Every so often, there is a theme night in Minor League Baseball that stands out from the crowd. A promotion of this kind not only manages to generate headlines, but serve as inspiration for possible trends in the future.
In 2016, My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show, a promotion from the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), fit that description. For its originality and successful implementation, it is receiving Ballpark Digest’s 2016 Promotion of the Year.
My Big Fat Fresno Wedding resulted from a brainstorming effort on the part of the Grizzlies front office as it mapped out ideas for the 2016 season. One of the biggest priorities for the Grizzlies was to align large group outings and theme nights, which led the concept of hosting a wedding-themed event. Starting with that premise, the Grizzlies found a way for their mascot—Parker T. Bear—to play a major role.
“When we talked about different in-game elements, we started throwing around ideas,” said Grizzlies director of marketing Sam Hansen. “One of the ideas was, let’s have Parker ordained as a minister. We kept pushing the idea forward thinking we would hit a roadblock, but we didn’t hit a roadblock.”
The promotion, touted as the first in which a mascot performed wedding ceremonies, was held on May 26. Another ordained minister assisted Parker—who, like most mascots, does not speak—with the ceremony, but the official certificates featured Parker’s name. Overall six couples took part in the event, with three getting married and another three renewing their vows.
The reception from the participating couples, some of whom wore Grizzlies gear for the occasion, was positive. “We didn’t want to mock the institution of marriage at all,” said Hansen. “We wanted to celebrate it, and show you could expand on it and make it a more memorable day.”
The Grizzlies have carved out a system for coming up with unique promotions, whether it is My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show, their annual Taco Truck Throwdown, or weekly Farm Grown Fridays. Bringing fans out to Chukchansi Park through unique promotions has become a big part of the strategy for the Grizzlies, and Hansen credits general manager/executive vice president Derek Franks for pushing these ideas. “He definitely encourages us to push the envelope as far as marketing is concerned. ”
Ultimately, promotions like My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show are intended to not only help bring fans to the ballpark, but to make the gameday experience all the more memorable. “I don’t think there’s anywhere else on earth where you could get married by a large, fuzzy mascot,” said Hansen. “That’s the thing that I love the most about Minor League Baseball. It’s rooted in the community, and it gives us the opportunity to make lasting memories for generations.”
Previous 2016 Award Winners:
Best New Logo/Branding: Columbia Fireflies
Best Ballpark Renovation (Over $10 Million): The Outfield Apartments
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1 Million): The Choctaw Lazy River
Best Ballpark Improvement (Under $1 Million): The Perch
Broadcaster of the Year: Sean Aronson, St. Paul Saints
Ballpark of the Year: Spirit Communications Park