Twins Promotions – Enhancing the Fan Experience

Photo: Courtesy of MInnesota Twins

Photo: Courtesy of MInnesota Twins

From baseball bats to bobbleheads to backpacks, the Minnesota Twins promotional giveaways for 2015 seem to offer something for everyone – and that’s no accident.  BBRT had a chance to talk to the Twins Senior Manager of Marketing and Promotions Julie Okland about just what goes into setting up a major league team’s schedule of promotions. Turns out that, while there is plenty of brainstorming involved, there is also a lot of science behind the final schedule of giveaways, events, activities and discounts.

In this post, BBRT will look at MLB’s promotional schedule, with an emphasis on my hometown Twins.  I’ll also include a nod to some particularly interesting promotions from other teams – ranging from the Nationals’ Jayson Werth Chia Pet to the upcoming attempt by the Angels to set the record for the largest gathering of people wearing sombreros to the A’s Sonny Gray solar-powered garden gnome. I’ll include dates to help readers plan their ticket purchases, but keep in mind:

  • This is a preliminary report. As this is being posted, some teams have not released their promotional schedules or have released only partial schedules.
  • Promotional items and schedules are subject to change without notice. For a complete list and up-to-date details regarding 2015 Twins promotions (including dates, numbers of items, activities and eligibility) click here.  For details on promotions and events across MLB, visit each team’s website.

Now that the cautionary language has been handled, let’s get to it.

During the upcoming season, fans across MLB will have a lot to choose from when it comes to promotions. By the time the season is over, for example, Twins fans alone will have gone home from the ballpark with:

  • 40,000 hooded sweatshirts;
  • 40,000 bobbleheads (Brian Dozier, Paul Molitor, Phil Hughes, 1965 vintage);
  • 40,000 baseball caps, 10,000 bomber hats, 40,000 stocking caps;
  • 10,000 adult jerseys (Torii Hunter) and 10,000 kids jerseys (Danny Santana) – sizes limited on jerseys;
  • 10,000 drawstring backpacks, 10,000 reusable water bottles;
  • 10,000 ceramic steins (Fathers’ Day – Men 21+ only);
  • 10,000 plush toys (Twins mascot T.C. and Target mascot Bullseye);
  • 20,000 reusable grocery totes;
  • 45,000 magnetic season schedules, 60,000 poster schedules; and
  • 10,000 pairs of flip flops.

Fans also will have had a chance to enjoy such events as Fireworks Fridays and the Midwest Music Showcase (Wednesdays), along with unique activities and discounts associated with Knothole Kids Days, Student Days, Senior Days, Military Mondays, Dollar-A-Dog Days – and the list goes on.

It is, indeed, an ambitious schedule with something for everyone.

Okland indicated that setting up a new season’s promotional calendar begins as soon as (or even before) the gates close on the previous season.

“It’s really a year-round process,” Okland, who has been with the Twins for twelve years, said. “We’re constantly looking for new ideas, what’s trending with our fans, what’s worked for other teams. We’re always looking for that next big idea.”

Okland added that promotions and events have become increasingly important as the Twins, and baseball overall, find themselves competing not just for the entertainment and recreational dollar, but also for the potential ticket buyer’s time and attention.

The Basic Criteria

The overriding focus of the promotions and events schedule is to “enhance the fan experience,” whether through giveaways, unique activities or increased value, Okland said.

“The final decisions are based significantly on analytics,” she added.  “We look at such factors as day of the week, time, the opponent, anticipated weather, past successes and which fan segments each promotion will appeal to. We also coordinate with Ticket Sales and Services to ensure giveaways and promotions are balanced among our various ticket packages.”

The basic criteria for promotions and events outlined by Okland were:

  • Adds to the fan experience;
  • Safety (particularly for kids items);
  • Attractiveness to specific demographics (with an emphasis on kid-focused, but offering something for all demographics over the course of the season);
  • Usefulness, shelf-life and potential exposure;
  • Quality;
  • Price point;
  • Generation of incremental ticket sales.

All promotions must meet these criteria, but there are additional factors that come into play, Okland said.

Anniversaries, Holidays and Achievements

Anniversaries, holidays and specific player and team achievements play a role in the development of the promotions schedule, Okland said. Among the 2015 examples she cited were a vintage bobblehead (August 1) giveaway honoring the 50th Anniversary of 1965 Twins’ AL Championship team and a Fathers’ Day “Minnie and Paul” Ceramic Stein giveaway (first 10,000 males over 21).

Picking Players To Be Featured

When picking on-field personnel to feature in promotions, the Twins look toward players who had good seasons the year before, recently reached (or will soon reach) career milestones or have a strong connection with fans and the community.

“Brian Dozier and Phil Hughes had good seasons last year, and they are part of this year’s schedule of promotions,” Okland said.  Dozier is featured in two promotions – a Dozier baseball bat giveaway (May 31) and a Dozier bobblehead giveaway (July 25). A Hughes bobblehead is also on the schedule (July 11).

