SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/This Weeks News

Dodgers will reward fans who ‘Think Blue’

The Los Angeles Dodgers have teamed with Les Otten’s Sports Loyalty Systems to create a fan loyalty program dubbed Think Blue Rewards, the first of several such efforts expected to be launched in Major League Baseball this year by the Massachusetts company.

Fans with enough points can get on-field batting
practice or a meet-and-greet with players.
Otten, a Boston Red Sox minority owner, wants to enhance the traditional affinity program concept by allowing fans to accumulate points with purchases outside ballparks and on the Internet. In addition, unlike prior efforts that offer as rewards discounted concessions and merchandise or seat upgrades, the points earned in the new program will also garner rewards that cannot be bought, such as on-field batting practice sessions and meet-and-greets with players and team management.

Otten’s SLS last summer signed a deal with MLB Advanced Media to become baseball’s preferred provider of customer rewards programs. The Dodgers’ Think Blue program is the first resulting team program to hit the street. The club’s rewards include game-used equipment, batting practice at Dodger Stadium and use of the ballpark’s luxury suites.

Five more MLB teams are expected to follow the Dodgers’ lead by midseason, Otten said, with the Arizona Diamondbacks on deck. The rest of the league is expected to follow in late 2006 and 2007.

The Dodgers were the National League’s attendance leader last year, drawing more than 3.6 million people. The Think Blue program is aimed at pushing that total even higher and deepening fan ties to the club.

“Fans are absolutely passionate about their teams and want to get closer to their teams,” Otten said. “This system allows that to happen not only inside the ballpark on game day, but every day around the community.”

The Dodgers have partnered with several large retailers in the Los Angeles area, including 76 Gasoline and Welk Resorts. SLS also has brought Mall Networks into the program, which will let fans gain points by shopping at more than 200 online retailers, including Amazon.com, Expedia and Overstock.com.

Fans pay a fee to participate in the program, ranging from $19.95 to $99.95 annually. For that fee, each fan gets immediate returns, such as ticket vouchers, but also gets the affinity card with which the fan earns points when the card is used with purchases at participating retailers.

More than 1,000 fans have signed up for Think Blue since its launch earlier this month, Dodgers officials said, with a preliminary goal of more than 10,000 signed by midseason.

“Getting a sponsor, and our brand, at the retail level is absolutely huge,” said Marty Greenspun, Dodgers executive vice president and chief operating officer. “By getting a company like 76 [Gasoline] into this, that opens up a whole new level of marketing exposure.”

The affinity program operates on a commission basis, Otten said, with companies typically paying a marketing fee of about 1.5 percent for each transaction generated through the loyalty program. Those commissions are shared by SLS and the club.

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