Normally we select a single promotion to honor during awards season, but this year the Lehigh Valley IronPigs blew that model out of the water with a trio of noteworthy promotions. The team is the winner of the Best Promotions in the 2013 Ballpark Digest Annual Awards.
“As we reviewed submissions for best promotions in professional baseball, it was clear off that the bat that the IronPigs front office had a great season with a strong slate of promotions,” said Kevin Reichard, publisher of Ballpark Digest. “Rather than choosing between the three promotions submitted for awards, we decided to collectively cite all three.”
The three promotions from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League):
- The IronPigs unveiled the world’s only truly hands-free urinal game controller, featured within all men’s restrooms at Coca-Cola Park. When a user approaches the urinal, the video console flips into gaming mode, using patented technology that detects both his presence and stream. Algorithms then allow the user to engage with the screen by aiming in different directions to test their agility and knowledge. The games are 100 percent intuitive and custom-built to provide a unique user interface along with an easy and seamless experience. Upon completion (an average of over 55 seconds according to published research) users will receive their score and a code to enter. They can then view their position on the leader board or check the website to see how they stack up with the rest of that night’s competition. High scores will be displayed in real-time across various videoboard displays within Coca-Cola Park. (You can read our story about this promo here.) It's a great tie-in with a local medical group, and teams could do a lot worse than replicate this promo in their ballpark.
- A tongue-in-cheek promo turned poignant when the IronPigs and a local funeral home awarded a free funeral package to a local man diagnosed with ALS. The package, sponsored a local funeral home and valued at nearly $10,000, covered all the services normally associated with a funeral -- casket, professional services, prep (embalming or cremation), visitation/funeral/graveside service, hearse. Steve Paul, a 64-year-old from nearby Freemansburg, Pa., was chosen during last night's IronPigs game as the winner of the package. Paul submitted a 200-word essay detailing his recent diagnosis with ALS -- along with the emotional and financial toll it has taken on him and his family -- and was chosen from more than 50 submissions to take home the grand prize funeral package. (You can read our story about this promo here.)
- In recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Night, the IronPigs presented the first 3,500 fans 18 and older with a sky-blue foam finger giveaway, in a partnership with local Urology Specialists of the Lehigh Valley. IronPigs players and coaches wore commemorative sky-blue caps as well.
“We knew the Urinal Games would make a huge splash but we are equally thrilled that the other promotions received recognition as well,” exclaimed IronPigs General Manager Kurt Landes. “We are grateful to Ballpark Digest for bestowing this honor on our club and we look forward to raising the bar in 2014.”
Teams do promotions to gain attention, but the IronPigs promotions went a step beyond and added some real meaning to their interactions. These were promotions that were both clever and full of heart.
We also love promotions that turn an accepted practice on its heels. Food trucks are everywhere; many MLB and MiLB teams bring them in regularly. But our runner-up promotion comes from the Minnesota Twins, who didn't just bring in a food truck to Target Field or arrange a food-truck day at the ballpark: the Twins and Delaware North Sportservice launched their own food truck, the “Taste of Target Field,” bringing the ballpark to the greater community. The truck features a variety of delicious ballpark fare, including Kramarczuk’s sausages, nachos, Schweigert hot dogs, The Loon Café chili, a BBQ brisket sandwich, cheese curds as well as a variety of daily specials. The truck is also equipped with an audio and video system that broadcasts Twins games when possible.
The Taste of Target Field food truck is more than just a mobile concession stand: It's designed to promote the Twins brand, build fan affinity and engage with new customers. Wrapped in vivid Twins and ballpark graphics, the truck acts as a mobile billboard; depicting the fun of Twins baseball at Target Field. By providing a “mini game” experience through the food offerings and game broadcasts, it not only brings the ballpark closer to fans, it also motivates them to seek the full experience by attending a game at Target Field.
