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NEWS: Success Story – The RFL, InCrowd & Rewards4 blend engagement and loyalty

The RFL and InCrowd have worked together with Rewards4 to expand the highly successful Rewards4Rugby League loyalty programme, utilising fan data-driven push notifications to increase engagement.

Overview

Over the last 3 years, InCrowd has worked closely with The RFL and their partners to produce Our League, a world-class membership platform that boasts over 145,000 active members to date. During planning for the 2020 season a priority was placed on an enhanced integration with loyalty scheme provider Rewards4. For the launch of the platform back in 2017, Rewards4Rugby League, InCrowd and The RFL built a scheme that rewarded predictor performance. The predictor is a season-long engagement feature in which fans votes for match outcomes and try to climb the leaderboard to win money can’t buy prizes. Points won during the season counted towards discounts off a variety of rugby league tickets including The Coral Challenge Cup Final, and the Betfred Super League Grand Final. Since the start of the 2018 Betfred Super League season, nearly 27,000 predictor players have won a combined total of £70,000 worth of Rewards4Rugby League points, from this single touchpoint.

Given the unprecedented level of engagement with Our League’s predictor along with polls and player of the match voting, all parties were keen to build on these the strong foundations and further enhance the Rewards4Rugby League experience for Our League members.

The Solution

In time for the 2020 season, InCrowd, The RFL and Rewards4 collaborated to introduce an advanced push notification integration that would drive further engagement with the Rewards4Rugby League platform, through tailored and automated notifications in relations to points accrued by the fan. With this new development in place, predictor, polls and player of the match participants receive an automatic push notification informing them that they have earned points. This push notification’s call to action is relevant to the individual user’s Rewards4Rugby League account status. If they are already registered, the push prompts them to directly access their account. If new to the Rewards4 programme, the push encourages them to create an account at that moment. 

Integrating this smart push notification system increases the benefits of the loyalty scheme beyond those who perform well on the predictor, to Rugby League fans who take part in any of the fan activations within Our League. The programme now delivers four ways in which Our League members can accrue points:

  • Achieving streaks of correct predictions
  • Participating in the predictor, polls or player of the match voting

How it works

Results

The launch of the Rewards4Rugby League push notification integration has surpassed all expectations, with Our League members responding positively to seeing tangible benefits from their enhanced engagement with the Our League platform. 

Over the course of the 2019 season (February to October), Rewards4Rugby League members participated in 14.4% of the polls, player of the match and predictor questions available.

During the period of February to mid-March 2020 (pre Covid-19), participation from the same users rose to 32.9%, a 128% increase.

Nichola Spencer, Membership Manager, RFL: “For The Rugby Football League the further integration with Rewards4 and InCrowd has been a real win for our Members. We are able to offer members an extra financial incentive which encourages further engagement fans can spend on Rugby League ticketing and retail with no additional costs for The RFL. The integration is now a seamless experience for users and we look forward to adding more engagement touchpoints for them in the future.”

The numbers:

  • 85,000+ interactions with Our Leagues polls, predictor and player of the match vote.
  • 15,177 users have linked their Our League and Rewards4Rugby League accounts since the launch of the programme in 2018, an average of 419 accounts a month.
  • 2,305 accounts were linked in February 2020 as a result of the push notification integration.
  • 9,500 unique members have collected points as a result of Our League engagements.
  • 6,900 of these were existing Rewards4Rugby League members
  • 2,600 were new members
  • 1.7 million cumulative points have been collected.
  • 9, the average Rewards4Rugby League related engagements per member, where points have been collected

Tom Cowgill,  Director Rewards4: “It’s clear from these early results that if you make it simple and seamless for a fan to collect points for engaging with your app and those points actually have a value to the fan then, a) you have happy fans and b) they engage more with the content in your app.  Our integration with InCrowd enables OurLeague members to collect points within the app for voting on man of the match, entering a predictor or a poll.  This has clearly resonated with fans and the feedback has been wholly positive (as is evidenced by the Trustpilot review from Lee).  We are looking forward to working with the RFL and InCrowd to introduce more points collection touchpoints within the app and seeing even higher levels of engagement once the season recommences in August 2020.”

