Sometimes it’s the smallest markets that are the most innovative, and in baseball the Milwaukee Brewers certainly fall into the category of smaller markets, bigger ideas for fans. For several years the club has created a cult following by creating scavenger hunts in the spring around the city for little gnomes looking like their beloved mascot Bernie Brewer. Fans would scatter out to find each hidden collectable, with a special prize connected to the beloved trinkets. Many times, within minutes, the trophies would even go viral and find their way on to eBay, helping create a pretty unique secondary market for the Brewers brand regardless of how they were faring on the field. The promotion drew lots of buzz and gave fans a special extra as baseball came into focus in Wisconsin.
This past week the Brew Crew continued the tradition with a little tasty expansion. The club placed thousands of sausage ornaments across the area around Miller Park, as part of their innovative “Spring Madness” promotion. Fans were tipped to the promo when earlier in the week, their famous polish sausage was missing from their nighty and popular race around the infield during the game. The result was a hunt that spread virally to help find the sausage somewhere in Miller Park. The popular activity had people lined up on a weekday at 5 am, all with the hopes of grabbing an ornament even before heading to work. Thousands disappeared in a few hours, and the secondary marketplace for the unique and limited collectables again heated up.
The promotion didn’t have lots of flash and a big marketing spend behind it. It took place at a time of year where the other professional teams, and the regions colleges, are in a lull. And it also hit just when the weather was starting to warm up and fans of sport are starting to think more about baseball. Would it work in a major market? The numbers may get out of control to manage for people looking for something free. Maybe also major market teams would not see the value in the giveaway like their smaller market cousins. However the Brewers understand their fan base and what motivates them to turn out on a spring morning and show their loyalty to their hometown team, albeit for some freebees. Those freebees can turn into sales down the line, and the collectable hanging around the house is a nice reminder for casual fans on who has been there for them when they have some disposable income to push out during the summer. Scavenger hunts, even in a high tech would, always seem to have added value despite the logistical concerns, and they tie greatly to the traditions of baseball, which for all of its advances is still an activity steeped in tradition. Maybe Silicon Valley millennials would thumb their ipads at a trek for some trinkets, but in Milwaukee, the promo seems to work just fine.