A promotional item is a giveaway for the fans. Generally printed with a company logo on them, items such as mini bats, T-shirts, magnetic calendars and recycled grocery bags are all examples of promotional items.
There are also promotions. These are on-field events, generally before the game or between innings, paid for by a company, with some sort of giveaway element for the fans. You can review our Trading Day article to learn how this is different from a sponsorship?
Generally all teams have programs. One really easy program promotion is this. Have the company pay for an annual advertisement within the game program. Before each game, have one program signed by a player over that advertisement. Place that program near the top of the programs distributed for the day. During a specific half inning of each game, have the PA announcer draw the crowd’s attention to their programs and that advertiser’s specific page, “If your program was signed by right fielder John Smith then you’ve just won dinner for two at Joey’s Pizza! Head over to the concession stand to claim your prize.” The person with the signed program can produce it to the concession stand, or some other ballpark employee, to claim their prize.
This works really well for small giveaways such as a free pizza from the local shop or a 10€ gift certificate from a local grocery chain. The key element is that the prize be perceived as valuable enough by the fan that three things happen: (1) they pick up the program (2) they look for the signature (3) and this is the most important, they claim the prize. Make sure the prizes are marked with the team’s logo, or in some other way, to ensure the company can calculate the use at season’s end and see that the prizes have been redeemed. The goal of a promotion like this is to drive business back to the location.
Dizzy Bat Races
A common way to involve companies in a game is to create promotional events that highlight their product. Generally, you use their product line in the on-field promotion. A great example is the dizzy bat race. This is simple to run, cost the team nothing and is highly entertaining.
Two great sponsors are sporting goods stores and toy stores. You can also get your team’s bat supplier involved. The basic idea is to provide two people with bats, have them spin around a few times and then race to a finish line. The bats can simply come from the team supply or, if you have a toy store sponsor, use toy bats such as wiffle ball bats or neon colored plastic bats for little kids. These also make great prize giveaways. Whomever the company, make sure you get some sort of small prize for both participants. It should be something kids will like, such as a free baseball with the company logo or a ball/bat/glove set.
There are two things to note about this type of event. In the video you may have noticed the team has employees standing on the baseline. That’s to keep the contestants from spinning into the dugout and getting hurt. Human equilibrium worsens with age so adults are likely to run off course. That’s the fun in the event for the fans but it should all be in good fun without casualties. The younger someone is, the stronger their equilibrium. For this reason, it is always fun to put parents and kids together because the kids will win no matter how hard the parents try! It’s the one time the kids will know they won fair and square and they’ll celebrate to the delight of your crowd.
Another set of low-investment regular promotions a team can do are the T-shirt toss and mascot races. These two events are less client-centric, so they are a bit harder to sell, but the value add is the visual exposure over time and outside of the ballpark.
Mascot Races with Kids
As you can see, this is a really simple idea. The mascot and a child race. At some point someone – a player, another mascot or an umpire/coach distract the mascot while they are ahead and the kid laps them for the win.
A few ways to get a company involved are: (1) have their company mascot be the second mascot interfering or (2) have your mascot wear a special jersey with their company logo on the back for the race. You can also give the kid a T-shirt jersey to wear, and keep, with the company logo on it either to wear in the race or as a prize for participating. Naturally, as the event is happening you say who the sponsoring company is and you can give a coupon to the child to redeem something from that company. As it is an event for kids however the company should be supplying something of value to a child along with the coupon. That means it must be an immediate, in-hand prize. A coupon has value to an adult. To a kid it’s just a piece of paper.
A really simple company to involve in the T-shirt toss is a local toy store. After all, someone has to provide the slingshot or the potato shooter to deliver the shirts high into the crowd from the field.
Most teams get the mascot involved in this event and it takes at least three people to deliver the product when working a crowd with a slingshot (most teams use two slingshots and work their way from the ends on either side to the middle if there is no clear home/away section).
There are a variety of ways to get a company involved. First, the entire on-field team can wear the shirts that prominently display the company’s logo. Second, the delivery mechanism can be branded with the company logo. Third, the shirts received by the fans can have the company logo as well.