“It’s also Paul Molitor’s first year as manager and we wanted to get him out there,” Okland said.  “You’ll see him on our magnet schedules (April 17-18-19) and we’ll also feature a Molitor bobblehead giveaway (June 19).”   BBRT note: Molitor is the only individual featured on bobblehead promotions in two MLB cities this season.  The Brewers also will honor the Hall of Famer with a bobblehead giveaway (June 28, in a game against the Twins).

The Twins also are celebrating the return of Torii Hunter – a long-time fan favorite – with a Torii Hunter (adult) jersey giveaway on June 6.

Bobbleheads – Baseball’s Most Popular Promotional Item

While it is impossible to determine exactly how many bobbleheads will be given away at major league baseball parks this season (some teams have not yet released their full promotional schedule, others do not list the number to be handed out or use an “all fans” or “while supplies last” descriptor), BBRT can say with confidence that the 2015 MLB season will feature more than 125 different bobblehead promotions and fans will go home with well over than two million bobbleheads.  (Note: The Sports Business Journal reported that, in 2014, MLB teams handed out 2.59 million bobbleheads.)

A review of 2015 bobblehead giveaways announced as this post is written indicates teams will be featuring at least: 73 current players, 35 formers players, two managers, one former manager and one team-owner/commissioner.  In addition, three teams (Giants, Diamondbacks and A’s) will be handing out Hello Kitty bobbleheads), one team is offering a “Peanuts” bobblehead (Yankees), three teams will send fans home with vintage bobbleheads (Twins, Brewers, Phillies) and a pair of announcers will be recognized in bobblehead form (Vin Scully, Dodgers and Harry Caray, Cardinals).

The season’s most unique bobblehead may be the Rays’ Evan Longoria bobblehead that plays the star third baseman’s walk-up music. A few other 2015 bobblehead notes:

  • The Rays will determine the player to be featured as their final bobblehead offering of the season through a fan vote.
  • The Reds will be distributing a bobblehead with three players on a single bobblehead base – the 1990’s “Nasty Boys” bullpen of Randy Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton.
  • The Yankees will be handing out a Babe Ruth bobble head.

For trivia buffs:  According to bobbleheads.com, the first MLB player-specific bobbleheads – featuring Mickey Mantle, Willie MMauys3ays, Roger Maris and Roberto Clemente – were produced in 1960 and sold during the 1960 World Series. Various sources indicate that the first MLB team bobblehead giveaway took place on May 9, 1999 – with the San Francisco Giants handing out 35,000 Willie Mays bobbleheads to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park.

 

Being Minnesotan Counts

Okland added that there is also a focus on promotions that are consistent with what it is to be Minnesotan – noting that past successes, in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, include Rapala fishing lures and outdoor grilling tools.  For 2015, fur bomber hats, stocking caps and a Twins BBQ branding iron reflect what it is to be Minnesotan.

Finding Sponsors

While the development of promotions is the first part of her job, Okland said she also must work with the Corporate Sponsorships Department to secure appropriate sponsors for each promotion. “Occasionally a sponsor will come to use with an idea – like, this year, Target asked to do the Bullseye plush (stuffed animal – August 29 & 30). For the most part, however, we develop the ideas and then work to secure appropriate sponsors.”

One example cited by Okland was the Twins’ May 7 Flip Flops giveaway (the Twins are the only team featuring a flip flop promotion this season), an idea she successfully sold to “The Beaches of Fort Meyers/Sanibel.” Okland noted that some sponsors do have preferences– like DQ®, which has joined the Twins as a sponsor for three decades of baseball cap giveaways.

Most Popular Items

Okland said traditional items – like bats, caps and bobbleheads – remain the most popular, with bobbleheads well in the lead and still going strong.

“Bobbleheads are the only items we’ve seen fans line up the night before for,” she said.

It’s Not All Just Giveaways

Okland added that efforts to enhance the fan experience are not focused solely on giveaways.

“We also work to incorporate activities fans that fans will enjoy beyond the game,” she said.

Fireworks are popular with Twins’ fans – and the team is hosting Friday Fireworks after all Friday home games between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Okland said.  BBRT’s review of scheduled events around MLB provided a solid indicator that fireworks are truly “not just for holidays” anymore.  MLB parks will play host to more than 150 post-game fireworks displays during the 2015 season.

Among the other popular fan experiences Okland discussed were:

  • Knothole Kids Days – with discounted tickets, player autographs before the game and a chance for kids to run the bases after the game.
  • The Midwest Music Showcase, with popular local bands performing at every Wednesday home game from May through September.

And, not all of the special events scheduled by the Twins take place inside the ball park.  The Twins also offer “Wine, Women and Baseball” for female fans. These events include a Skyline Deck or Skyline View ticket plus (at the Loews Minneapolis Hotel) pre-game wine tasting, light appetizers and desserts, “Pamper Yourself” stations and a complementary gift. (May 29, July 30, August 28).

