With the Minor League Baseball season winding down, the time has come to reflect on some of the best promotions covered in Promotions Watch in 2015 and look ahead to some of the events fans can expect to see in 2016.
A popular promotional option for many teams this year was TV theme night. Several clubs—including the Altoona Curve (Class AA; Eastern League), Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A; Midwest League), Hudson Valley Renegades (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), and Potomac Nationals (High A; Carolina League)—chose to honor the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, while teams such as Durham Bulls (Class AAA; International League) and Staten Island Yankees (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) raised the bar with tributes to Game of Thrones.
What was extremely apparent about TV show theme nights, however, was that the nostalgia for the 1990’s was in full swing. The Frisco RoughRiders (Class AA; Texas League) pulled off a successful celebration of Full House, while Saved by the Bell received some love around the minors, with the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A; Carolina League) and Brooklyn Cyclones (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) among those staging elaborate tributes.
The Cyclones are definitely onto something with their annual tribute to Seinfeld, which had its second installment in July. Considering that the show ran nine seasons and featured plenty of memorable episodes, the Cyclones will have plenty of options going forward. This year’s promotion—which included a Technicolor Dream Coat-inspired jersey—drew over 5,500 fans to MCU Park. It also inspired some other Seinfeld nights, including a Frederick Keys (High A; Carolina League) promo complete with an appearance by the Soup Nazi.
Many teams will look to the small screen for inspiration, but movies are also a crucial part of theme nights, particularly blockbuster franchises such as Star Wars. Theme nights to those films show no signs of slowing down, not only because the series appeals to fans of all ages, but we are coming off of a year that featured some interesting jersey designs—ranging from the drooling Jaba the Hut jersey from the Curve, to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League) donning a uniform top that featured Hans Solo frozen in carbonite.
Star Wars tributes are also catching across Major League Baseball. While it remains to be seen if a team would be bold enough to wear a minors-style tribute jersey, many clubs around the majors included special giveaways and video board graphics in their tributes.
For fans of the majors and minors alike, one promotion that offers a broad appeal is throwback nights. Teams around the minors employed special jerseys and giveaways to celebrate milestone anniversaries, which is a trend that will likely continue next year. There are also many squads—including the Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League)—that have made throwback nights a staple on their promotional slates. And we’ve seen some tributes to past homes, including a jersey from the Eugene Emeralds (Short Season A; Northwest League) honoring Civic Stadium.
In the majors, this trend should be as strong as ever. The San Diego Padres have just tapped into the nostalgia market by wearing their 1980’s-style brown and orange pinstriped jerseys as part of Way Back Wednesdays, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A’s have made traditions of Throwback Thursdays. There is always a market for celebrations for milestones and World Series teams, and there are some good anniversaries next year, including the 30th for the New York Mets 1986 title.
Returning to the minors, another traditional promotion that only looks to be gaining ground creatively is Christmas in July nights. Many teams will incorporate a giveaway, or various on-field promotions, and video board graphics to celebrate the holiday, but a few clubs took it to another level with their specialty jerseys.
Some of the more notable uniform tops—including offerings from the Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A; Sally League), Reading Fightin’ Phils (Class AA; Eastern League), and Round Rock Express (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League)—were covered here back in July. One development from Christmas tributes that should continue is the tie-in of popular movies: the Fightin Phils, IronPigs, and Battle Creek Bombers (summer collegiate; Northwoods League) paid tribute to Elf, and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Class High A; Carolina League) really upped the ante in their celebration of Christmas Vacation.
What are some of the other promotional trends that should continue into next season? Expect the Mega Candy Drop to keep spreading around the minors. The brain child of Main Street Baseball and the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League), the Mega Candy Drop has grown within a relatively short time frame, not only for its ability to attract families, but with how flexibly it can be worked into a promotional schedule. It is enough of a draw to warrant its own night, but can also spice up Halloween tributes.
There is also something to the craft beer craze that was covered before the season began. From the majors down to the summer collegiate ranks, craft beer gardens and team-branded beers are growing in popularity. The Iowa Cubs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) have been selling Iowa Oaks Ale since 2008, while the Kane County Cougars (Low Class A; Midwest League) and the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League) were among the clubs to launch team-branded brews this year. Baseball and beer have of course always made for a great pairing, and the bustling craft beer industry gives teams across the country an opportunity to strengthen local business ties and add a specialty item to their concession offerings.
The trend of dog nights and dog mascots shows no signs of slowing down, and teams will still turn to popular items like bobbleheads and gnomes for giveaway options. Jersey nights that benefit cancer and veterans-related charities are also here to stay, as they allow fans to take home unique souvenirs and make a contribution to a worthy cause.
Promotions Watch had plenty to cover this season, and there should be announcements of unique events over the coming months. In the meantime, fans around baseball can expect 2016 to be another year of unique and creative offerings from their favorite teams.