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Franchise Investments In Fan Memberships

This summer, I had the privilege of attending the Sports Fan Summit in Melbourne, Australia discussing fan memberships. One of the many takeaways that I gained from the experience was accidental, as it happened at a pub a few days before the conference began.

I met a woman named Chloe Jeffers (her podcast is Ep. 369) who was a Hawthorne FC fan. While I met other Hawthorne FC fans since (they won the AFL title in 2014), it was what Jeffers wore that interested me. Like all AFL fan membership supporters, Jeffers donned a scarf. Except that the Hawthorne FC members have a controversial badge on the end of their scarfs, signifying the amount of consecutive years that each member have been a part of the club.

Controversial because Down Under, that sort of thing is looked at as bombastic. And yet, for the Hawthorne FC, it was working.

What U.S. Sports Franchises Can Learn

Transition this to the U.S. professional sports franchises who are beginning to invest in fan membership models. Most are focused on event functionalities – having many more parties throughout the year when the playing season isn’t active. This type of added-value extreme creates significant investment by the members in the franchise, in a 365-a-year model.

But there is a specific issue with this model that U.S. professional sports are implementing: It ignores one of the major crisis pain points that caused franchises to abandon historic season ticket models in favor of adopting a fan membership one. That fans don’t have enough time to commit to a full slate of games during the playing season, as time dedication toward entertainment lessons in favor of life issues.

And the answer to this by U.S. professional sports franchises has been to increase, not decrease, the amount of time dedication required by a fan to receive a full commitment to their investment.

Whether a fan membership model exists for a franchise or not, this stemming issue remains: How do franchises ensure that time dedication fan membership events don’t get co-opted by a fan’s life issues, reducing interest in continuing to be a member overall?

I’d like to propose an investment strategy by the franchises. Not just extra off-season events, but also in the way that they allow members to participate in how the team operates, and what they offer to in-venue.

Fan Memberships Avoid Missed Event Opportunities

Once those missed event opportunities pile up, the extra membership incentives become reduced as well. It also creates membership events as an obligation that if they do not attend, they waste. This scenario is no different than a season ticket one, except that there are many more events to either attend or look back on and regret not being able to attend.

This comes back to Jeffers, and her beloved Hawthorne FC.

The whole concept of fan memberships internationally is not only to be a supporter of the club, but also to feel that they are fully invested in by the team itself. One of these differences is that with various technologies, U.S. professional sports fan membership models can invest fully in their members by allowing them to offerings such as concessions, merchandise and other ancillary products.

Those continual membership patches mean something. A source of pride.

These little things are just as effective as extra events to allow franchise to connect with their fans. It also continues to show why a person would invest in a fan membership in the first place, and renew year after year.

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