“Strategically, they’re at the front,” said Richard Pinnick, the head of global business development for London-based Fortress GB, which built the team’s technology platform after installing similar systems for more than half of England’s Premier League soccer teams. “Others have thought this way. Very few clubs have said, ‘I’m not just talking about this, I want to do it, and I want to do it meaningfully.’ Financially, operationally, they’re engineering their entire business around it.”
Disney parks, among other American entertainment sites, are introducing RFID wristbands that will similarly facilitate interactions between consumers and their corporate hosts.
Baseball games, though, have a different history than theme parks, and some Nats fans have already expressed displeasure over losing tangible paper records of their fandom. The Nats will allow fans to buy 3-by 7-inch commemorative tickets on premium stock, both at the stadium and online; the cost hasn’t been announced.
“I’m given 81 keepsakes; that’s important to me,” said Sam Rhem, 51, of Springfield, a season ticket holder since 2005 who has contacted the club with this and other concerns. “There was more to this whole process, this event than just flashing a card.”
Team executives, who have been working on this transformation for three years, are familiar with this and other misgivings. Plan holders who share seats can each register and receive their own cards; tickets can be instantly transferred from one card holder to another on the team’s Web site. Plan holders can also print out tickets at home and use the stadium’s bar code scanners, transfer tickets electronically to friends, or forward tickets to their own mobile devices. And fans with concerns about privacy or excessive interruptions can opt out of receiving special offers and refrain from using other features.
“Like anything else, there’s always going to be some resistance,” said Jerry Casselano, the director of corporate hospitality for ProVentures, an Arlington-based sports and entertainment marketing agency. But while Casselano said his corporate clients are often traditionalists about paper tickets, he said the new system — which he called “above and beyond” any other in baseball — would benefit both the Nationals and their followers.
“This is an investment in your fans,” Feffer said. “How do you engage your fans in a way that provides better value for being a season plan holder? How do you get closer to understanding your customers, what they want and what they value? Tickets were a transactional thing; you pay, and you come into the ballpark. Now, you’re engaging with your fans in a much different way that goes far beyond a transaction. That’s why you do it.”