The Coromandel Valley Ramblers Cricket Club has recently started using a chatbot to enhance their sponsor loyalty program. By creating a new sustainable revenue stream, the Ramblers have established themselves as a ‘Club of the Future’ with healthy finances, future-proofing the success of the club.

Club President Matt Smith and Vice President Jarryd Simister provided some valuable insights as to how they went about implementing the new chatbot system.

What is the idea?

The club uses chatbots to automate a number of processes and programs within the club, including training attendance, but most notably a sponsor loyalty program.

Club members use Facebook Messenger which has ‘Charlie Chatbot’ built in as an auto-responder on behalf of the club and can select ‘Loyalty Program’ from the menu. Once selected, they’re prompted by the chatbot to select the relevant sponsor from a list and input their purchase information, providing proof of purchase.

The club then receives all the data through Google Sheets from purchases and is able to report to sponsors the dollar amount spent at their business, plus overall visits from members, quantifying their return on investment. Members who’ve made purchases go into a monthly draw to win prizes donated by sponsors.

This technology was also implemented by the club to deliver an online silent auction in 2020.

What challenges or issues is it designed to address?

The use of chatbots has helped the club to automate some of its systems, saving the time of a volunteer and also allowing the club to be COVID-safe in the process. It has also allowed them to sell their value proposition to sponsors better and demonstrate the sponsor’s return on investment.

What barriers or challenges did you come across in implementing this idea?

The club has experienced solid uptake from the senior playing cohort, mainly thanks to the dedication of key volunteers driving the importance of the chatbot. The next focus for the club is getting junior player families using it more frequently, particularly for the Sponsor Loyalty Program. The club doesn’t have its own ‘home’ in the form of a clubroom and this can create a physical barrier in communicating with families, as the junior cohort are often playing at a different location.

What has been the reaction (from club members and broader)?

The club sponsors have loved it and some now won’t sponsor other clubs unless they deliver this initiative or something similar.

On 20 May 2021, the club was awarded Cricket Australia’s Technology and Media Initiative of the Year - a reflection of the level of innovation involved in this concept.

Do you think this initiative could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports and are there any foreseeable challenges to doing that?

It would be easily implemented; the main challenge is having someone who can dedicate the time to set it up. Once it’s established, it is low to no maintenance.

Is there a next step and are you looking to grow this further?

The club has implemented a chatbot for the Sponsor Loyalty Program, training attendance records and an online silent auction. Next up is food orders, player of the year voting by captains and availability for games.

Has this initiative supported an increase in members, volunteers or revenue?

The Sponsor Loyalty Program has driven a 650% increase in sponsorship from 2020-2021. The club has just clicked over $100,000 spent with sponsoring businesses. It also created justification for the club to purchase a FrogBox kit which can be used to stream their games.