TARGETING & ACQUISITION |  Case study: Air Miles for Social Change

Pilot YMCA program shows loyalty incentives are a significant driver to motivate Canadians to exercise


People are ready to make healthier and more sustainable choices, all they need is a smarter incentive. That’s why LoyaltyOne created AIR MILES® for Social Change. We partner with organizations nationwide inspiring people to make better choices.

By giving governments, non-profit and public sector organizations access to the power of the AIR MILES reward program, including our marketing channels and use of AIR MILES reward miles as an incentive, we can help improve program participation rates and ROI. In the process, we provide knowledge and program insight to our partners allowing them to learn from their success and accelerate positive behavioral change across Canada.

Motivating healthy living choices

According to the results of a landmark program between AIR MILES for Social Change, YMCA Canada (YMCA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), loyalty programs have an influential role to play in encouraging healthy behaviour.

“We were approached by PHAC to be the facility where they could test this pilot,” says Darlene Frampton, Senior Vice President of Brand Strategy (Acting), YMCA Canada.  “It seemed like a great partnership since we all share the values of rewarding active living.”

The nationwide pilot program, comprising over 46,000 YMCA members across Canada, gave AIR MILES® reward miles for visits to YMCA health, fitness and aquatics facilities.  The pilot involved 15 YMCA locations across four YMCA Member Associations in Canada. This resulted in 63% of participating YMCA members taking part in physical activity between one to six more times per week in comparison to their activity during the same time in the previous year

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“These results have been extremely exciting and rewarding,” says Frampton. “Our retention rate went up and our drop off rate declined dramatically.”

Overall, the YMCA saw a 6% lift in incremental visits compared against the control group. Given that 31.5% of Canadian children are now considered ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’1 and coupled with declining levels of physical activity, a particularly encouraging aspect of this pilot was that 18% of participants whose visits increased were children and youth, a priority for PHAC and for YMCAs across Canada.

“This is particularly great because the YMCA is very focused on helping children to reach their full potential.”

Commissioned by YMCA and PHAC to devise a cost-effective incentive program to help increase activities amongst adults and children, the pilot study launched in April 2013 and is still in market.  Results reported here are up untilDecember 2013.  The program offered 25 bonus reward miles at sign-up, with an ongoing offer of one reward mile per two visits and a special bonus of 20 reward miles for three weekly visits during the months of September and October.

Over 46,000 YMCA members signed up for the program, greatly exceeding the target of 25,000.

“In the fight against chronic disease and obesity, cross-sector collaboration is a powerful approach. Partnerships like the one between AIR MILES for Social Change, YMCA and PHAC underscore this and show that together we can spark positive change,” says Angela Simo Brown, General Manager and Co-Founder, AIR MILES for Social Change.  “We believe that people are ready to make healthier choices — they just need the right incentive

“I believe that we’re on the edge of something new and exciting with this program. We (AirMiles) have all these assets – whether it be our one billion marketing pieces a year or our top tier data insights – and now we are using it to drive different types of behavioural changes.”

Health, she says, resonates with Canadians prompting AirMiles for Social Change to use loyalty to fight our growing obesity problem.

“We used incentives as the tipping point to get people to try something new, in this case exercising. We also used it to get people to repeat the habit.”

“In collaboration with AIR MILES for Social Change, we have taken an innovative approach to inspire and reward increased and sustained physical activity,” says  Frampton. “Anything we can do to promote healthy living for our members is a win and offering this program to incentivize physical activity has exceeded our expectations.”

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