“Since opening Target Field in 2010, the Twins and our partners Delaware North Sportservice have worked hard to ensure the food and beverage offerings at the ballpark are among the best in baseball,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “With that mission in mind, the Taste of Target Field food truck is aimed at expanding the reach of those signature menu items across Twins Territory.”
This is not a gimmick: it's out regularly in both downtowns and big events. Fans can track the location of the truck as well as daily menus by following @TastyTwinsTruck on Twitter or by visiting www.twinsbaseball.com/tasty.
There are other promotions that deserve recognition this season; these would fall under the honorable mention category.
The Vermont Lake Monsters (short season A; NY-Penn League) gave away not one, not two, but leases to nine cars, one per inning, in a monster promo called Nine Innings of Winning. (You can read our story about this promo here.) Fans in attendance (18 years or older) had the opportunity to be a part of promotions throughout the evening that determined who will drive home in nine brand new vehicles. Each inning, a new AutoSaver Group sponsored vehicle will be introduced to the fans, and contestants will be narrowed down through Lake Monster promotions. Later that inning, one lucky fan won a two-year lease on that inning's vehicle.
As usual, the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) made headlines this season with their promotions. Two stood out. The first was the Umpireless Game, a promotion thrown during an exhibition game. Catchers called balls and strikes, a jury of Little League kids ruled on close plays on the bases and a “judge” stood behind the pitcher’s mound to help keep the game moving. It certainly had never been done before, snared a sponsor for an exhibition game (nearby Hamline University, who used the promo to push the Hamline Law School) and gained national attention. (You can read our story about this promo here.) The second was A Night of Unbelievable Fun – The Second Coming presented by the Minnesota Atheists. It was a repeat, but one worth noting. Every team holds Faith Nights where local religious institutions are invited out to the ballpark, but the Saints and the Minnesota Athiests turned the notion on its heels. The promo generated national headlines and some sneers from the religion right, but in the end the topic of the evening wasn't religion. The highlight of the night was the race through time: The Big Bang (where confetti was shot in the air), primordial ooze before evolving into monkeys (sliding down a slip and slide), put on the monkey head and race to the finish line where, in a twist, our master of ceremonies announced there was no finish line.
Cars also played in the Quad Cities River Bandits' (Low Class A: Midwest League) Used Car Mega-Giveaway presented by Reynolds Ford, where fans age 18 and over were able to enter a drawing for one of five used cars or trucks donated to the team by a local car dealership. To highlight the 'features' and appearance of each car, during every odd-numbered inning a team staffer would drive a different vehicle around the warning track while the on-field emcee announced the "specs" to the crowd. At that time, a winner was drawn and given the keys and the title to the car, sans fees, enabling the winner to drive off the Modern Woodmen Park lot with the new ride. In all, five used cars and trucks were given away. The team also brought back its popular Mega Candy Drop, where children ages 14 and under pack the infield following the game and watch as a helicopter flies over the stadium and drops candy all over the outfield. Once the candy has been scattered, the children run out onto the field and pick up all the candy, while the helicopter circles back and drops marshmallows all over the children for them to pick up along with the candy. The event has become a huge hit; it regularly draws 5,000 fans on an otherwise-slow Sunday afternoon. Again, this is the sort of promo that could be replicated by virtually every team.
The Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) went all our during their Social Media Nigh: creating player jerseys featuring the handles of every single Twitter follower. Over 6,000 Twitter handles adorned the jersey, making it the first of its kind. The team sold out that game with over 7,000 in attendance and gained recognition from the likes of ESPN and NBCSports. The TinCaps have a great way of establishing connections with their fans, and this promo is an example of how those ties are established and maintained.
The Frederick Keys (High Class A: Carolina League) applied the popular Clue board game to a promo at Harry Grove Stadium, where beloved mascot Frank Key was killed by one of six subjects -- Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlet and Mrs. White -- who were interviewed during the course of the game. We won't spoil the ending (there's a description of the promo here, complete with tweets and videos), but the promo featured a lot of interplay with fans via social media. This may have been the most labor-intensive in-game promo submitted this year.
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