Industry Coverage icon

Grow Your Top Line With a Digital Loyalty Program

Reward your loyal fans and create premium experiences

Unlock a Free Sample
  • The sports organization is having difficulties creating a loyalty program, as many leaders within the industry have identified that their previous loyalty programs have not been successful, having followed the same loyalty scheme as hotels and industries.
  • Increasing fan loyalty to the team has been difficult over the years; a traditional loyalty program will not satisfy the needs of a digital-first world and fans.
  • Engaging fans pre, post, and beyond the game and venue is a challenge for the business, when 360-degree fan experiences are not completely present.
  • You may lose your competitive position if you lack a loyalty program going forward.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

When emotional connections are developed through loyalty programs, physical or digital fan engagement is enabled. When 360-degree fan profiles are established, they empower premium experiences through hyper-personalized interactions, resulting in loyalty regardless of team performance.

Impact and Result

  • Leverage the sports entertainment digital loyalty program framework, architecture and analysis as a basis to work from to create a strategic and holistic digital loyalty program.
  • Determine the value a digital loyalty program will have on your business through the business reference architecture and value chain analysis.
  • Conduct a comparative analysis between existing sports and adjacent hospitality loyalty programs today.

Grow Your Top Line With a Digital Loyalty Program Research & Tools

1. Grow Your Top Line With a Digital Loyalty Program. This report will provide you with a digital loyalty program architecture and analysis to kick-start a strategic and holistic digital loyalty program.

Read our Digital Loyalty Program report to find out how you can grow your top line while generating 360-degree, hyper-personalized fan experiences.

Unlock a Free Sample

Grow Your Top Line With a Digital Loyalty Program

Reward loyal fans and create premium experiences.


Analyst Perspective

Leverage a digital loyalty program to enhance experience-led businesses

Sports entertainment companies are uncertain how to meet the ever-evolving needs and expectations of the digital and experiential economy that fans live in, where loyalty programs are often overlooked due to their unsuccessful and complicated track record within the industry.

The business of sports is not only about selling tickets, but it is an experience-led business. Therefore, to grow and maintain their fan base, sports organizations need to focus on the 360-degree experience for fans throughout the year, even during the off-season.

Rewarding fan loyalty through engagement, money-can't-buy rewards, and creative non-purchase related ways to get points are only some of the different ways sports entertainment organizations can emotionally reward their fans and turn them into loyal lifelong fans. However, it is important that sports entertainment organizations have mastered their traditional and transactional loyalty program before advancing into an emotional and digital loyalty program. A loyalty program does not completely lie in the hands of the IT department, but is a cross-collaborative project between IT and the marketing department.

The marketing department should have a marketing strategy that is flexible and scalable, and which requires technical resources, data, and marketing technologies to activate an emotional and digital loyalty program. Establishing an emotional connection with fans through loyalty will allow brands to prepare themselves for the ever-changing needs and expectations of the digital and experiential economy the business competes in.

Elizabeth Silva
Research Analyst, Sports Entertainment Industry
Info-Tech Research Group

The image contains a picture of Elizabeth Silva

Executive Summary

Your Challenge

Common Obstacles

Info-Tech’s Approach

  • The sports organization is having difficulties creating a loyalty program; many leaders within the industry have identified that their previous loyalty programs have not been successful, as they followed the same loyalty scheme as hotels and industries alike.
  • Increasing fan loyalty to the team has been difficult because a traditional loyalty program will not satisfy the needs of a digital-first world and fans.
  • Engaging fans pre, post, and beyond the game and venue is a challenge for the business, where 360-degree fan experiences are not completely present.
  • You may lose your competitive position if you lack a loyalty program going forward.
  • Organizations that do not focus on service culture and delivery or have no service recovery strategy may struggle, as service culture and delivery is an important part of the loyalty fans have toward a business.
  • Knowing the business and fans is important to understand how a loyalty program should be structured. Organizations that do not have a current database of useful information to determine who their fans are, and the ability to generate accurate reports and analytics, may find this difficult.
  • Meeting IT security and network requirements may be difficult for some organizations to ensure compliance standards are being met, protecting confidential data while being able to support a loyalty program.
  • Leverage the sports entertainment digital loyalty program architecture and analysis as a basis to work from to create a strategic and holistic digital loyalty program.
  • Determine the value a digital loyalty program will have on your business through the business reference architecture and value chain analysis.
  • Conduct a comparative analysis between existing sports and adjacent hospitality loyalty programs today.

