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How do you magnify the loyalty of your most passionate skiers? Take a page from pro sports.

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When you think of industries ours can learn from, it’s hard to avoid the world of professional sports.

We both have seasons, we both have exciting days, we both have not-so-exciting days, we both want to create loyal fans around a central brand, we both sell single-event tickets, and we both sell season-long packages.

But it’s on that last point – season passes/tickets – where professional sports leave skiing in the dust with the experience they offer.

Because in all the years I’ve held a season pass, I’ve never had this status celebrated and elevated like this.

Wait, maybe that’s a really clever, ahead-of-the-curve team at the Athletics, right? Maybe not.

But, maybe it’s just baseball where there’s a lot of money and resources, right? Well, maybe not. Turns out, one of the sports that’s going all-in on this idea is none other than Major League Soccer.

True, there’s a bit more money in NYCFC’s bank account than Mountain Creek’s, but if we look at the patterns behind the scenes I think we’ll see something we can learn from.

Specifically.

  • Designed to make them feel more valuable than single-ticket buyer (feeling of importance).
  • It’s not a pass or pack or ticket, it’s a membership or club (exclusivity).
  • Something unique to wear and/or decorate with to represent this status (creates identity and gives evidence of status).
  • Delivered well before the season starts (prolong experience, capitalize on pent up demand).

In other words, professional sports teams design not just a season-long product, but a season-long experience and identity that helps these fans feel valuable and important starting the second they buy their pass.

With the patterns identified, we can separate what they did (which you may not be able to afford) from why they did it (which, with a bit of creativity, you probably can).

Some ideas in that regard.

#1) Special Days for Passholders
Killington has a history of doing this at the ultimate time: opening day. I love this. Even just giving passholders early access to a specific lift each day could be huge in this regard.

What does this do? Creates exclusivity.

#2) Unique T-Shirt or Hoodie Only Passholders Get
What if you printed something fairly inexpensive like a T-shirt or beanie that had some sort of wording/branding specific to passholders. Even just your logo with an integrated, all-caps word “PASSHOLDER” printed on a brand-color shirt or hoodie could be more than enough.

What would this do? Create an identity and a way to show your status within it.

#3) Special, Pre-Season Delivery
And while you’re at it, what if you stuck their pass (or a reminder if you need their photo) and t-shirt and other elements of being a passholder (more on that later) in a custom box or envelope that was something passholders would look look forward to receiving each fall (and be so excited they’d tweet about it when they did)?

What would this do? Expands the season passholder experience.

BONUS) Print Evidence of Passholder Benefits
You know all those perks – the discounts, the buddy passes, the partner tickets – you list at the bottom of your pass page? Those are amazingly valuable, often carrying more value as a whole than the pass itself.

So what if you put those on glossy, nicely designed cards? Or a magnet or calendar that lists key dates throughout the season that will not only remind them of all the value within their pass but constantly remind them to use it? Said another way, what if that coupon you could share with a friend actually was a coupon you could share with friend?

Lots of Possibilities
If there’s anything that baseball and soccer and other professional sports can teach us, it’s that there is a lot untapped potential within for loyalty and experiences within our most loyal group of customers.

With a little planning, design, and cost, this value can be unlocked simply by the way we deliver the product these customers have purchased.

Published March 17th, 2017 by Gregg Blanchard.

  • Crawford Gupton

    I work in private aviation. Whenever we sign a new client we send a model jet with their name on it, a high quality pamphlet for their exclusive benefits, Christmas gift, and access to our exclusive app.

    One of the things resorts could do is make an exclusive app for pass holders. Season pass holders could see how many days they’ve skied, run totals, real time mountain condition updates, and social integration with other pass holders. Thoughts?

    • http://www.greggblanchard.com/ Gregg Blanchard

      I think it’s on the right path, but I’m not sure an app holds enough unique value to work, especially given the cost. Most of those things – days, runs, updates, etc. – exist within 3rd party apps or existing resort apps.

  • iResortApp

    Excellent article and timely for me coming off yet another lousy Vail Resorts experience using their buddy passes and ski with a friend passes they so boldly market as a benefit for passholders. Their systems integration and/or training (not sure if its both) is so bad that I (again) was embarrassed with friends I took to three different locations to try and use the deals that are supposed to be a benefit with my pass. VR needs to spend a little more time on the marketing and positioning of their season pass holders and a little less time on acquisitions. They also do NOTHING to survey their pass holders for feedback on their experiences – it’s kind of a take it or leave it and they certainly behave like they couldn’t have cared less. I wish I would have video taped the latest interaction with one of their ticket office employees – it was shockingly bad and laughable really. With a ticket window price of $175 a day at Vail which rivals an NFL or NHL ticket price, I DO think they have the budget (or could) to create a more positive and loyalty building experience. Also being associated with the business of wholesaling t-shirts and sweatshirts to retail stores branded with the resorts’ logos, the idea of providing a season pass-specific product is brilliant – and they have the retail stores already in place for distribution and could even charge for them (keeping the price close to cost rather than a huge mark-up like everything else they sell) – perhaps behind the counter where they sell the tickets requiring your season pass for access to the hat/t-shirt/sweatshirt, etc. Wouldn’t cost them a dime.

  • Ross Walker

    This is a great idea, totally could see this working well. Maybe even collaborate with a particular brand? We’ve got a big member community, I could see this working for their season pass distribution as well.

  • sthrendyle

    Last year I bought a season pass for the first time at a local mountain that can be a challenge to deal with re: media passes. Since that time, I have not received ANY communication with their guest services or marketing department at all! (Ski conditions have been so good that I will actually probably renew the pass, and even purchase on upgrade!). Still, there’s so much more they could do. A bizarre experience, to say the least. My wife has one of their passes as well (different grade) and gets next to nothing from them in terms of special deals, etc. The pro sports analogy certainly DOES work!