SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/Franchises

Padres’ RFID system to combine ticketing, concessions, other fan touch points

The San Diego Padres are ramping up efforts to understand fan behavior and habits. The team is introducing a radio frequency identification system that will combine ticketing, concessions, its fan loyalty program and in-game entertainment.

Like the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays, the Padres have aligned with London-based customer management group Fortress GB to tie together all of their fan touch points into one system.

But the Padres are taking a significant step by also folding the program into MLB Advanced Media’s At The Ballpark mobile application. This RFID system will be recognized in the app, and fans will also have a smart card embedded with the RFID chip, like what the Nationals and Rays have done.

The system will be similar to one used by the Nationals.
Photo by: WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Padres fans will be able to manage their tickets, buy food and merchandise, and enhance their in-game experience through the app. The Padres with MLBAM are developing several mobile games and social elements that will be available and the club has aligned with San Diego-based startup technology firm Goodsnitch to allow fans at Petco Park to provide feedback on their in-game experience.

The Padres’ system will also manage its fan loyalty program, The Faithful, which rewards fans for virtually any behavior with the team — from buying tickets and merchandise to reading articles online and retweeting team tweets.

The club spent an undisclosed seven-figure sum creating the program. Installation required infrastructure at the ballpark including new turnstiles and a new point-of-sale system. Padres staffers also toured Nationals Park and Tropicana Field to study their RFID efforts with Fortress.

“This has been a major investment on our part, but it’s where our future lies and is the next logical step for us,” said Mike Dee, Padres president and chief executive.

Helping manage the effort for the Padres are Wayne Partello, the club’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, and Ryan Gustafson, manager of business strategy and analytics. After Dee left the Miami Dolphins to take the club’s senior management job last summer, he brought former colleague Partello with him from Miami into a newly created role.

MLBAM this season is substantially reworking At The Ballpark to allow clubs, and in turn their fans, much more flexibility to customize what the product provides. The Padres, as a result, are among the first clubs to deploy MLBAM’s broader vision for the app.

“Like any business, we want to reward our best customers, and the broader platform we’re creating for At The Ballpark will allow teams to take that in whatever direction they choose,” said MLBAM President and CEO Bob Bowman.

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