In a year of great promotions, two stood out as we were contemplating the Best Promotion of 2008: the St. Paul Saints’ Bobblefoot Giveaway on National Tap Dance Day, and Totally Rad ’80s Night from the Fresno Grizzlies. The Saints honored “tappers” during National Tap Dance Day by giving away a bobblefoot to the first 2,500 fans in attendance. The Fresno Grizzlies hosted Totally Rad 80’s Night featuring Billy Zabka.
In a year of great promotions, two stood out as we were contemplating the Best Promotion of 2008: the St. Paul Saints’ Bobblefoot Giveaway on National Tap Dance Day, and Totally Rad ’80s Night from the Fresno Grizzlies. The Saints honored “tappers” during National Tap Dance Day by giving away a bobblefoot to the first 2,500 fans in attendance. The design is a bathroom stall, with a foot that peaks out of the bottom and “taps” up and down. Any Larry Craig comparisons, of course, are strictly accidental; don’t forget the Idaho senators bathroom encounter came in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The Fresno Grizzlies hosted Totally Rad 80’s Night featuring Billy Zabka. And who is Billy Zabka? Zabka, best known for his performance as Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid — perhaps the quintessential ’80s movie — threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Chukchansi Park, signed autographs, posed for photos, and participated in “Zabka on Zabka” trivia, where he won his very own copy of Karate Kid. The night also featured 80’s music, a highlight reel of “You know you’re from the 80’s if…”, a very special Drag Kings performance of Michael Jackson’s Beat It, and a recreation of the Karate Kid’s infamous final fight scene. During the game, visiting Colorado Springs Sky Sox players had their mug shots traded in for Garbage Pail Kid replacements, and Grizzlies players received 80s TV makeovers, as each player got a look-a-like headshot created with popular sitcom stars of the decade.
Other finalists for the award included the Lowell Spinners for Politically Incorrect Night, the Fayetteville SwampDogs for Steal of a Lifetime, Tattoo Night from the Quad Cities River Bandits, a corn maze in the shape of the IronPigs logo from the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Night of 100 Promotions from the State College Spikes, a Spam-carving contest form the Reading Phillies, a community art project from the Sioux Falls Canaries, and the broadcaster-salary giveaway from the Kinston Indians. A few of these need more explanation. The SwampDogs had a promotion with a local Nissan dealership where fans were asked nightly to sign in to win $20,000 toward a new vehicle if a SwampDogs player stole home. On July 15 Dustin Johnson stole home — a walk-off steal, no less — in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, and a fan attending her first SwampDogs game won. In the case of Tattoo Night, the River Bandits gave away a berm season ticket to anyone receiving a free team logo; two tattoo artists ended up applying 28 tattoos, and the game ended with fans waiting in line. Not content with just one promotion, the Spikes ran through 100 promotions in a single evening, some significant, many not. The IronPigs promoted the team last gall by arranging to have their logo etched into an eight-acre corn maze. On Politically Incorrect Night, the Spinners gave away pink pot holders to female fans, arranged nap areas for seniors and allowing only men to participate in the on-field contests. And, of course, no more explanation of Spam carving is really necessary. The Canaries teams up with local arts organizations to have young artists paint second base for each home game. Each night, prior to the game, the young artist and his or her family were recognized on the field and then placed their artwork on the field of play. In addition, the Canaries created a Youth Arts Corner, located on their concourse, to display photos of all the second-base masterpieces. Two local dealerships also made contributions to charity every time the Canaries doubled.