Info-Tech Insight

When emotional connections are developed through loyalty programs, physical or digital fan engagement is enabled. When 360-degree fan profiles are established through loyalty, they empower premium experiences through hyper-personalized interactions, resulting in loyalty regardless of team performance.

Loyalty programs have accelerated

Traditional loyalty programs have come a long way, and more advanced technology is coming to enhance and improve fan journeys and loyalty.

The evolution of loyalty programs

The image contains a screenshot of the evolution of loyalty programs.

Movable Ink, n.d.

A digital loyalty program is an essential means in today’s digital & experiential economy

The typical loyalty program is focused solely on increasing market share and revenues through repeat purchase and usage.

Sports entertainment organizations must structure people, processes and technology to be more focused on the individual fan, prioritizing behavioral and attitudinal loyalty, cultivating engagement and profitability as a result. The creation of new fan behaviors and expectations due to the pandemic coupled with a siloed approach between marketing, operations, and IT makes it difficult to accomplish this fan-centric loyalty program.

Consequently, stakeholders are lacking the design-thinking mindset needed to recognize a clear and unified vision for the digital fan journey, and the loyalty program is lacking the level of sophistication needed to adapt to new technologies and opportunities for response.


Digital loyalty strategy

Increasing market competition and ubiquity of programs


Understand who your incumbents and disruptors are and define opportunities to either compete or differentiate.

Increasing sophistication of guest expectations and demands


Understand your fans and their journeys better to meet and exceed expectations.

Lack of customer-facing technological progress


Determine opportunities to enter the digital economy and improve customer-facing technology progress.

Siloed marketing, operations, and IT department strategies


Merge two levels of maturity by aligning strategic goals and building digital fluency.

Start with the core of your business to effectively transform your organization


Identify the overlooked room for growth in your core business. Whether it is loyalty, events, or rights distribution, look for powerful ways to further deploy your existing capabilities and grow the core of the business.


Expand the boundaries of your organization. Gain a robust view on the capabilities that differentiate your organization. Expand into adjacent capabilities where strengths can be built on, rather than diversifying into new capabilities.


Disrupt and respond to change with new business models. As the traditional model for the sports industry is being disrupted, consider market insights to identify new opportunities. Look for ways to disrupt your own revenue model that utilizes some of your existing capabilities, and be clear about the new capabilities required.

Innovating physical sport through gamification and connected technology is a leading opportunity

As new entertainment products disrupt the market and battle for the same attention and share of wallet as sports entertainment organizations, it is time for the industry to rethink its strategies and how it will innovate to compete in the digital and experiential economy.

Over time, the sports industry has added to its business by providing more events, competitions, and increasing the media experience that is available but remain largely unchanged.

Sports entertainment organizations need to start thinking about how they will change to remain competitive, retain engagement, and capture a larger share of wallet compared to competitors.

71% Believe that the greatest opportunity in the sports space is to innovate physical sport through gamification/connected technology

PwC, 2021.

74% Believe that gamification/connected technology will attract younger participants in physical sports

PwC, 2021.


  • Blend the physical and digital worlds together through gamification, attracting a younger fan base, allowing them to connect with each other on an interactive and multi-layered experience, where they can chat, meet, play, compare, learn, etc.
  • Collect valuable data from fans, by deepening fan engagement and loyalty from fans (with consent) in return for valuable rewards, and recognition from the brand.
  • Develop an interactive and engaging digital loyalty program by combining both opportunities together will transform not only the business and how it competes in the larger entertainment industry, but also the relationship with the most loyal fans.

Info-Tech Insight

Loyalty is the future driver of brand and revenue growth, where it should be engaging, predictable, and data is the currency.

A digital loyalty program can transform your relationship with fans

  • A loyalty program focuses on driving ongoing conversations and interactions to drive a deeper sense of loyalty; this is enabled by digital. Traditionally it has been viewed as only earning and burning through loyalty schemes.
  • Growth for loyalty programs in sport teams should be strictly based on relationship building rather than incentives traditional retail stores would create. Read more about this within the Digital Fan Engagement Report.
  • Reinforcing a range of fan engagement behaviors through a loyalty program, rather than simply providing points for transactional behaviors, will be more attractive for fans. It will also encourage positive and enduring fan engagement that supports in- and extra-role behaviors.
  • A loyalty program must incorporate community support and impression management behaviors, to encourage positive and strong fan engagement with all eight experience components. Loyalty programs are more than transactional behaviors.

