The Toronto Raptors Prove the Power of Loyalty in Sports
For 24 years, the fans remained loyal. At times, for some, holding out hope seemed almost fruitless – but as a whole, the numbers speak for themselves. Aside from a slight dip in 2012, regular season attendance for the Toronto Raptors basketball team has remained steady since 2007. Basketball fandom in Canada may not be as traditionally or historically fervent as sports like ice hockey, but the growing multicultural community in Canada (and especially in metropolitan power hubs like Toronto) has ensured a steady following for the nation’s singular NBA representation. But as loyalty marketers know all too well, asking for loyalty dedication without the reward is a difficult proposition indeed.
And when the reward eventually came, it was pure ecstasy – not only for the fans, but for the brands that stood behind the Raptors and harnessed the swelling emotions in all their glory.
Over two million people took to the streets of Toronto on June 18th, celebrating the first ever Raptors win in an NBA final just a few days earlier. In a seemingly never-ending parade of triumph, people waited on the streets for hours past the anticipated arrival times of the new fledged basketball super stars. The air was palpable; with cheers and jubilation, naturally, but also with opportunity. Because the millions of dollars in equity earned promised huge loyalty gains for the brands that associate with the Raptors.
While brands have leapt at the opportunity to capitalize on the team’s success and the loyalty of its fans, there have been a few standout power plays from corporate entities strategic enough to maneuver through the complicated arena of sports marketing and actually turn fan loyalty into tangible dollars and cents:
McDonald’s Canada delved deep into a continuity play that ran season-long; fans could earn a free medium fries the day after a game whenever the Raptors scored at least 12 three-pointers. Connected to the McDonald’s app, customers could log-in and redeem the offer at participating locations. The on-court success of super star Kawhi Leonard meant that three-pointers were as bountiful as ever this season, with the team succeeding to meet the necessary 12 nearly every game. The result of this loyalty endeavour? McDonald’s gave away nearly 2 million fries orders and earned a 26% increase in in app users.
In 2017, Scotiabank forked out a gargantuan $800 million to the naming rights for the arena formerly known as the Air Canada Centre. Whether they possessed some sort of magic crystal basketball tuned into a scoreboard from the future, or just the uncanny commercial perception of changing tides that accompanies solid business practice, no one will really know. The only thing that’s certain is the ultimate economic yield of the move, which extended to their Tangerine subsidiary brand. On playoff game days and the day following, Tangerine experienced a 50% spike in website traffic and saw a 20% jump in the number of customers who signed up for an account, said Scotiabank spokesman Doug Johnson.
Cineplex has been making moves in the world of loyalty, as highlighted in our recent article about their collaboration with WorldGaming Network. But their triumphs also intertwine with their Raptors associations; in a time window of less than 24 hours, Cineplex arranged a viewing celebration allowing fans to watch the series-closing game inside the comfort of their movie theatres. Streaming the game in over 45 different locations around Canada free of charge, the strategy resulted in an undisputed uptick of goodwill and positive associations connected back to the Cineplex brand: "One of the biggest returns for us was the sense of goodwill with our guests, and providing a venue and a location for them to have a shared experience around the Raptors”, said Sarah Van Lange, the company's executive director of communications.