Aston Villa on the ‘huge marketing opportunity’ of getting fans shopping with their season cards

Aston Villa's payment card

Aston Villa FC have lifted the lid on their first foray into a loyalty scheme which they hope will deliver more insights to their marketing team on everything from how their stadium should be designed to which brands they should partner with.

The English Championship side has installed pre-paid contactless and chip and pin payment technology on fans’ season and member cards. The card will not only give fans access to Villa Park but with it they can also pay for goods and services across the food and drinks concourse, ticket office, and the club store (in addition to its online and high street outlet). There are also plans to bring aboard local retailers further down the line.

Baiting the service, other than the ability to use an all-purpose card bearing a club crest for purchases on match day, is loyalty scheme – dubbed Pride Reward – that will give users a point for every pound spent which in turn can be used to redeem merchandise and offers in the Pride Rewards area of the Villa app. Rewards so far include apparel, hotel stays, signed goods and matchday events like taking selfies with players.

The club also stressed that the prepaid cards will hasten queues at their concessions – especially during the half time rush.

Matt Swindells, head of data and insight at ‎Aston Villa told The Drum that the club is going to such lengths to create their own commerce infrastructure for fans after several months of research & development into how they could “broaden the usually narrow rewards scheme that clubs offer”.

If widely adopted, Swindells said the product which will “allow a continuous two-way engagement which also opens up new revenue streams via affiliate marketing and brand partnerships.”

But there is a palpable benefit to having purchases take place in Villa’s closed ecosystem – data.

Villa will slowly learn the habits of their most hardcore fans. For example, they will know what specific fans are eating and drinking, when they make the purchase, and from which booth. Such revelations, Swindells said, will ultimately aid in planning inventory and staffing for the stadium.

Beyond that, Swindells said that the club will learn more about fans post-and-pre-match routines through their transactions: "Once you then begin to get adoption of the product into daily lives we have a huge data set to analyse and act upon.”

And this is the data that will come to sit at the heart of Villa's future marketing decisions.

“If we know that fans purchase a certain beer brand outside of Villa Park, why not ensure they are able to drink the same one inside the venue? Being able to serve up the relevant rewards to fans is important and shows the we care as much about the fans as they do about the club,” he continued.

Once habits are keenly established, club partners can be integrated into the card’s point of sale or as reward incentives. It’s about driving a “propensity to purchase to actual purchase for our brand partners by integrating each brand into the loyalty scheme and offering fans benefit for each purchase,” he added.

The club claimed that they are already in contact FMCG brands that are keen to move beyond the traditional sports sponsorship model.

“We believe we are ahead of the curve in the ability to execute complex multi-strand marketing partnerships beyond the normal classic ‘sponsorship’ alignments,” Swindells said.

The scheme, delivered by sports and entertainment payment firm FortressGB, with tech from Wirecard Solutions.

Offering an alternative look at loyalty and data, at the top of the Premier League, Man City are taking a different approach by running content, rewards and community through its Cityzens platform. Members get the chance to be first in line for tickets, get exclusive discounts on goods and trips to Etihad Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Bundesliga is hunting for the league’s most loyal fans by tempting them to change teams by bribing them with cars and money.

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