Theme Days/Events

MLB teams, including the Twins, also develop “theme” events, days, weekends or series – again designed to enhance the fan experience, recognize specific groups or causes, build the team or MLB brand or appeal to specific demographics.  Among the Twins “theme” events already scheduled for 2015 are: Jackie Robinson Day (with MLB, April 15); Diversity Day (July 7); Armed Forces Appreciation Day (July 12); Softball Day (July 30); 1965 AL Championship 50th Anniversary Celebration (August 1); Back to School Weekend (August 29-30); Fan Appreciation Weekend (October 2-3); and Kids Appreciation Day (October 4).

Okland urged Twins fans to watch for upcoming announcements of additional theme events for 2015. One such announcement came during the Twins/Gophers recent Spring Training game, when the team noted that Friday, May 1 will be University of Minnesota Night at Target Field. (Fans purchasing a ticket in this special package will receive a maroon and gold Twins cap.)

Value Discounts

There are also plenty of “value” discounts available to Twins fans for 2015 including, among others:

  • Schweigert™ Dollar-A-Dog Days (Wednesdays), with one-dollar hot dogs;
  • More For Your Money Mondays – with a ten-dollar food and beverage credit with a Skyline Deck ticket;
  • Thirsty Thursday Nights – 5:30 to 6:30 (before Thursday home games), with discounted beverages and appetizer specials at the Town Ball Tavern, Hrbek’s, the Club level outdoor pub and the Gate 6 Bar.

Student Days (Wednesdays) and Senior Days (all weekday day games), with discounted ticket are also popular, Okland said.

Military Mondays have been very well received and we’re especially proud of that promotion,” Okland added, noting that, on Military Mondays, active military and veterans (with valid ID) can purchase half-price Home Plate View tickets for themselves and up to four guests.

Putting It All Together

Okland said that when you put it all together – giveaways, activities, events and discounts – MLB team promotions create additional excitement around the ballpark experience. That, she said, is good for the fans, the teams and the game.

Check Out that Promotions Schedule

As you can see, there is a lot going on at the ball park, BBRT urges all fans to take a look at your team’s promotions, events and discounts schedule.  Find what appeals to you – and add something new to your personal experience “at the old ball game.”

To close, here are a few 2015 MLB promotions that drew BBRT’s interest:

  • Among the most popular giveaways across MLB (besides bobbleheads) are t-shirts, magnetic schedules, caps, replica jerseys and reusable tote bags.
  • Bobbleheads may be all the rage, but players are being recognized in a wide variety of ways including: the Nationals’ Jayson Werth Chia Pet (August 5) and the Rays’ Evan Longoria Rubber Duck (April 19).
  • Ten teams are handing out a total of 14 Garden Gnomes – featuring ten players, one manager, two former managers and one mascot. Only the A’s, however, are featuring a solar-powered garden gnome (Sonny Gray, June 20).
  • Beyond the traditional baseball caps, a wide range of headgear will be handed out at MLB parks this year – fedoras, cowboy hats, stocking caps, floppy hats, beach hats, bomber hats, batting helmets and more. Only the Angels, however, are including a sombrero give-away in their schedule (as part of their Cinco De Mayo Celebration and an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people wearing sombreros).
  • Fans can score a replica of Fenway Park (Red Sox, April 27); the Astrodome, circa 1965 (Astros, April 18); and Petco Park (Padres, July 18).
  • The San Francisco Giants will be handing out a “snow” globe on April 15, featuring their three most recent World Championship trophies (2010-12-14) and the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • The Phillies will take us all back to our youth with a Wiffle® Ball and Bat giveaway.
  • Want to build a great pitching staff? In 2015, the Dodgers are giving one away, in the form of a series of Cy Young Award Collectors’ Pins: Don Newcombe (April 13); Don Drysdale (April 27); Sandy Koufax (May 14); Mike Marshall (June 18); Orel Hershiser (August 29); Eric Gagne (September 14); and Clayton Kershaw (September 20).
  • The Mets will pass out “Thundersticks” to all fans on September 19th and – no surprise – the crosstown Yankees will be at Citi Field. The Rays are hosting similar giveaways (for youngsters) on June 24th   and July 29, only they have chosen to use the less-aggressive term “Rays Cheer Sticks.”
  • No matter what you call it, dogs are increasingly welcome at the ballpark – Bark in the Park (Braves, Reds, Mets, Royals, Mariners, Rangers, Rockies, White Sox); Pups in the Park (Nationals); Pups at the Park (Dodgers); Pooches in the Park (Cardinals); Dog Days of Summer (Giants, Padres).
  • The Twins and Blue Jays have taken different approaches to their hoodie sweatshirt giveaways. The Twins’ promotion will take place on their home Opening Day (April 13), while the Blue Jays have scheduled their hoodie promotion for the final home game of their season (September 27).

Coming soon, some rookies and prospects BBRT will be watching in 2015.

I tweet baseball @DavidBBRT

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