It was with some shock and disappointment that amidst the Yes Network’s televising of Yankees Old Timers Day Sunday it was mentioned that it is the only Old Timers celebration in baseball, surprising as that may seem. A sport that prides itself on its history and tradition, that once had a sponsored nationwide series that honored its stars of the past in ballparks across the country, has dismissed an annual gathering as cost prohibitive and unsponsorable. Maybe its time for a relook, here is why.
First, one of the beauties of Yankees Old Timers is not just for its superstars, its to honor some of the players who meant much to the team yet were not Hall of Fame quality. For every Reggie Jackson, there was Lee Mazzilli. For every Yogi Berra there was Pat Kelly. It was a celebration of all pieces of the brand, with many sponsorable parts if needed. Many former players would look for ancillary dollars for meet and greets and clinics, or maybe a more extensive panel on a select event in team history, a championship anniversary for example. Those dollars and the value they bring in good will add up over time, especially with athletes who will not command high dollars for their alumni. It does not have to be overly commercial, but the added value to bring in guys…planned out well in advance, can make an annual event a winner.
However one of the hidden gems that still goes ignored in the sales area remains special events and programs tailored towards Baby Boomers. teams always strive to cater to the young, the hip, the time crunched, yet those with ancillary dollars to spend and an interest in the sport and its past stars are those 50 and older. Creating an event, or a series of events, that include “Old timers” but geared toward that audience would make great sense again. It takes time to plan and execute, but that demo, especially that demo that is active, is still very well sought after by brands, and combining a feel good event like an Old Timers Day with a brand targeting baby boomers would be a win for both. Even for teams who say that it is too cost prohibitive to bring in former stars from around the country there are plenty of solutions…local legends, former MLB’ers from other teams, front office officials, coaches etc all make for great guests, great talk and great memories.
In other sports there are both good and bad in alumni programs as well. The Packers do an amazing job with their alumni, as do the Giants in the NFL. However there is not the tradition that there is in baseball, where recent retirees can still take the field and get in a few licks for an inning or two. hopefully the connection to the past is revived through Old Timers activities at parks around the country. As the population ages the opportunity grows again, and so could the sponsor dollars.