New Era Kicks Off RFID

Comcast-Spectacor subsidiary New Era Tickets is taking its first step into RFID technology with a new program for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union this season.

Beginning March 19, New Era will help the team introduce a customer loyalty program that will present season ticketholders who opt in to using the RFID, bar-coded cards with one-of-a-kind rewards.

The program is specifically designed to reward fans who support the Union the most, New Era CEO Fred Maglione told Pollstar, as in, the “best fans – those people that attend every game, come early and attend off-campus events.”

And when they say one-of-a-kind, they really mean it. They’re not just talking about free food or T-shirts, Union VP of ticket sales Mike Quarino explained.

“Anybody can buy a T-shirt or buy a hot dog,” he told Pollstar. “We’re trying to give our season ticketholders and our loyal fans unique experiences and reward them for their support.”

Potential experiences on the table include a locker-room tour, private meet-and-greet with a player or playing a game on the team’s home field, PPL Park. Auctions and price-level seating upgrades are also being discussed as rewards.

While RFID technology has raised concerns with consumer privacy groups the technology could be used to track people for surveillance purposes, Quarino said the team is focused on keeping the technology in the building for now.

“We don’t have any external monitors out there where if they checked in at a Dunkin’ Donuts or any other establishment, we would know about that,” he said. “For us, it’s about access, getting them into the building and then just creating this loyalty-reward system that incentivizes people for coming in early, for being part of team wins and keeping up strong attendance.

“When we first went out with this, we had skeptics and people that were concerned from our season ticket base. And when they got their printed tickets but then saw what the loyalty-reward system offered, they called us back and said ‘I know I asked for tickets but I want my card so I’m going to send the tickets back to you.’”

The cards won’t limit transfer or resale capabilities if a fan can’t attend an event, as cardholders will be able to log in to their accounts online, transfer tickets to a friend and then have the friend print the tickets at home. Cards will become unusable for those games.

Maglione said the RFID cards are a pilot program for New Era, which partnered with international company SkiData for the venture and may consider offering the technology to other clients in the future.

“It’s really comparable to what we see with the airlines and the credit card companies and we’re just rolling it out now to our industry,” he said.