Benefits

  • Fans receive clear, monetary benefits for engaging with the sport that they love. These can be redeemed against ticket purchases such as the Coral Challenge Cup Final.
  • The RFL benefits from both greater engagement and satisfaction from rugby league fans, and increased revenue from discounted purchases by the fans using the programme.

Lee left a five star review on Trust Pilot: “An excellent concept. I earn points for picking man of match for instance by effectively a few clicks. Those points turn into pence which add up to pounds and recently turned the pounds to a voucher which was spent easily. A very good and easy way to earn money for that jersey you want or tickets to see your team.”

Darren Parsons, InCrowd: “We were confident this addition would be well received by the rugby league fanbase that are already highly engaged with the Our League platform, but the numbers seen straight from launch were even more positive than expected. As a result of a few strategies consulted on by InCrowd and actioned by the RFL, there has been a marked increase in engagement across a wide variety of Our League features which is great to see. We’ll continue to monitor this closely and explore how we can develop the offering to fans further.”

BLOG: The Engagement Game – how to balance editorial and brand content on social

The attraction of a sports property’s social media offering is becoming an increasingly important element in partnerships with brands – but maximising this relationship in editorial terms to the satisfaction of both parties requires a delicate balance, with engagement at its heart.

The eternal balance: editorial v commercial

There is nothing new in the tension that exists between editorially led and commercially focused information. Newspaper and TV adverts were the primary revenue driver of media houses for decades, demanding column inches space and airtime in an acknowledged trade-off between editorial needs and financial necessity.

The evolution of the public relations industry ensured these lines began to blur somewhat as advertorial-style content became more prevalent in journalistic output – some of it in more subtle guises than others.

The birth of the internet then put its foot on the accelerator of change, hitting overdrive with the onset of social media.

The tension in the age of social media still exists, but the difference is that it’s more nuanced, and the battle for attention is so much fiercer as there are so many players out there. As a content producer, you are not just competing against established media houses anymore. Anyone can produce content and pretty much everyone with a social account does.

The newspapers and TV stations that went out of business in the 1980s and 1990s may argue that competition was just as cut-throat then, but in today’s hugely fragmented market, it’s hard to rise above the rest even in a niche area. And whereas the traditional indicators of success were circulation and ratings, the key metric now is engagement.

Engagement: from which everything follows

Vanity numbers dominated the early years of social media. Perhaps taking their cue from traditional analogue benchmarks, followers and impressions were presented to advertisers as the markers of where to assign their media spend. The landscape evolved quickly as brands sought optimal value – and soon realised the potential of social media to offer more tailored investment strategies.

Engagement thus became a vital measurement of content success.

For advertisers, it showed exactly where audiences were spending time and actually interacting – and therefore obviously being of more value than a piece of content which may or may not have been noticed. The platforms themselves reacted to this with algorithms tweaked to ensure engagement was rewarded.

The benefits of well-engaged posts are multifold and self-perpetuating. It’s not just having the clear advantage of an engaged vs. a passive audience; the better a post is interacted with, the more it elevates an account’s other posts. Even a reach play is driven, fundamentally, by engagement because a post will be served higher up feeds the more interaction it receives.

So, even though the issue for content producers on social media is similar to that faced historically by all publishers – how do you increase interest in your editorial while satisfying the needs of your commercial partners, needs which are usually not the reason your channels are followed – the rewards are far more tangible. And as the key metric has changed, so have the tactics in how to increase it.

The pull of sports properties

In the world of sport, it’s natural for popular properties to be attractive propositions to brands. Sports rights owners such as competitions, clubs and – increasingly – players will stand for certain values which the brand sees as similar to its own, or certainly values the brand would like to be associated with. It can be the continuation of a brand’s ethos that has been in place for years, or mark a shift in how it wants itself to be perceived. It can be a very powerful agent of change.

Moving this to social media is not necessarily straightforward. Maybe nowadays we are at the stage where one of the attractions of a sports property to a brand is its social media presence.

Either way, it is now de rigueur for contracts to flesh out how partners can utilise these channels for the promotion of their brand.

