Royal Bank of Canada RY-T is giving all Taylor Swift fans – not just its customers – a chance to see the megastar in Toronto, in a bid to compete with rivals in the increasingly competitive loyalty and credit card business.
Members of RBC’s loyalty rewards program, including those who do not have an RBC product or service, can register for an opportunity to access a separate set of tickets for Ms. Swift’s the Eras Tour in Canada.
Canada’s largest lender shared the offer on Friday, after announcing earlier this week that Canadians can register for its Avion Rewards program regardless of where they bank.
In the highly saturated loyalty program space, RBC expects to grow its rewards membership base by 50 per cent in the next three to five years. The bank says that Avion has the largest such membership base in Canada, and that most of its 14 million customers are enrolled – making it a key component of its customer acquisition strategy.
After RBC received a call two weeks ago from a senior music executive close to Ms. Swift’s management team, the bank clinched a spot as the tour’s official financial services and ticket access partner when it comes to Toronto in November, 2024. RBC decided to speed up its plans to open its loyalty program to non-customers to include the Swift ticket presale.
“Taylor and this opportunity serves as an accelerator to our business strategy,” Mary DePaoli, RBC’s executive vice-president and chief marketing officer, said in an interview. “She will drive great initial interest in the RBC Avion relationship that we hope will be with tens of thousands of new prospects.”
Canadian “Swifties” – the nickname for Ms. Swift’s fans – were disappointed in June when the artist dropped international tour dates that did not include any Canadian shows. Since then, some Canadian fans – and those in the U.S. – who missed out scrambled for tickets oversees in Europe and Asia.
On Thursday, Ms. Swift announced six shows in Canada in the final leg of her international tour, but she is visiting just one city: Toronto. Tickets typically sell out in minutes during the presales, for which fans have to register for the chance to get an access code.
Many financial institutions provide access to concert ticket presales, but most reserve that privilege for its elite credit card holders. Fans have applied in droves for credit products that boost their chances to see their favourite artists.
In the U.S., Capital One partnered with Ms. Swift to promote the tour and provide cardholders with access to a presale. Citi and American Express offered similar perks for their credit card customers.
RBC is betting that it doesn’t need to entice potential clients through credit card perks. The lender is wagering that fans who join its rewards program for Eras tickets will also shop at its partner merchants and will eventually upgrade to a more robust membership level by signing up for an RBC chequing account, credit card or other product.
Avion allows members to access deals and earn points at 2,400 online retailers. The membership option open to those without RBC products is called Avion Select. The two higher levels that offer more perks are free when a member has an RBC product or credit card.
Credit cards are a key revenue sources for banks, since they are able to charge wider spreads in interest and higher fees for cards that offer more rewards. Credit card spending fell during the pandemic as people depended less on borrowing, and balances have been slower to rebound than executives and analysts expected.
Banks have also been ramping up their loyalty programs in an effort to grab more market share.
In June, Bank of Montreal acquired LoyaltyOne Co., which runs the Air Miles loyalty rewards program, after the company filed for credit protection under the weight of heavy debts and stiff competition. Since Scotiabank relaunched its Scene+ loyalty program in 2021, it has added 600,000 new debit and credit card accounts to the program, bank executives said during its second-quarter earnings call.
Most customers that join RBC for the loyalty program open one or two additional products or services over time, making it a key “lever in how we attract and retain customers at the bank,” Ms. DePaoli said.
“It’s an extremely important part of how consumers look at their core banking relationship.”
RBC chief executive officer Dave McKay said that Ms. Swift’s tour is a “cultural event that is smashing records” and significantly affects the economies of the cities where she performs.