The Experience Components that Drive Engagement

  1. Recognition & Support
  2. Personal Relevance
  3. Ease & Enjoyment
  4. Brand Alignment
  5. Data Usage & Trust
  6. Communications
  7. Digital
  8. Meets Needs

Download the Digital Fan Engagement Report

Experiential rewards provide long-term benefits

  • Research shows that monetary rewards are not the leading driver of loyalty programs and over time they drive a sense of entitlement. Rather, experiential rewards provide greater long-term benefits (MIT Sloan Review, 2018).
  • An outstanding fan experience is critical to the sustained growth of any business. It's important to consider what promotes better fan experiences to enable loyalty, retain fans, and encourage brand advocacy.
  • When partnered with the right tools and timing, building emotional relationships in a highly engaging manner builds stronger relationships, allowing businesses to deliver the most profitable types of relationships for the long term.
  • In the end, it is the fan journey that matters the most – not the destination. If the fan journey is a seamless and positive interaction with the brand, the better the fan experience will be allowing the loyalty program to be superior to competitors who do not focus on the fan journey.

The image contains a screenshot of a bar graph that demonstrates Customer experience in comparison of loyalty.

Transform your traditional loyalty program into digital

In essence, a digital loyalty program takes all the traditional aspects of making customers feel valued by a brand and uses innovative techniques and schemes to ensure every fan enjoys a truly personal experience with a brand.

Digital transformation of a loyalty program provides the organization opportunities to advance growth, enhance fan experiences, secure sustainability, drive operational efficiencies, and unearth potential future business ventures. It is important to determine if the organization's current loyalty program is largely traditional or digital.

Digital Definitions

  1. Digitization
  2. Changing from analog or physical to digital form.

  3. Digitalization
  4. Using digital technologies and information to transform Individual organizational operations.

  5. Digital Transformation
  6. A series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts that enable new operating models and transform an organization’s operations, strategic directions, and value proposition.

Transform your traditional loyalty program into digital




  • Largely transactional currencies with standard and uniform reward schemes
  • Relationship-driven with personalized reward scheme stemming from fan interactions in digital touchpoints

Transaction method

  • Physical loyalty cards
  • Mobile application

Delivery method

  • Print, mail, email pre- and post-game
  • Push-notifications, text message pre-, during, and post-game


  • Encourage repeat purchase
  • Behavioral loyalty: Timely, tailored content, trusted, convenient and available across all channels
  • Attitudinal loyalty: Brand proposition, overall experience

Type of rewards

  • Tangible rewards
  • Tangible, experiential, and hyper-personalized rewards

Technology and analytics usage

  • Minimal
  • Extensive


  • Creates silos as opposed to taking flexible, collaborate approaches
  • Creates a connected history that informs the brand of the next best engagement opportunity

To enable the digital economy, IT must have business alignment

Being able to properly enable the digital economy through a digital loyalty program is important, as this will require major technology investments.

This can only be done when there is business alignment, meaning high satisfaction between the IT department and the business.

Today, our CIO Business Vision benchmarking report shows that most sports, entertainment, arts, and culture organizations are in the 70-80% satisfaction mark, making them a trusted operator. However, being in this ranking area makes it more difficult to enable the digital economy and move up the loyalty ladder.

The image contains a screenshot of Info-Tech's Maturity Ladder.

Info-Tech Insight

By leveraging the digital business strategy to enable new digital capabilities, such as a digital loyalty program, your organization will have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of IT and the satisfaction that can be provided.

Business alignment will enable progression up the loyalty ladder

To move up the loyalty ladder, sports entertainment organizations must increase their business satisfaction to align their business in order to receive capital for investments.

Relationships are the number one driver for business satisfaction for any IT department. To improve your relationships with others in the business, collaborate with other departments to develop holistic strategies, and deliver meaningful results for the internal and external stakeholders.

Most organizations are either “fan fixers” or “cross-channel enablers” in terms of loyalty program enablement. This was discovered through Info-Tech surveys and discussions with sports entertainment leaders.

Become a ‘fan-centric champion’ or ‘fan wow’ organization by improving relationships and business alignment. This will move your organization up the loyalty ladder.

77% of loyalty programs with a solely transactional model fail within the first two years.

71% of companies with an existing loyalty program plan to revamp the scheme in the next three years.

Movable Ink, n.d.



Aim to delight through mind blowing, unexpectedly satisfying experiences that serve as the ultimate brand expressions.


Focus on fan personalization, using data to individualize experiences.


