”

Last year, the 49ers unveiled Golden Opportunities, which are once-in-a-lifetime game day experiences that were sold to fans.

“We wanted to make that bigger and better and we integrated Golden Opportunities into the Faithful Rewards program to create more value for members,” Crowell said. “In late spring, we started to go in this direction. We expired the old loyalty program.”

With the new program, now called Faithful Rewards, Crowell said there is “a lot more meat in the rewards and we created a program where folks see it as a benefit to being loyal to the 49ers. A lot of ways to get points and rewards are tied to enhancing that game day experience.”

Some of the experiential rewards include:

  • Pregame Alumni On-Field Autograph and Photo Opportunity
  • Pregame Player Tunnel Introduction Access
  • Pregame Flag Ceremony Participation
  • Postgame Press Conference Access
  • Gameday Sourdough Sam Visit
  • Gameday 49ers Gold Rush Visit
Here is a breakdown of how to earn points and the rewards that await:

Game Day Attendance
Scanning a Mobile Ticket
Early Entry on Game Day
Transferring Tickets to Your Friends
Engaging with the Video Board
Purchasing Concessions
Buying Merchandise from the Team Store
Shopping Online at Shop49ers.com
Getting an Esurance Quote
Completing a 49ers Post-Game Survey
Alumni On-Field Photo Op
Pre-Game Player Tunnel Intro Access
Post-Game Press Conference Access
Pre-Game Flag Ceremony Participation
Game Day Sourdough Sam Visit
Game Day 49ers Gold Rush Visit
Concessions Items
Autographed Items
Faithful Flags and other Merchandise
Sweepstakes and auctions are a prominent part of the Faithful Rewards program in 2017. Members receive a monthly email with key messaging for the program including the sweepstakes or auctions highlighted for the month.

“Anything you can show behind the curtain, that’s close to the action is pretty priceless,” Crowell said. “To have that VIP access unlocked, we’re pretty bullish that this will create an amazing experience for our fans at this level. Last year these rewards were exclusively for purchase.”

Crowell said there has always been a lot of potential energy tied to the program.

“I also saw a great opportunity if we invested and put effort into this we could draw a lot of benefit from it and goodwill from our fans and members in more ways than just walking through our gates,” he explained.

Where ‘yards’ had been the program currency in the past, now it is points.

“We wanted to create a clearer line from the old program to the new program and align it with a traditional loyalty program,” Crowell said. “There is definitely more of a focus on experiential rewards. Where it has been marketing-driven in the past, it now lies with the Premium Service Department and tied to experiences that really unlock what game day can truly be. Anytime we can deliver that experiential aspect, or personalized experience, that’s what we strive for.”

Crowell said that no one is reinventing the wheel when it comes to loyalty programs tied to professional sports teams.

“You have to know your member base above and beyond anybody else’s,” he said. “The biggest takeaway I would say is really listen to what your fans are telling you.”

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