Lightning Strikes With NCR Chip-In-Jersey Innovation

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Tampa Bay Lightning season ticketholders are getting discounts at concession and souvenir stands at home games when they wear a team souvenir hockey jersey embedded with a radio-frequency identification chip in its sleeve.

NCR Corp., which developed the microchip to communicate with software in its Quest cash registers, views the program as a first step that could lead to various payment or loyalty applications for sports fans, John Brasch, NCR Quest general manager, tells PaymentsSource.

Enabling the chips to act as payment devices likely would be easy, but for now marketing groups are studying fan behavior to determine what will drive use of the technology, Brasch says.

The Tampa Bay Lightning managed the installation of the contactless chips into 10,000 jerseys, while NCR technicians coordinated the addition of chip readers with the arena’s 250 terminals, Duluth-Ga.-based NCR said in a Nov. 30 press release.

Full-season ticketholders received the jersey with their ticket package, enabling them to secure discounts on food, beverages and items at souvenir stands automatically when the reader at checkout scans the embedded chip.

The Lightning marketing group worked with Radiant Solutions Inc. to develop a program that would increase season ticket sales and ensure each season ticketholder wears the team’s blue jerseys at home games, Brasch adds. Radiant worked last summer to determine the number of jerseys and chips needed, Brasch says. NCR, which bought Radiant earlier this year (see story), continued the process of distributing the jerseys last month, he adds.

“The chip doesn’t really identify the fan, so the jersey could be passed to family or friends for games,” Brasch says. “But it does track fan behavior in terms of what they buy and what they like, which is what the marketing group was seeking,”

Some sports teams eventually may expand the concept to include paying for tickets or parking, Brasch suggests.

Team officials believe the jersey chip is driving more concession and souvenir sales because of the discounts, and eventually they may preload tickets and prepaid funds to cover concession costs into the chip as an extra value for season ticketholders, Brasch contends.

Kelly Hlavinka, a managing partner at Colloquy, a Cincinnati-based loyalty marketing research and consulting firm, tells PaymentsSource placing a microchip in a sports jersey to monitor consumer behavior or loyalty–and possibly even to provide a payments option–could become common.

But the crossover to including payments likely would have to wait until available technologies, such as Near Field Communication, take a stronger hold, she adds.

Moreover, if the contactless EMV chip cards become standard in the U.S., it likely would enable loyalty cards to become more than a means to identify customers and record their discounts, Hlavinka suggests.

“The microchip in the jersey is a fascinating development from a loyalty-program standpoint,” Hlavinka adds. “The concept creates a new convergence on a mobile front because you don’t need the loyalty device in your wallet or on your key chain.”

NCR announced its intention to provide more retail-services software in sports venues, movie theaters and restaurants after it bought Radiant in July.

Radiant acquired Quest Retail Technology in 2008, and NCR has been developing retail software for Quest terminals since it purchased Radiant, Brasch says.

To that end, the company last month revealed an application movie-theater ushers may use to scan paid movie-ticket information from a customer’s mobile phone (see story).



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