Focus on unifying CX across channels with an omni-channel approach to better manage end-to-end fan communications and experiences. This is especially true for retailers whose fans cross channels to shop.


Companies intent on removing friction, thereby focusing on fixing operations processes and pain points.

Evaluate the loyalty program across transactional and emotional characteristics

In today's experiential economy, it is important for a loyalty program to focus on emotional drivers and tactics rather than transactional and influential tactics. However, to have an effective emotional loyalty program, you need to have a good transactional loyalty program as a basis to work from.

Emotional influence tactics

  • Special recognition status and exclusivity surprise and delight community

Transactional influence tactics

  • Product enhancements
  • Experience design
  • Value-added services
  • Offers and discounts

Transactional attributes

  • Perceived value
  • Ease of value exchange
  • Perceived opportunity cost
  • Pain avoidance

Emotional attributes

  • Personal values alignment
  • Self-image building
  • Social connectivity
  • Aspiration and life goals

Info-Tech Insight

Having an emotional rather than transactional digital loyalty program will allow you to view this initiative as a revenue driver rather than a cost center.

Movable Ink, n.d.

Consider the loyalty scheme possibilities

There are many different loyalty program schemes that any sports entertainment organization can take on to improve fan relationships.

Earn and burn loyalty programs

Traditional approach to loyalty; fans earn points for the money they spend.

Tiered loyalty programs

Fans gain access to additional benefits by advancing through ranks.

Perks loyalty programs

Based on perks, awards, and benefits for all members unconditionally.

Gamified loyalty programs

Challenges or badges engage fans in a fun and interactive way.

Loyalty community programs

Dividing the fan base into smaller segments based on specific topics, interests, or values.

Lifestyle loyalty programs

Encourage valuable behavior and brand love by rewarding fans for being active or green.

Influencer / referral loyalty programs

Attract new fans through identified brand advocates.

Paid loyalty programs

Fans pay a recurring fee to receive great benefits they can use instantly.

Hybrid loyalty programs

Merge two or more types of loyalty schemes together to fit your digital business strategy.

Coalition loyalty programs

Unite multiple brands within the same venue to increase foot traffic and revenues.

Antavo, 2022

Loyalty programs for sports leagues should correspond to the existing fan relationships

Sports leagues may want to consider paid loyalty programs, where members pay a recurring fee to receive great benefits they can use right away. This is an attractive way to acquire both new fans and establish a stronger relationship with current fans by giving them access to exclusive content and VIP benefits. Sports leagues should focus on providing exclusive content and benefits that fans cannot find anywhere else in return for a fee; this is solely a transactional relationship.

The exception is leagues who do govern individual players rather than teams (e.g. NASCAR), where a tiered loyalty program may be more suitable than a paid loyalty program.

Note that sports teams may already have a paid loyalty scheme within their organization, providing exclusive benefits and experiences to season ticket holders. Thus, it is important that sports teams do not focus on paid and transactional loyalty programs, but rather emotional loyalty programs to further enhance existing experiences.

The image contains a screenshot of the Paid Loyalty Program Scheme.

Antavo, 2022

Info-Tech Insight

Sports leagues and teams should structure their loyalty programs differently, despite marketing to the same audience, as the relationship between the fans, leagues, and teams are different. Having a loyalty scheme that correctly corresponds to the relationship is key to loyalty program success.

Loyalty programs for sports teams should strengthen emotional relationships

Sports teams may want to consider loyalty community programs with tiered and gamified components. Loyalty community programs are smaller segments within the loyalty program to created targeted and further engaged fans based on specific topics, interests, values, and fan tiers to strengthen emotional relationships with fans.

Loyalty community program with tiers and gamification scheme (hybrid)

The image contains a screenshot of diagrams of sports teams loyalty programs.

Antavo, 2022

Loyalty program expectations are rising

86% of consumers with high emotional engagement say they always think of the brands they are loyal to when they need something.

70% of emotionally engaged consumers spend up to two times more on brands they are loyal to.

Gamification and badging

Loyalty programs are designed to drive high value actions, which are badged when completed, in exchange for points multipliers.

Multi-brand loyalty programs

An ecosystem of brands under one loyalty program, creating fan rewards and incentives across banners and verticals. Drives share of wallet for the parent company and captures a wealth of fan data. This is a high-value opportunity for sports entertainment organizations that also own the venue.

Exclusive services and access

Providing value-add services and special access to sales and products make the fan experience more valuable and convenient, ultimately driving loyalty with the brand.

