Rewards program gives aid to Spurs

By Travis E. Poling
Express-News Business Writer

Selling San Antonio Spurs tickets can be a little like shooting everything from downtown and hoping to land a three-pointer, according to team officials.

In an attempt to take the guesswork out of boosting game revenues, the Spurs are trying to find out who their fans are to get them out to more games.

The Spurs Rewards program, launched at the beginning of the lockout-delayed basketball season, offers incentives for Spurs fans to attend games.

Kiosks resembling automated teller machines in the Alamodome concourse hand out vouchers for free stuff in exchange for fan loyalty and answering a few questions at every game.

The data collected from the Rewards application form and gameday questions at the kiosks will be used for target marketing to fans next season, said Spurs Executive Vice President Russ Bookbinder.

"It really gives us a profile of the lifestyles of the people that are coming to our games," Bookbinder said of the 14,000 fans that signed up for the Rewards program.

A swipe of the card at the Rewards kiosk pays out with soft drinks, posters, ticket deals and other perks. Those who use the card for every home game of the shortened season get a perfect attendance jacket and are entered in a raffle for a trip for two on the team charter plane to a Spurs playoff game.

Before each payoff, the machine prompts the user with questions that give glimpses into the psyche, likes and habits of fans from the top-dollar executive to the blue-collar worker.

For example, the team has determined that 41 percent of the card users get most of their Spurs information from television and 33 percent from the newspaper.

Another survey question discovered only 3 percent of Spurs Rewards members at the first game this year were still mad about the prolonged lockout of players that shortened the season by about 30 games.

Lifestyle queries found 66 percent of the attendees are basketball fans, 49 percent are moviegoers and 46 percent are football devotees.

Bookbinder said the data will be used to fine-tune marketing and boost season-ticket sales.

For example, if the computer database shows that a Rewards cardholder attended six games for the year, all on weekends, the franchise could make them a seasonticket package offer for weekend games.

To sweeten the pot, the Spurs could throw in a gift certificate for movies, concert tickets or other incentives targeting that person's interest, Bookbinder said.

"You need to give them a reason to do more business with you," he said.

The Spurs have to work harder at landing season-ticket sales than other NBA teams because of San Antonio's lack of large corporations — typical buyers of yearlong tickets — Bookbinder said.

The Spurs are not the first major league franchise to use the marketing tools from Austin-based AIM Technologies.

Baseball's Oakland A's were the first of seven major and minor league baseball teams and two hockey teams to use AIM's card, software and kiosks, AIM President Tim Keyes said.

A Spurs presentation on the program to NBA franchise executives was well-received and could lead to more business in coming years, Keyes said.

Dave Lozow, the A's director of business services, said the program helped increase team revenues by about $200,000 by turning some single-ticket buyers into season-ticket holders.

"All in all, it's a good program for us," Lozow said. "We learned a lot more about our fans." s

Wednesday, Apr 7,1999

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