The example of Cristiano Ronaldo may be an extreme one, but well illustrates what is happening at the top end of the market: the footballer took home $47.8 million from paid Instagram posts alone in 2019. It’s not just the fact he has a huge following – it’s that he has a huge and engaged one. It’s the type of direct, quality access you could not even consider achieving through, say, television advertising.

Returning to how brands work with sports properties, often the promotion of a brand takes the form of a piece of content that the partner has created themselves or via one of their agencies which they may use on their own social channels, or on another medium such as television.

These ‘brand slap’ posts more often than not perform poorly on sports properties’ platforms. They are out of keeping with the usual editorial content feed and are an immediate turn-off for that property’s following. A piece of content that receives relatively poor engagement doesn’t just affect that particular post but drags down the visibility of that channel’s other content – including other sponsor posts.

The trick in gaining engagement lies in presenting partner promotion in such a way that it doesn’t turn off an audience whose expectation is to see a sport’s organisation’s ‘usual’ offering – this is branded content.

Branded content

What that usual offering might be depends on the goals set by the organisation and editorial team – and it has a direct impact on what sponsor content can be produced. Branded content is not a new phenomenon, but doing it well requires getting the balance just right. Associating a brand with an element of your property that has a distinction with the rest of your editorial output – but is still in keeping with it – is a tried and tested approach, and has the power to do the following:

  1. Give the brand a direct, seemingly exclusive relationship with part of the property
  2. Tap into a value or set of values that is represented by the property or that part of it
  3. Create content that achieves high engagement and more exposure for the brand

The numbers tell the story: content produced for a brand by the editorial team will almost always perform better than content pre-delivered by the brand for unedited posting on the property’s channels.

The key to this is knowledge of a property’s audience based on analytics and demographics, and the people with the best insight into this is the editorial team, be it the posters themselves or the analytics unit, depending on team size and their priorities. The ‘battle’ is to persuade the brand of the above approach – to convince partners to move away from more traditional forms of advertising and to make content specifically for social media and, to be more precise, a particular social media audience. That is how to get engagement and the proof is in the numbers.

Manchester City took this a step further, running a branded content series on Facebook to show the wider value on offer: their Freestyle World Tour featured top freestyle footballers showcasing their talents in different Etihad destinations. A brand lift study conducted at the end of the campaign demonstrated significant increases in three key metrics: purchase intent, ad recall and awareness.

Worthy investment

Achieving best in class branded content takes time. It requires many actors and sign-offs at various levels but once an activation is established, it can be run by the editorial team with little need for the brand to be involved. There is an onus not just on brands, but on rights owners to choose their partners carefully and find ‘value synergies’ that allow for optimum public perception – and not just in the content sphere.

Nevertheless, there is inevitably a lot of compromise involved in the creation of these branded content products, but the goals of both parties really remain the same, or certainly should: achieving the best possible engagement for the posts themselves.

Ensuring this gives the brand as high exposure as possible, while not adversely affecting the performance of the channels that make them such an attractive proposition in the first place.

Leeds United FC focus on fan engagement with their official app built by InCrowd

Leeds United FC are continuing their focus on fan engagement with the ongoing success of their official LUTV mobile app in partnership with InCrowd, available to download on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.

LUFC fans have access to a new two-way channel between themselves and and the club. The Official LUTV mobile app enables fans to engage with a host of different features no matter where they are.

Fan features include:

  • Full LUTV including highlights, interviews, features and more. Subscriptions are available to be purchased here.
  • Once logged in, UK subscribers will be able to access live audio commentary, while international users can watch the full match.
  • All the latest news & breaking news supported by the InCrowd push notification system.
  • A full 2017/18 campaign fixtures & results list.
  • Live league tables.
  • Official player & club Twitter account feeds .
  • Integrates official club social media accounts.
  • Access to ticket purchasing and merchandise.

“From a media perspective, providing content to our fans was one of our biggest challenges. However, this has been a smooth process as a result of the perfect cooperation between Leeds United FC and InCrowd.” Emanuele Montoneri, Head of Media at Leeds United FC.

What does this mean for the club?

