March Madness is in full bloom this early spring. However there is still baseball in the air, at least in Arizona and Florida and this weekend in Australia, where the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened the 2014 season. So we wanted to highlight some cut through the clutter moves that two minor league, and one college summer league team, have taken on in recent weeks. They touch on all the great things that the minors can do and even set up as best practices for those in the majors; connect with a local community, be a little edgy and use, effectively, low cost and simple promos to engage fans.
A TAT For The Team: In recent years several teams including the New York Islanders, have gone the route of tattoo pop up stands in venues. Whether they work or not on a permanent basis is up for debate, but the Triple A Syracuse Chiefs this week found a way to engage a tattoo sponsor and make some hay with an offer for a loyal fan who maybe would have had a few too many and took a risk.
The Chiefs, an affiliate of the Washington Nationals, are offering free tickets for life to anyone who gets the team’s logo tattooed on their body. This specifically is being offered on July 1, the team’s Tattoo Night. Local sponsor Carmelo’s Ink City will do a Chiefs’ tattoo and you’ll get a general admission ticket for life. The logo tattoos would be free, a locomotive coming out of a C, and it doesn’t make it clear whether the tattoo has to be in a certain area or a certain size or even if it has to be permanent, though those requirements could obviously be a determining factor for some folks seduced by the idea of ink and minor-league baseball tickets.
What’s the downside for the offer? None. It promotes a sponsor, got national exposure for the team’s artwork in the preseason, is a great call to action to remind folks that baseball is coming, and probably inspires some debate amongst fans who may already be inked and wouldn’t mind some free, low-cost ducats and some local celebrity status. Even if there is a winner, the chance that he or she would put a financial burden on a club with large areas of distressed seats is very low, and it opens the door for a larger scale tattoo night for any club willing to showcase body art as a way to draw fans. Nice score chiefs on a cold March week, when the local men’s college hoops team will also send fans scurrying for warm weather thoughts with their early exit from the NCAA tournament.
Spokane Makes A Loud Statement: The ongoing controversy with the Washington Redskins name came up again this week in the Pacific Northwest, but in a positive manner, as the Spokane Indians announced the creation of a jersey in native Salish script. While some may see this as yet another minor league marketing ploy, it actually speaks to the level of community that minor league teams have; they are not just brands looking to sell game tickets, they are 24/7 members of the places they live.
The Indians have had a longstanding positive relationship with their local Native American tribesmen, and have looked to find ways to engage rather than exploit that relationship. The latest step is the a new jersey featuring “Spokane” spelled out in Salish script: Sp’q'n’i (the “i” is followed by a circular symbol that is not part of the English language). It will be worn during weekend home games as well as June 13′s season-opening contest. Furthermore, a portion of the apparel sales proceeds will be donated to Spokane youth programs, as well as the money raised from an end-of-season auction featuring the Salish script game-worn jerseys.
Now yes the jersey will be a novelty and a collector’s item nationally. The Indians are also not the only team to both acknowledge and assist the Native American ties to sport (The Oakland Raiders have broadcast games n Navajo and the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves have had longstanding programs designed to help the plight of Native Americans). Spokane’s move seems to be more cultural and less exploitive though. It shows an understanding of a core group of their fans who are looking to tell their story wider as their centuries old culture is sliding away, and may just be a great call to action to help raise funds and awareness of Native American traditions to casual fans who may not know anything about the history and plight of local tribes. A home run for branding, fan engagement , philanthropy and creativity.
Take A Picture, Make The Jersey: Minor league teams are always looking to push sales and be innovative, and with social media as a low cost engagement tool, the opportunity for fans to be in the conversation and engage with a club has never been higher. So it is interesting to see how innovative teams can be. One that has come up as unique are the efforts of a Michigan Summer Collegiate League to literally bring their fans faces into the game; not on a scoreboard or an add but on their jerseys.
The Kalamazoo Growlers are asking for fans to take selfies and post them to one of the team’s social media accounts. The Growlers will collect the selfies through April 1, then build a mosaic-style jersey assembled entirely from the photos entered in the promotion. The jerseys will be worn July 24 when the Growlers take on the Wisconsin Woodchucks on Salute to Selfie Night.
The promo works for several reasons. The Growlers can collect data on thousands of fans from around the world to have for future promos. They will probably sell scores of jerseys that include fans photos to people who probably would never have purchased one before. They have the ability to get even more media exposure by helping tell the best stories of those who submitted selfies, and they also have the ability to engage casual fans who may love the social space but never thought to engage with the team. It is fun, creative, an attention getter and if it doesn’t work well; hard to say it won’t, didn’t really coast the club anything.
So there you have it, three solid promos that win on many levels for creativity, engagement, social responsibility and most of all, brand awareness. Congrats to all three minor organizations for some major league ideas.