San Diego Padres Test SmartFan Cards

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The San Diego Padres are pleased with a pilot loyalty program it ran during the last three months of the Major League Baseball season.

The program, which used the retail marketing system SmartFan, offered season ticket-holders a Padre-branded smart card that could be used to buy merchandise online as well as retail items, food and beverages at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.

Cardholders earned points toward free items such as T-shirts. Average in-stadium purchases were $13 for the 500 fans that used the cards. Program members also could use the cards for game admission. Special turnstiles were installed that would print out a ticket stub so members could use them to find their seats or to save the stub as memorabilia.

Cardholders could trade tickets at with other members. Their accounts were credited with ownership of their new tickets and devoid of the tickets they parted with in the trade. Both parties received e-mail notification about the trade.

After doing light in-stadium promotions during the early part of the season, the club kicked off the program in July. The Padres plan a bigger rollout at the start of next season and will develop marketing strategies for the smart cards during the off season.

"The 500 seats that signed up for the program was actually more than what we were aiming to do with the pilot, so the Padres are thrilled," said Ray Katz, president at SmartTix, which developed the SmartFan cards technology and worked closely with the club on the pilot.

SmartTix, New York, set up the printing turnstiles free of charge and helped implement the program largely as an extensive sales demonstration. Next season, the two companies will take part in a revenue-sharing deal with the smart cards.

Katz said that three other baseball teams would offer the cards to their fan base at the start of next season, while two other clubs plan to introduce the program in July. He would not divulge the names of the pro teams.

The cards are designed to build brand loyalty, enhance sales and create new marketing opportunities, and they can be used in various retail sectors such as the travel industry, Katz said.

"One part of the [program] is its complex security," Katz said. "We require an elaborate set of credentials during the application process, which makes it difficult for people to use fake ID."

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