How an Association Used a Vintage Plane to Drive Membership Enrollment and Engagement
Facing the challenges of increasing and maintaining membership base year after year can be difficult. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Frederick, Md., touts sweepstakes as an invaluable tool for membership enrollment and engagement. Key to success is selecting a special prize, as well as the structure of the promotion. With more than 1.5 million entries generated last year, AOPA should know.
Choosing an aircraft as the grand prize for its all-pilot target audience, AOPA has taken flight through its sweepstakes for 20 years. Michelle Peterson, AOPA’s vice president of membership, cites this promotion as a proven strategy for her targeted areas of growth, including generating new memberships, increasing re-enrollments and elevating membership levels. “The airplane sweepstakes affords multiple levels of membership engagement.," she said. "For some sweepstakes, we have involved members by asking them to choose a paint scheme or even inviting member input on what aircraft we should offer. Editorially, it’s a win/win, because our members enjoy reading about the plane and the winner. The aircraft sweepstakes has also shown up as a highlight in membership satisfaction surveys.”
“We have found that when affinity prizes are offered to an audience that has a vested interest in those prizes, response skyrockets," explained Marla Altberg, CEO of Ventura Associates International, a New York City-based sweepstakes administration agency hired by AOPA to ensure the fair and proper conduct of the promotion. "It is unheard of to see entry volumes for an association in this realm. It is because of the care and creativity of the prize presentation and multiple entry methodologies that this program is a stellar success."
“Sweepstakes have become an important part of our promotional arsenal," added Gurney Sloan, president and CEO of Membership Marketing Partners, membership consultant to AOPA. "Year after year, they deliver impressive results across our client base. But I’m especially pleased with the strategy we developed for AOPA. And the results speak to this one’s particular effectiveness and power."
The Element of Surprise
Attention to detail goes a long-way toward yielding results. Last year, the winner was Steve Lagergren, an AOPA member from Litchfield, Minn. AOPA set up a plan so that while he was flying with another pilot, association president Mark Baker and pilot editor at large Tom Horne flew up alongside him in the Debonair aircraft and—on a common radio frequency—informed Lagergren that he had won the plane. Not only was it a great moment, but a great story to share in announcement and follow-up articles. (Watch the surprise in action here.)
“The aircraft sweepstakes is very exciting for our members," said Peterson. "It is our way of giving back and engaging them. We appreciated Ventura Associates’ guidance and execution of the sweepstakes. Their expert advice and flawless execution greatly contributed to its success."