Chicago Fire StadiumThe Chicago Fire recently made an announcement that the club’s season ticket holders (STHs) will no longer need to use paper tickets for admittance to the stadium for games. Rather, each STH account will receive a Season Ticket Card. This card will take on the role of the paper ticket, being scanned at the gate and allowing each STH entrance to the stadium for games. This card will also give STHs 20% off every concession item purchased (save alcohol), in addition to the 20% Fan Shop discount STHs already receive. To learn more about the specifics behind the card, and the team’s rationale behind the switch from paper tickets, check out a recently posted article on the Fire’s website.

On paper, this looks like a complete upgrade for those it affects. In addition to providing the benefits above (as well as a few others), the switch adds convenience and value to being a Chicago Fire season ticket holder.

The convenience comes by removing the annoyance and issues that can arise with having to print out tickets, or wait in the mail to receive multiple tickets for a game. Now, STHs are able to scan one card to get their whole party through the gate, and can replicate that process for every game.

The value comes by saving STHs money at the concessions stands. Fans are tired of paying for what they feel are exorbitant prices for standard or sub-standard fare. A 20% discount lessens the blow at the cash register, which will buy the Fire some goodwill with the fan base, and more importantly, allow a family of four to save some of their entertainment dollars for something else down the line, whether that be Fire merchandise, an extra trip to the concession stand later in the game, or another event or experience.

With any move to a new system, there are sure to be some issues with implementation and situations that can’t be predicted until that system is underway and being tested. For instance, what if two families share one season ticket account? Do they have to share one card, or is it possible to receive one for each family so that they don’t have to show up at the exact same time to get in, or pass the card from family to family each game? If a STH forgets his card, what protocol will be in place to get him the tickets (or replacement card) to enter? Will he still be able to get access to his concessions/merchandise discount? The Fire have undoubtedly come up with contingency plans for some of these issues, but they will have to be responsive to others that arise in the first few games of implementation (and deal with them in a manner sympathetic to fans struggling to adopt the new concept).

On the plus side, however, the Fire will likely reap rewards from this logistical upgrade. Assuming there is technology embedded in the card to link the STH making in-stadium purchases to what s/he actually buys, the Fire can now mine the influx of concessions and merchandise sales data they will receive to make targeted decisions. By tying purchases to the STH account, the Fire will be able to see which concession stands, and more specifically which items, are preferred by STHs, and in what quantities. This data may prove invaluable when making decisions about which items to stock at a game, how to price them, and at which stands to put them.

The Fire could also elect to utilize outside data to segment their STHs into different groups, such as families, singles under 30, older married couples without children, etc. (“PersonicX” is one type of segmentation data element available for purchase that groups people into 70 lifestyle cohorts based on demographics and behaviors. If you are interested, click here for more information on how Turnkey can help you append PersonicX clusters to your database.). Once the team obtains this data, they can create a portrait of what each clusters’ habits and preferences are on game day in terms of F&B and merchandise purchases. Then, they could market specifically to those clusters using promotional offers based on their tracked habits that could increase likelihood to purchase F&B/merchandise.

This type of targeting is not necessarily new to sports and entertainment; however, it’s a long way from being considered “standard’ across the industry. When implemented correctly, the Fire may find this approach has powerful effects on both the fans and the property, creating a true win-win for both parties.