Maintaining engagement between fans and their favourite sports team is an important aspect of building a loyal fan base. The South Sydney Rabbitohs are one sports club that are attempting new strategies in the market to engage fans in the hope they can attract new members whilst also retain existing members.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs are a Rugby League team based in South Sydney. The team competes in the top tier of Rugby League in Australia – the National Rugby League (NRL). The South Sydney Rabbitohs have a long history of success, with the most Rugby League premierships of any Australian Rugby League team, with 21 premierships to their name. Along with their success, the Rabbitohs are also the oldest Rugby League team in Australia, being founded in 1908 as one of the original foundation clubs of the New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL), which was formed that same year.
Due to their history and success, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have a dedicated fanbase that spans generations. The most dedicated Rabbitohs supporters are members of the club, paying a yearly fee to experience all the benefits that the Rabbitohs membership has to offer.
Sign up process
Becoming a Rabbitohs member is a straightforward process. To become a new member (or renew), fans simply log in or create an account on the Rabbitohs membership website or alternatively contact the dedicated membership phone number. Then, a fan must select their most preferred membership package and complete the transaction.
Sporting memberships and benefits
The Rabbitohs offers a range of membership packages to cater to a wide audience of fans. These membership packages are broken down into three categories:
- All games: for fans who want to attend every home match of the season, with multiple seating options depending on the desired quality of the seat – from the ultimate VIP treatment to general admission.
- Some games: for fans loyal to the club but cannot always attend a match, the Rabbitohs offer multiple flexible options from 3 or 5 home games per season, to regional memberships for fans outside the state who are guaranteed access to games that the Rabbitohs host in these regions.
- Cheer from home: for fans who cannot make games but want to support the club, including international membership, women’s league membership, baby/toddler membership and even pet membership for those four-legged friends.
Each membership package is priced to ensure accessibility to all fans, with specific benefits commensurate with the package price. What is consistent across the packages is the annual ‘member pack’, which includes a range of merchandise for fans to represent the club:
- a cap
- a lanyard
- a scarf
- a member card
- a bumper sticker
- $20 merchandise voucher for the Rabbitohs store
- a commemorative coin (if signed to be a member by a particular date)
By providing a range of options and flexibility, the Rabbitohs are increasing the likelihood of membership sales, which is likely a core revenue driver for the club. The more the club can guarantee the stadium is packed with cheering fans, the greater the stadium atmosphere. From a business perspective, a greater atmosphere in a stadium matters immensely for sports teams because it can attract even more ticket buyers in the future. For fans, a packed-out stadium can make a more thrilling experience, making fans feel more like they are part of an event and give them an experience they could not get by watching at home.
Innovation in sport memberships
Sporting codes and clubs are always looking for unique and effective strategies to engage fans and further strengthen the ties between the fans, the players, and the team.
Rabbitohs have introduced two new concepts over the past few seasons to build greater fan engagement, which includes:
- Secret stores
- Commemorative coins
In 2023, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have added a brand-new perk to their membership packages – a ‘secret’ member store. This exclusive store is only open to members of the Rabbitohs and offers a wide range of merchandise that is not available to the public. The store has a wide range of products to choose from, including jerseys, t-shirts, retro jerseys, and other memorabilia from the club’s glory days.
This exclusive member store provides recognition of the team’s most dedicated fans, creating a sense of exclusivity among the most Rabbitohs dedicated fans. New and old members can truly feel a greater sense of connection to the team and community through this incentive, knowing that they are supporting their team in a tangible way.
In addition, the Rabbitohs have implemented an annual commemorative coin to encourage earlier membership sign ups. For the past few seasons, members who sign up by a particular date get to own a unique commemorative coin representing a special moment from the previous season.
For example, for the 2023 season, Rabbitohs members that signed up by the cut-off date (October 2022) earned themselves the ‘Alex Johnston Record Breaker’ coin. This coin represents the Rabbitohs’ winger Alex Johnston breaking the club’s all-time try scoring record.
From a strategy perspective, the coins provide an extra incentive for members to renew earlier and encourage new members to sign up prior to the season. Every sporting fan wants to feel connected to the club they know and love, and these coins provide supporters with a unique and tangible piece of memorabilia representative of a special moment in their club’s history. While it seems simplistic by design, it is likely that these coins help deepen the connection to the club and fans given the long and historical nature of the Rabbitohs.
Keeping the eye on the ball
Overall, the South Sydney Rabbitohs provide a good-for-value membership for any fan who wants to stand loud and proud. The club provides the flexibility required to cater to a diverse audience and has adopted several strategies to increase fan engagement.
Whilst the sporting club is doing a great job to build the value of membership, a more formalised engagement layer could strengthen the connection between the club, the fans and the players. The club could use technology to enhance the match-day experience through augmented reality and gamification, as well as capture and use fans’ motivations and preferences to deliver personalised updates and digital content throughout the season and potentially even connect like-minded fans.
By providing a fan-focused approach, the Rabbitohs can become a true innovator in the sports industry in terms of unlocking fan engagement, and really start to hop ahead of the pack.