Posts Tagged ‘minor league baseball’

Nobody Night…Awful Night… Mustache Appreciation…Used Car Giveaways…and even Salute to Indoor Plumbing. These are all promotional nights which have taken place at Minor League Baseball games in the past. Fans and outsiders hear about these events and even attend these events from time to time but does anyone really ever think about what goes into planning one of these nights or how they were developed in the first place? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

First, it’s a safe bet to assume that 95% of teams sit down at the conclusion of every season to discuss what went well during the season and to begin brainstorming ideas for the next season. In these brainstorming sessions many ideas are floated around…some of them great and some of them completely unrealistic. However, sometimes the ideas which may seem unrealistic at first become the well-known promotions we know and love thanks to the creativity of the folks in Minor League Baseball.

I classify Minor League “Theme Nights” into two different categories. First, some teams do these promotions just for fun and in hopes of not only local but national publicity. The Charleston RiverDogs once staged “Nobody Night” where they didn’t let fans into the ballpark until the 5th inning so they could announce an attendance of zero for the night. They very much accomplished their goal of garnering publicity from these event as it’s still talked about today, but this didn’t translate into any type of monetary benefit to the team. While Minor League teams are known for fun, wacky promotions they are also businesses with bills to pay and publicity doesn’t pay my salary as an employee of a Minor League team!

The other category for these promotional nights would be ones in which teams develop in order to try to increase sales – tickets, merchandise and food. I’ll use my own Cleveland Sports History Night with the Captains as an example of this type of promotion. Cleveland Sports History Night began as a theme night idea to re-live some of the infamous moments Cleveland sports teams are known for. Once the idea was dreamed up we brainstormed on what all should be involved in the night and came up with concessions specials, celebrity appearances, group ticket ideas, and merchandise sales opportunities. Our concession special we did was Nickel Beer (Dime Beer in year two) which was an idea to bring in the beer-drinking fans and generate media attention…it worked on both accounts.We did small, discounted beer for one hour and then sold full-price beer for the remainder of the game. We also thought bringing in former Cleveland athletes would help bring in true sports fans looking to meet and greet these athletes and this has worked for four straight seasons. Next, we targeted Browns Backers groups to do a group outing at the ballpark on this night which ended up turning into a large pre-game tailgate party in the parking lot prior to the game. Finally, we wanted to sell merchandise to these die-hard Cleveland sports fans so we bring in baseball cards of the celebrities, footballs, football helmets, photographs and anything else we think may sell and try to make money through incremental merchandise sales as well. The in-game promotions are icing on the cake for the fans who’ve come to the game and we hope that at the end of the night fans enjoyed their experience and will come back for another game in the future.

In a perfect world everything comes together and a team not only gets great publicity from a wacky promotional night but they also find a way to cash in financially. My current team, the Lake County Captains, and I were lucky enough that the stars aligned for us on Cleveland Sports History Night which has been going strong for four seasons and was named Promotion of the Year by ESPN Magazine in 2009. This year’s event came and went this past weekend and now I’m hoping the folks at Minor League Baseball will recognize our event as part of their Golden Bobblehead Awards for Minor League promotions.


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In an effort to shed some light on what goes on during a cold, wintry, Ohio day in February leading up to a Lake County Captains baseball season I’ll share my experiences from one day this past week.

I begin my day around 8:15 and, much like anyone else in the business world, the day begins by checking voice mails and e-mails. After deleting a pre-recorded voice mail message left at 9:30 PM the night before, I turn my attention to my computer and delete spam messages promising me huge fortunes from my friends overseas in exchange for my social security and credit card numbers. There are a couple legitimate e-mails, but they can wait for the time being. Then, I check my legal pad of to-do items and get to work.

First item on my list today – come up with weekly sales incentive for our ticketing staff. Depending on the week these range from making “X” number of phone calls, to renewing a certain number of season ticket accounts to planning theme events during the season. Since it’s closer to the beginning of the season and we’re spending a lot of time with season ticket holders I decide to tie our goal for the week into selling parking passes. We control a lot around our ballpark which has about 250 spots. Some of these are for staff and players, but the others are sold on a game-by-game basis. So I decide the goal for the week is for each ticket sales member of the staff to sell parking passes to at least three of their 2012 Season Ticket Holders who did NOT have parking the previous season. If they reach the goal they each get a $25 bonus.

Next up is finalizing the finishing touches on the advertising and vending agreement with our hard-serve ice cream supplier, Velvet Ice Cream. This partnership includes our “Ice Cream Batter of the Game” promotion where we give out free ice cream to one row of fans if a pre-selected player on our team gets a hit, signage in and around one of our concession stands, and one “Velvet Ice Cream Night” during the season where fans will get free ice cream samples and prizes from Velvet. Once it’s completed it’s e-mailed to my marketing contact and the waiting game to receive the signed copy of the agreement begins.

I have a meeting scheduled for 10 AM which is pushed back until 11 AM because my contact is running late. In the meantime I respond to e-mails and make some phone calls to companies who are renewal accounts or are on my list of new advertising prospects for 2012.

At 11:15 my contact from one of our food vendors arrives and I meet with him and our Director of Concessions to discuss their marketing plans for the season as well as discuss what products we’ll be ordering from this company during the season. We also talk about hosting our second annual Clambake at the Ballpark with this company which we did for the first time in 2011 and had nearly 100 people attend in our first year.

Next up – Lunch. Today it’s Schlotsky’s Deli – a sponsor in case you were wondering.

On to my next item…measuring the distance around the ballpark, inside and out, to come up with waypoints for a Walking Tour around Classic Park. This is a promotion I am working on with Lake Health, our official Healthcare Provider, to encourage our fans to get out of their seats and walk around the ballpark once or twice while they are at the game. Lake Health is promoting many various wellness initiatives in the area and this was one I suggested to them as part of their partnership with the Captains.

Following this I finalize an agreement with a local sign vendor, L&M Specialties, to produce and install some of our ballpark signage this season. Sign, scan and e-mail agreement back to my contact at L&M.

Jake Schrum, our Manager of Promotions and the Captains’ one-person “Art Department”, comes into my office to get my opinion on some logos which we use to brand our weekly promotions at the ballpark. Today’s question…which one of four logos for our Thursday Date Night promotion looks the best? We discuss, get one other person’s opinion, one minor change is suggested, and it’s on to the next to-do item.

After talking with Jake I have a little down time to get through returning e-mails and voice mail messages.

Finally, I have an intern interview scheduled for 4:15 PM so I get out his resume and cover letter to re-read them prior to him arriving. The student comes a few minutes early so I conduct the interview and give him a nickel tour of the ballpark before he heads back to school.

At the end of every day I go back to my legal pad of to-do items and re-write it with the old and completed items omitted, tasks that I haven’t gotten to yet moved to the top, and new items added in order of importance.

At about 5:15 I leave the office and it’s off to my much more important job of being a husband and a dad to an almost 8-year old daughter and 5-year old son.

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