Customer loyalty with gamification in the sports sector

There is hardly any industry or application scenario without playful elements.

Spar Austria, for example, uses a platform called Sepp to train and train employees, and the German Ebay boss Eben Sermon expects across all trading segments with many other platforms. For him gamification is a central element of the future brand experience.

I see it exactly the same way, because behind it stands an engagement with the brand, which establishes the basis for loyalty. And because customers expect user experience in this age so playfully.

The real art is the added value

Of the many industries that are suitable for gamification, one is particularly intriguing: the sports business. Nowhere are consumers more open-minded about the topic and there is nothing better than making athletes players. Not only because sports and games have always belonged together.

This connection is used for example by the US supermarket chain 7 Eleven with their basketball app or – even more directly – a sports club in the Munich area, which has opened an interactive squash court. You can almost play Candy Crush with the bat there.


The real art is less in the amusing entertainment than in the additional utility. Only then does the fleeting brand experience become a close connection and in the ideal case even a platform business.

The sports industry is perfect for this because it always covers a very personal and elemental need in addition to the playful: fitness and health. Nike recognized this very early on with its fitness tracker Nike +.

You might also be interested in this: E-Sports – Sweat differently

Sporting goods manufacturers and retailers have countless options

Today most of us use gamification modules in sports in some form. They can be found in the fitness apps of our Apple Watches or Fitbit bracelet. Even a leisurely stroll or window shopping barely ends without looking at the mobile fitness indicator: How many steps were it? How many in total today and compared to yesterday? What is my heart rate? Higher than that of my partner?

For sporting goods manufacturers and retailers, there are countless opportunities to be both entertaining and useful for their customers. The trend to wearable and the Internet of Things opens up additional opportunities.

On the right track is the fitness club industry. Anyone who returns to his sports club after a break of several years will no longer recognize him. Big chains, in particular, are massively upgrading digitally and are tying their customers with power apps like eGym or virtual mountain bike tours across the main Alpine ridge.

“At the corner of happy and healthy”

But also allegedly more distant industries hit the bridge such as Walgreens in the US. They reward the movement of their customers with bonus points via an API interface in their mobile app, which can be redeemed when shopping – “At the corner of happy and healthy”.

This is not about “doing something with gamification” and letting the guests play poker on the fitness bike. But it’s about intelligent services that the customer needs and that fit the brand. It must work as a loyalty measure, not as an entertainment program. Only then will you be able to sustainably stand out from the competition. Unfortunately, it often looks different in reality.

“Crap” and “badge boasting”?

The developer and Scrum Master Dominik Ehrenberg has denounced the other day in a readable interview. He considers most gamification implementations to be “crap” and criticizes too much “scoring and badge boasting”. The verdict is too harsh for me personally, because these elements can also be legitimate from the customer’s point of view, but it does contain a very important and true core.

The best kind of gamification is the one that does not depend on external stimuli and superficial rewards, but on the long-term needs of the consumer that a brand can cover. It works very well at the interface of sports, games and health. You just have to do it.

You might also be interested in this: E-Sports even beats the sports show

Martin Grass is COO of Defacto GmbH, a provider of software, services and operations in the field of CRM and loyalty.

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