A simplified version is a T-shirt night. Work with a company and, on a single night, have a T-shirt or replica jersey giveaway. The first 200 fans through the door get a free shirt. The cost difference is actually higher for a T-shirt night and the brand exposure is diminished by comparison but, to a company, it’s a one-off in terms of demand on their time and, it can be used to show the higher-ups value. Help them out by offering the ceremonial first pitch and other VIP perks such as limited free food/tickets for the night.
At the start of the season your team could give away magnet or pocket schedules. These are especially great on celebratory years such as anniversaries or when your team is hosting a major event like the All Star game. Collectors items amongst baseball enthusiasts, once you are known to have a schedule, soon you’ll find the international interest in your club increasing. The same holds true for baseball cards, which could be given away in this same manner.
The pocket schedule is unique in that it allows for information, including TV broadcasts as well as a promotional giveaway calendar, to be included. It also provides a full panel of advertising to the company that prints them. Seeing they are designed to fit in someone’s wallet, they get used regularly in a variety of locations.
When you have a vendor sponsor, such as a local beer, then the distribution process is really easy and the exposure is huge for the team. For example, let’s say your local beer company sponsors the schedules. They can hand printed bundles to their drivers to distribute at all the locations where they also deliver that beer product. Your schedule will be in sports bars, local restaurants and retail stores across your city in no time and all without your team, or their volunteers, having done a thing! The same practice works really well for a chain restaurant or grocery outlets where you have several in your local community.
Family films, fireworks and concerts are all great opportunities for larger promotional events at the park. While your regular crowd will show for anything – and should be rewarded for their efforts now and again – these larger events are a chance to draw to the park people you normally wouldn’t otherwise see. As most games in Europe are double headers, we recommend doing an event like this on a single game day. Yes, this means your volunteer staff is still stuck working a double but there is always an opportunity to split the shift and, if the event has enough appeal, you may find you have an overflow of volunteers.
Family Film Night
For family film night have the local movie house sponsor the event and provide a screen for use on-field or a projector that allows you to show the film on a building, such as your concessions stand or press box. Let the fans sit on the field for a better view! The movie house can give away popcorn and coupons for a future item at their own location such as discounted tickets, family food packs or free concessions. They can also do drawings throughout the night for additional prizes such as annual memberships, souvenir cups, movie posters or T-shirts. Movie houses get free swag from their film providers and this is a great opportunity for them to utilize it, throughout your game. They can give it away based on seat number if you have assigned seating or provide it to your mascot or promotions team to hand out throughout the game.
If you do fireworks, there will need to be permits and emergency services so this requires some extra planning and expense. Generally, a local fireworks company will do the work but there is no value-add for them to sponsor the event as the general public is not going to buy from them. This is where a bank or chamber of commerce dollar can be well-spent. Many times teams approach these community locations with no real idea of what to offer in exchange for their money and so it becomes less a sponsorship that adds value to the client and more often a charity write off. By having the bank or chamber money go toward an event like fireworks you are, once again, using their distribution channels to increase team awareness. If a bank is vested in the fireworks they are more likely to put fliers in their local branches. This draws the attention of people, not already involved in your baseball or softball communities, to the park.
At the same time, if these locations often sponsor your local fireworks shows for new years or other summer events, then adding one more show to their list may decrease their overall costs by creating a vendor discount opportunity between themselves and the fireworks vendor. Keep an eye on your community sponsors for those events and ask them to help with a show for the team as well. As a bonus to the team, if they sponsor this type of event regularly, they are already familiar with the legal requirements and channels you have to go through to get it up and running so you don’t have to learn a new skill, simply default to their expertise!
Concerts in the park work much the same way as fireworks. It takes the right backing to add value for the client as well as the team. If your community has a local theater that specializes in family-friendly shows they may be more willing to support an event like this outside their front doors. It’s a way to cross market your crowds and, in this way, is more of an even exchange. Perhaps they provide the talent of the night.
If it is a venue that regularly holds concerts with touring acts however this should be a cash exchange event with your show worked into their promotional materials on-site.
An alternative company for supporting either concerts or movies could be a retailer that sells flat screen TVs. They can bring their product in to help everyone get a great view and maybe even give away a TV to a lucky member of the crowd.
Promotions come in all sizes and are limited only by your imagination. We’ve included links to both a minor league and major league schedule of 2017 events to help get your creative juices flowing and your sales team fired up to hit the phones!