Five months after launching fan loyalty program Bulldog Rewards, the Yale athletic department continues to modify and promote the app to increase its popularity on campus.
The program rewards users with points, redeemable for one of five different prizes, if they attend athletic events and interact with Yale athletics on social media. The application’s goal is to increase student support and excitement for Yale teams, Associate Athletic Director for Marketing Patrick O’Neill told the News when the program debuted. But it is unclear whether marketing efforts have been successful thus far in reaching the Yale population.
“Not much of the student body knows about the app,” Zachary Danker-Feldman ’17, co-director of fan engagement for the Whaling Crew, said. “Whenever I bring it up in conversation with other students, they’re generally surprised to hear about it.”
Danker-Feldman is one of several non-athletes involved with the Whaling Crew, a student organization that prides itself in supporting Yale athletics. Even within the group of “sportscentrics,” Danker-Feldman said, some members still are not aware of the app’s existence.
Of 38 students interviewed — 23 of whom said they attend Yale sporting events at least once per month — just 11 had heard of Bulldog Rewards, and only five had downloaded and used the app.
Senior Associate Athletics Director Jeremy Makins said that the department is “very happy” with the program thus far. He added that the athletic department is still learning how to improve the configuration and marketing strategy of the program, which is operated by fan loyalty company FanMaker. Improvements include increasing the number of points that fans get for attending events, adding Bluetooth beacons to more venues and making schedule listings more complete, Makins said.
This weekend, the athletic department will publicize Bulldog Rewards by giving away promotional items at the Yale men’s basketball game against Columbia on Friday. Fans who check in to the game via Bulldog Rewards will enter drawings for a Samsung television, an iPad Mini and a Bose Bluetooth speaker.
Approximately 250 people had signed up for Bulldog Rewards by the first week of September, O’Neill said shortly after the service’s launch. Makins, who is now in charge of Yale athletics promotions, said that since then, the app’s member base has grown but would not specify how many people are currently enrolled.
Students who frequently use the app suggested potential improvements to the program that could increase its user base.
Yuri Gloumakov GRD ’20 said he wished the program offered more interesting rewards. Currently, the program’s prizes are $25 gift cards to three different New Haven restaurants and two Yale athletics T-shirts.
“The gift cards are cool but you can’t buy an exclusive shirt,” Gloumakov said. “If there is actual pretty cool stuff, like a signed jersey or a special-edition item, it would be more cool and people would have more incentive [to use the app].”
Danker-Feldman said the app should also consider offering attendance points for more sports. During the winter sports season, users receive points for going to home basketball or hockey games.
Students also questioned whether the prizes provide enough incentive for students who do not regularly attend sporting events to begin going to games.
Yale gymnast Sloane Smith ’18 said the app acts as a reward for students who are already frequent supporters of Yale athletics, but does not attract new students to go to events.
Anya Malik ’19 expressed a similar sentiment, noting that because she does not normally attend sporting events, she did not think she would need the app.
“Since you need a significant number of points to redeem for even the lowest-valued prizes, users need to attend a significant number of matches to be able to get a prize,” Danker-Feldman said. “For casual fans, this doesn’t provide much value, but for those who follow Yale sports closely, this is a great incentive.”
The Yale-Columbia men’s basketball game on Friday night is the most valuable event this weekend, with 400 points available to those who attend.