Fourth quarter, 20 seconds left in the game and the New Orleans Saints are trailing the Arizona Cardinals by three points. Saints quarterback Drew Brees drops back in the pocket and fires a
desperate pass downfield.
As the ball zips through the air noise in the stadium falls to a murmur as all eyes follow the ball toward its target. The murmur diminishes to silence … silence … silence … then a wild eruption of joy as the ball is picked off by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Fans for free
Like many hardcore Cardinals supporters at the game, Jimmy Sullivan cheers happily for his team’s victory. However, unlike most fans in the stadium, Sullivan didn’t pay for his ticket or have to drive to the game. Instead, he earned his ticket through a Harrah’s Ak-Chin promotion that puts 150 of the casino’s best customers in the stands at all home games.
“It is a great promotion,” Sullivan said. “I gamble at all of the casinos in Arizona and none of them ever call to offer me Cardinals tickets. As a matter of fact, no other casino besides Harrah’s ever calls me for anything.”
The way the promotion works is simple. Gamblers at Harrah’s register for a free program called a Total Rewards Membership, which tracks their casino spending through a membership number. Top spenders are then assigned to what is called a casino host, who acts as their personal concierge for casino activities, calling them on their birthday, taking them out to dinner and offering other special promotions such as free Cardinals tickets.
“Our hosts are responsible for knowing what their players like and getting it for them,” said Mike Kintner, Harrah’s director of marketing. “It is the ultimate VIP experience.”
Harrah’s host Carey Sharp echoed those feelings. “I have a very unique job that I enjoy very much. It is awesome to bring happiness to these customers every day.”
On the morning of the game
For Harrah’s preferred customers, the football promotion fun began at 10 a.m. on the Sunday of the Saints game when two 80-passenger charter buses pulled up at the north entrance of the
casino. As hosts handed out tickets, fans checked with friends and looked to see where they would be sitting.
“The tickets we provide are all quality lower level seats,” Kintner said. “We have three groups of tickets so those going to the game on the promotion sit near each other.”
The hour-and-a-half bus ride to the game was mostly quiet with patrons relaxing in reclining seats. “It always seems like a quick ride, but maybe that has to do with the anticipation,” Sullivan said.
As passengers disembarked at the stadium two hours before kick off time, the hosts provided details about the return ride along with information about nearby restaurants and attractions.
When the game was over, the buses waited for fans on the north side of the stadium for 30 minutes, with hosts counting passengers as they board.
The host program exists at Harrah’s in other locations as well and the football promotion brings in fans of visiting team for football games along with local Cardinal supporters.
“For visiting-team fans we often offer free hotel stay, travel arrangements and more,” Kintner said. “We want to get these valuable customers to Arizona and ensure they have a good time.”
Monroe, La. residents Ed and Susan Everett are big Saints fans. For them, the Harrah’s offer provided a perfect opportunity to see their team in action and get a much needed vacation.
“We live about five hours from New Orleans so we don’t get down much to see games,” Ed said. “But through this promotion we got our travel expenses paid for and free tickets to the game. It’s wonderful.”
Ed said he is not a big gambler and typically uses Harrah’s for hotel accommodations, but Susan said she won’t gamble anywhere else.
“They are good to me, and I am loyal to them in return.”
It is this loyalty — along with the creative promotions that help inspire it — that sets Harrah’s apart, Kintner said. “We care about our customers and go the extra mile to show it. This Cardinals promotion is just one example of that.”