SBJ/August 15-21, 2011/Facilities

Bengals reward club seat renewals with concession credits

Don Muret
The Cincinnati Bengals are rewarding club seat holders who renew their deals by giving them gift cards loaded with concessions credits.

The NFL lockout made for a difficult offseason for all NFL fans, and the Bengals thought it would be a nice gesture on the team’s part to help pay for the cost of food and drink in the clubs for their season-ticket holders sitting in the most expensive seats at Paul Brown Stadium, said Jeff Berding, the team’s director of sales and public affairs.

International Micro Systems is producing the gift cards for the Bengals.
As a result, the team developed a series of Loyalty Club cards for their two preseason games and eight regular-season games in Cincinnati. Those cards, branded with the Bengals’ tiger design and the helmet logo of each opponent, contain stored value. Fans renewing their club seats from midfield to the 20-yard-lines receive gift cards with $30 value per seat for each game. Those renewing club seats near the goal lines and in the end zones get gift cards with $15 in value per seat each game. Club seats cost $135 to $200 a game, depending on location.

Season-ticket holders that owned four midfield club seats and renewed them for the 2011 season receive a total of $120 in credit per game for food and drink.

“The whole point is to provide a meaningful reward for loyalty,” Berding said.

Last week, as club seat renewals continued less than a month before the start of the regular season, Bengals officials could not say how much the Loyalty Club campaign has driven fans’ decisions to extend their deals.

They do believe the gift card offer has helped with renewals after the Bengals suffered through a poor season in 2010, one year after sweeping their division foes and making the AFC playoffs, Berding said.

The Bengals’ gift card offer ends after Aug. 25, the date of their first home preseason game. The offer is not good for new club seat buyers, Berding said.

For International Micro Systems, the Pennsylvania firm producing the gift cards, the Bengals are the third NFL team to activate its stored-value technology. The Houston Texans tested it last year by distributing bar-coded coupons for fans to buy discounted concessions at Reliant Stadium. For this season, the Texans are providing vouchers with food credits in $10 increments tied to club seat renewals and referrals. As of last week, 550 club seats had been extended as a result of the program, said John Schriever, the team’s vice president of ticketing and event management.

In Houston, the technology has helped with quicker customer service at concession stands and with a small uptick in per caps, Schriever said. Aramark is the food provider for both the Bengals and Texans.

HOME COOKING: Andy Frain Services, a crowd management firm, recently signed deals with the Liberty Bowl and AutoZone Park in Memphis, the city’s football stadium and minor league baseball facility.

No surprise. Steve Zito, president of Andy Frain’s sports and entertainment division, managed FedEx Forum in Memphis for 5 1/2 years, at a time when the NBA arena became a client. Zito joined Andy Frain in June 2010 and still lives in the area.

Earlier this year, Andy Frain bought Ready Track, an incident management system used by MLB and NFL facilities. All told, the company has seen growth of $3.4 million in new business in the year since Zito came on board.

INFIELD HIT: Santa Anita Park has signed a deal with Crowd Seats, a half-off sports ticket site, to help fill up the infield for the horse track’s fall season, Sept. 30 through Nov. 6.

Twenty dollars will buy two tickets for a five-hour tailgate experience in a reserved space in the middle of the track equipped with tables, chairs, umbrellas and grills. Spectators can bring their own food to cook and drinks, excluding alcohol. The price is normally $20 a person.

Santa Anita used Groupon as a daily deals partner in January and February. The promotion kicked off around Christmas and accounted for 1,840 clubhouse ticket packages sold, said Chris Quinn, the track’s director of sales.

That deal brought many people to Santa Anita who had never been to the facility, at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in southern California, Quinn said. Sixty-seven percent of Groupon buyers were women.

The WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA also have deals with Crowd Seats.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.
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