The LUTV app currently holds a 4.5/5 rating across both the Apple and Google Play app stores. Furthermore, the app has over 170 five-star reviews. From the point of view of the club, Leeds United will now be able to:

  • Segment, target and send personalised messages to their fans using the powerful InCrowd push notification system.
  • Collect, grow and utilise rich behavioural and location based fan data.
  • Market new sponsorship inventory to existing and future commercial partners.
  • Showcase official club content on a much improved digital platform to fans around the world.

“We are extremely proud to be in partnership with one of the most prestigious football clubs in the UK. This new venture with LUFC means InCrowd now work with over 20 rights holders across four sports.’ Aidan Cooney, CEO of InCrowd.

Please check InCrowd’s and Leeds United’s Twitter feeds twitter.com/InCrowd_Sports and twitter.com/lufc for news of further updates to the official Leeds United app or get in touch via Enquiries@incrowdsports.com

About InCrowd

InCrowd provide a fan engagement & sponsorship activation platform. Our understanding of the avid and emotional mindset of a fan is combined with in-depth data analysis and ground-breaking digital technology to offer rights holders and brands a unique opportunity to reach out to sports fans in the moments that really matter. Many of the world‘s top rights holders & brands use InCrowd’s fan marketing platform to collect more fan data, sell more tickets and increase sponsorship revenue. We also help sponsors connect with new customers and convert fan interaction into revenue & advocacy. Find out more – www.incrowdsports.com

 

How to Increase Fan Engagement in Cricket

Cricket’s administrators should follow the women’s Ashes structure to increase fan engagement and TV revenue.

In 2013, the women’s Ashes was restructured to give one winner, taking into account performances across the Test, ODI and T20 formats. It was a huge success with greater national media interest than ever before. I think parts of the men’s game should learn from Clare Connor’s brilliant initiative.

Cricket has a problem – with three different formats it is hard to keep track. I have read a paper on David Kendrix’s ICC ranking system and studied how the County Championship points work. That probably defines me as a cricket nerd but I still have no idea which is the best county or even the best international team!

By combining the three formats into one competition, it would enable fans to understand what is going on throughout the tour.

cricket_format

International Example

Firstly, let’s take a typical England tour to India with 4 Tests, 4 ODIs and 4 T20s. I would then allocate:

  • 4 points for a Test win
  • 2 points for an ODI win
  • 2 points for a T20 win
  • Half points for a draw or tie

Enhancing Narrative

Work is then needed to make every match matter.

I think tennis does this fantastically well. Each game reaches regular climaxes with big implications for the overall match. The pressure boils over at the end of a set where risks are required and mistakes are costly.

We could do the same with cricket. Each “set” (1 x Test, 1 x ODI, 1 x T20) would take two weeks and could be repeated across the summer, providing broadcasters with regular scheduling:

Week 1
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Test 1Test 2Test 3Test 4
Week 2
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Test 5T20ODI

Each of these matches are important for the set and each set would be vital in the context of the overall series.

Consequences of points system

  • Match 1 (5 Day test): Starting the set and generating most points (4) allows test match cricket to retain its status as the most important match to win. Winning it would guarantee at least a draw in the set.
  • Match 2 (T20): Whatever the outcome of the test match, there would be everything to play for in the Friday evening big ticket T20. Off the back of a test victory, a team has the chance to clinch the set. A test defeat would position this a must win game.
  • Match 3 (Sunday ODI): Unless a team has won both the test and T20, there is still everything to play for in this deciding match, perfectly placed for a family day on the Sunday.

That would complete the set before we are back for another scintillating round starting with the test match.

Squad Dynamics

Player selection, rotation and management would become key strategies and talking points over the series. Perhaps, like in limited overs tournaments, the squad size could be restricted forcing players to excel at all formats or be tactically rotated by management. Would Cook be good enough to retain his place in a squad of 15 or would this give a chance to Alex Hales in test cricket?

An initial issue with a proposal like this is that players might find it hard to make constant format adjustments but shouldn’t that be part of the game? This is a proposal for fans not players.

Easy to Follow

The greatest advantage of this structure is how easy it is for fans to follow. With a consistent narrative built throughout the tour, we would remember key moments and know who the best team is rather than it being broken down by format. This is a big part of the 2013 women’s Ashes success.

When fans find sport easy to follow, it usually has positive implications for broadcasters. That, at least, should give encourage the game’s administrators.