Airlines, hotels, rental-car companies and fast-food joints have
long understood a simple premise: A good product is even better
with enhancements--extra miles, an upgrade, free large fries
with your burger combo. Now sports teams are realizing that fan
appreciation days might be enough to make fans come, but not
enough to make them come back.
Enter AIM Technologies, Inc., a three-year-old Austin-based
company that designs fan loyalty programs, helping teams and
sponsors better understand sports fans, who in turn are
compensated for their loyalty. AIM has developed FanCards. These
are available at stadiums and arenas, given free to fans who
fill out a detailed questionnaire about themselves and their
preferences. When a fan swipes his or her card at the FanCard
interactive kiosk in the sports venue and answers a few more
questions on the screen, the kiosk spits out a rewards coupon
that matches the card user's "profile" and team allegiance. A
beer drinker at his second game of the season might get a
Budweiser T-shirt, while a Little Leaguer attending his 50th
game of the year might get a coupon for a free baseball glove.
Fans receive increasingly valuable coupons for their continued
support, and teams and sponsors get detailed demographic
information about their clientele.
AIM is the brainchild of three Northwestern B-school graduates:
Todd Caven, 30; Matt Gephardt, 29, son of U.S. House minority
leader Dick Gephardt; and Matt Hood, 30. All three serve as vice
presidents; Tim Keyes, 30, a Stanford soccer teammate of
Caven's, is AIM's president. Among AIM's clients are three teams
in major league baseball, six in the NBA, two in the NHL, one in
MLS and more than 30 in the minor leagues, as well as the
University of Texas and the Mesquite (Texas) Rodeo.
The Oakland A's signed with AIM in April 1998, after eight years
of diminishing attendance, and the team estimates that the
FanCard program has brought in an extra $1 million in ticket and
merchandise sales.The San Antonio Spurs, looking to win back
fans after the lockout, recruited AIM's services in late 1998,
generating an additional $300,000 in ticket revenue.
The assurance of premiums and of the confidentiality of their
names and addresses has prompted 200,000 sports fans, 67.5% of
whom are not season-ticket holders, to sign up for FanCards. For
Joyce Wilson, a retired office manager from Castro Valley,
Calif., using this plastic has become an addiction. Last season
she went to all 81 A's games and qualified for a chance to go to
the World Series. Though she lost the drawing--27 other FanCard
holders matched her feat--Wilson won free parking vouchers and
an engraved plaque. "The game's the main thing," she says, "but
I sure got some nice rewards."