Friday, June 3, 2011

Minor League Baseball Means: Promotions ( Free Items)

 During the depressing days of winter, most Minor League Teams are working on their promotional schedule to lure fans to ballparks. Some teams rehash the same promotional schedule year after year while some will get some new ideas at that years Baseball Winter Meetings. Some teams opt for shock value like the one team this season that had Charlie Sheen night and was allowing anyone that dressed up like a warlock in for free.  They were also giving away dollar Tigerblood slushies. Some teams opt for weirdness like with the "Win a Free Vasectomy" night. These in my opinion are publicity stunts rather promotions. I thought I share some of the more enjoyable promotions I have seen over the past seven years and some promotions that annoy me.

Promotions I like:

1. Quarter Wing Nights

One of the first promotions that truly influenced the day of the week I would attend a Birmingham Barons game way back in 1996 was Quarter Wing Night.. Every Thursday Night you could get some BBQ wings for a quarter a piece. Its amazing how many wings you can eat for a quarter and I think this promotional now has been replaced by quarter hot dog night to save some money. I haven't seen a team that does this promotion in a long time.

2.  Team Set Giveway

Probably one of the oldest Minor League promotions. Hardest part is finding a local business to sponsor the set. I like getting them autographed.

3.  DAV at the Ballpark Day

The DAV Day at the Ballpark outreach program gives local DAV Departments, Chapters and members the opportunity to be a part of America’s game locally. They usually throw out  the first pitch or participate in all the pre-game ceremonies. They also may give out a Minor league Baseball Card set of the minor league team which are great to get autographed. I have talked to a lot of the people from DAV that work these events in the past and sadly they have a hard time finding different teams wanting to do the promotion.

4. Jerseys off our Backs

Towards the end of the season, Minor League teams will work with a local charity or many different charities and have a auction for the jerseys that the players wore during that nights game. Fans can make a donation of $3 for 1 ticket, $5 for 2 tickets, or $10 for 5 tickets, for a chance to win one of the player-worn jerseys. Winning fans will then take the field and receive the game-worn jerseys right off the players' backs. Most of the time the players will ask you if you want it autographed.

5. Bark in The Park

Tons of teams do this but its a very enjoyable promotion. Nothing like bringing man's best friend to the ballpark. Teams give away treats and provide plenty of water for your dog. They also may have a best trick contest along with other contests. One team even ran a promotion where one dog got to pluck one of 100 tennis balls that would land its owner $10,000.

6. Cash giveaway

 The first X number of fans to enter the ballpark will be handed an envelope, courtesy of a local casino, business, or radio station. In these envelopes will be anywhere from $1 to $1,000, with a lot of money being given away overall. I have even seen it were the team tapes the envelopes to the bottom of your seat and during the seven inning stretch everyone is asked to exhange the envelope with the person to their left and then open up the envelope. This way the promotion is not rigged.

7. Ugly Sweater Night

Everyone has one of these in their closets .Most teams give you a free ticket per sweater and then donate them at the end of the game to the local Salvation Army. Somes teams will allow blankets and towels instead. Nice way to clean out some closet space in the summer.

8. Bid for an At bat

Basically it allows any fan to bid for an at bat during the season at the digression of the teams manager. Its usually late in the game during a blowout and I never seen a winning go for under $2,000. The Reading Phillies had a 83 year old man come up to the plate in 2005.

9.  Dirty Car Night along with Ugly Car Night

Pretty simple promotion. A team employee takes a picture or short video of the dirtiest car in the parking lot before the game starts. At some point during the game in between innings, they flash the pic or vid of the vechicle of the scoreboard. The owner gets everything ranging from free car polish to a free car wash.

10.  Autograph Night

When organized correctly these are enjoyable and offer a different way for fans to engage with the players. Some teams will do it on the field before or afterwards with the whole team. Some do it in small clusters every week with one or three players on a selected day.

11. Turn back the clock night

Having an old ballpark like Rickwood Field makes this more believeable but any team can do this if they have had a long history with Minor League Baseball.  The players wear their socks up high and sport old uniforms.  Hot Dogs are .25 cents, All tickets (club level, dugout level, field level and berm)  usually go down to under $3. Game programs sell for $1. They usually invite some Negro league players or some retired players in for pre-game activities. 

12. Free Gas Night

This is a rare but popular promotion. Some teams give away gas cards ranging from $5.00 to a $100.00 in cash value to a certain section every inning. Some teams hand them out when you enter the stadium. You can always use a free gas card.

Promotions I don't care about:

1. Free T-Shirt Night

They are usually made poorly, fade after three months, and come in one size. Yes, I do know how to wash clothes correctly.

2. Team Poster Night -

More like litter the stadium night. Kids use them for swords during the game. I doubt 15% of these every make it home. Just seems like a waste of money for the company that sponsored the promotion.

3. Firework Night

Read this offseason that this is the most successful promotion for Minor League baseball regardless if its affiliated or independent baseball. It mostly takes place on a Friday night which happens to be the hardest night to get a family out to the ballpark.  It also happens to be the most expensive promotion I noticed over the years teams that have multiple firework nights ( Mobile Baybears ) tend to have a otherwise boring or pointless promotiions on other nights. Traffic is never fun to deal with after them either.

4. All You Can Eat Night

I hate this night mainly because its the night concessions run out of the simplest items and lines are longer then normal. Recently, a minor league team held this promotion and released the following numbers:  the combined quantity of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pizza, French fries, funnel cake, ice cream and soda consumed amounted to 39,239 items sold for an average of $19 per person. I guess this is a good way to clear inventory at the end of the month.

5. Any promotion that does not give away a physical item:

These usually depend on the performance of the team with the fans award being some crappy free food item or a free ticket to ome other event. Some examples: Free taco from Taco Bell if the team wins ( .59 value) , guarantee win night or the next game is free ( but what about the people that have to work the next day ?), and finally my favorite that never happens: If the team turns a triple play, all fans get something free The odds against having a triple play in a specific inning are more than 10,000 to 1.These kind of promotions are cheap and boring.

Finally, I hope I see some of these promotions at a Wahoo's game and look forward to the promotions from the team that are orginal. 35% of a Minor League baseball crowd will come regardless if a team wins or the promotion. The other 65% come only because of the promotions. Its thats important.

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