Rugby league clubs are arguably the strongest magnet for fan loyalty in the sporting world. Particularly in the north of England, they are a major feature of their local communities with generations of dedicated fans continuing to support their club, for better or worse.
A prime example of this is Wakefield Trinity whose fans donned their wellies and shovels after the club appealed for help to clear the pitch and terraces of snow for the Betfred Super League derby against Huddersfield Giants in March.
So how can rugby league clubs, who boast some of the most dedicated supporters in the sporting world, reward such loyalty to ensure they not only retain, but grow their fan base?
For St. Helens R.F.C, the answer lies in rewarding its fans to new and unprecedented levels. Partnering with Rewards4, the club has announced a new loyalty initiative designed specifically to help save rugby league fans money, and is the first time Saints have been able to reward fans for their spend outside of the club.
The programme will allow St Helens’ fans to collect valuable points on their everyday spending with more than 4,500 Rewards4 partners. Points can then be redeemed against the club’s match tickets, season tickets and merchandise.
For Saints, this is an opportunity to step up their offering, and deliver the best sports-based rewards programme to their fans, ensuring their loyalty is recognised while helping them save money from purchases they are already making.
Free to use for both fans and club, the award-winning Rewards4 platform is also simple to integrate into St Helens R.F.C Membership programme meaning there are no barriers to entry and the club and its fans can benefit almost instantly.
It’ll also provide Saints with unprecedented levels of behavioural insights, for example, where their fans spend money outside of the club. This valuable data will enable the club to profile their fans in order to deliver a personalised and bespoke customer journey, one that is characterised by targeted, tailored communications based on individual preferences. Together, this will drive much deeper levels of engagement, and will help fans to feel valued and understood throughout their journey with St Helens R.F.C.
Understanding the growing importance of rewards in the sport, earlier this year the Rewards4Rugby League programme was launched, and is one of the key benefits offered by the Rugby Football League’s (RFL) Our League membership programme. Again, points can be redeemed for highly sought-after rugby league rewards, including tickets to the Betfred Super League Grand Final, the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final, the Dacia Magic Weekend or for the International Test Match Series between England and New Zealand in Autumn 2018.
The RFL expects the rewards programme to help achieve its ambitious targets of 100,000 members by the end of 2018, and 500,000 by the end of 2021, the year in which England hosts the Rugby League World Cup.
As with any sport, fans are the lifeblood of rugby league and often the clubs are the heartbeat of their community. Despite the high levels of supporter loyalty, rugby league clubs must not rest on their laurels, and should find new and exciting ways to engage their existing fans as well as attract new ones.
A strong loyalty programme, that goes beyond the pitch when it comes to rewards, is becoming a prerequisite for rugby league clubs that want to secure their long-term future in the hearts and minds of their fans.