Values and community building

Embedding mission and peer-to-peer connections will increase in importance and relevance as consumers become more socially and environmentally motivated.

Movable Ink, n.d.

Overarching business risks and considerations

Service culture and delivery

  • Loyalty is driven by far more than loyalty schemes and rewards. Fans that come to your venue and support your team will expect a highly satisfactory experience overall. The operational decisions that your organization makes in relation to fan experience and service delivery will also determine the success in luring fans to enroll in your loyalty program. Consider the following experiential elements that may affect your fans' behavior:
    • Suite quality
    • VIP services
    • Overall service and experience
    • Amenities
    • In-venue food and beverage options

Know your business

  • Bear in mind the classification your organization falls under. Every organization is different; with varying initiatives, priorities, fan demographics, and funding challenges.
    • For leagues - international/national versus regional focus
    • For teams - regional focus with different tier fans:
      • Fanatics
      • Club loyalists
      • Icon imitators
      • 'Fear of missing out' followers
      • Main eventers
      • Tag-alongs

Loyalty liability

  • Traditional loyalty programs include points-based schemes, where fans earn points in return for actions.
    Giving points to fans creates tax obligations and financial liability implications an organization must think about. This means organizations must calculate the amount of points that fans received – used or unused – in one year to indicate the cash value for financials and tax reporting.
  • There are also operational complexities in terms of points expiration and rules to manage the program, to ensure the loyalty program isn’t perceived as a cost center but a revenue driver.
    • Some solutions are: set no expiration date for points, or convert unused points into other means of value such as coupons at the end of the year.

Download the Digital Fan Engagement Report to read more about fan personas

Overarching IT risks and considerations

The viability for a digital loyalty strategy is highly dependent on the maturity of the IT department. Rule of thumb is to measure and assess your IT maturity because what may seem like a simple project could be more complex. Your organization must understand the possible uncertainties and have substantial processes in place to stand resilient from potential risks.

IT security and network

Data and analytics

  • IT security – Satisfaction that organizational devices and data are properly secured.
  • Network and infrastructure – Satisfaction with reliability of communication systems and networks.
  • Privacy and compliance – Consider what a digital loyalty program means for Identity & Access management, as well as customer records and privacy, especially when it comes to Data Protection & Privacy Compliance laws (GDPR, PIPEDA, CPPA, DPA, PCI).
  • Analytical capability – Satisfaction with effective standard reports, custom reports capability, and the ability to generate business insights.
  • Data quality – Put policies, processes, and capabilities in place to ensure that appropriate targets for data quality are set and achieved to match the needs of the business.
  • Data governance - Consider data governance and how your organization will classify data and leverage BI tools.

Info-Tech Insight

A digital loyalty strategy will require superior IT security and network services and will therefore increase the importance of IT Security and Network. Depending on IT’s maturity, this could positively or negatively affect the business stakeholder and fan satisfaction.

Info-Tech Insight

Business stakeholders must understand the value of data and analytics in making the right decisions. Satisfaction must be improved as personalization and fan identification will require the need of automation and real-time data and analytics to maximize the fan experience.

Grow Your Top Line With a Digital Loyalty Program preview picture

About Info-Tech

Info-Tech Research Group is the world’s fastest-growing information technology research and advisory company, proudly serving over 30,000 IT professionals.

We produce unbiased and highly relevant research to help CIOs and IT leaders make strategic, timely, and well-informed decisions. We partner closely with IT teams to provide everything they need, from actionable tools to analyst guidance, ensuring they deliver measurable results for their organizations.

What Is a Blueprint?

A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your IT problems.

Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

Talk to an Analyst

Our analyst calls are focused on helping our members use the research we produce, and our experts will guide you to successful project completion.

Book an Analyst Call on This Topic

You can start as early as tomorrow morning. Our analysts will explain the process during your first call.

Get Advice From a Subject Matter Expert

Each call will focus on explaining the material and helping you to plan your project, interpret and analyze the results of each project step, and set the direction for your next project step.

Unlock Sample Research


Elizabeth Silva


  • Hubert Swiatkowski, Global Partnerships Manager, Open Loyalty
  • Rohit Singh, Consultant, NextBee
  • Sergio Nikonorc, Director of Sales & Partnerships, Kangaroo Rewards
  • Ty Fowler, Director of Loyalty, Kansas City Chiefs
Visit our Exponential IT Research Center
Over 100 analysts waiting to take your call right now: 1-519-432-3550 x2019