It was all hands on deck as the Omaha Storm Chasers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) mapped out a marketing campaign celebrating the franchise’s 50th season. The elaborate endeavor, ranging from themed promotions to a feature-length documentary, is our choice for 2018 Best Marketing Campaign in the annual Ballpark Digest Awards.
The season-long-plus campaign was broad in scope, with distinct promotions, ticket packages and even a new Werner Park mural. How did they do it?
Planning, Planning, Planning
The 50th-season marketing campaign was a huge task led by Kaci Long, Storm Chasers director of marketing & communications, who started planning before the 2017 season was even over.
“We started quite a ways back. We started planning in July of last year when I first started working on our promotions calendar,” Long said. “We have about eight or nine people in my department and we also had meetings with the ticketing department, group sales department, and merchandise department as we planned to get the theming right and put together ticket packages.”
Since it was the team’s 50th season, Long said the focus was on highlighting the team’s past instead of other unique promotions.
“We really wanted to focus on going back to baseball. The trend in Minor League Baseball has become who can do the wackiest, craziest, or silliest promotions. We’ve done that in years past,” Long said. “This year, we really wanted to go back to baseball and have former players or front office people come back rather than someone from a TV show. There was one game where we did a Fortnite theme that didn’t tie in, but everything else focused on the decades.”
Turn Back the Clock
Each month, the Storm Chasers flashed back to a different decade and celebrated it with merchandise, giveaways and jerseys.
“We started out with the current era and worked our way back. We did a Flashback Friday where our team wore jerseys from 1969, 1985, 1999, 2010, and 2011,” Long said. “We picked those years because 1969 was the start of the franchise, 1985 was when the Royals won the World Series, we were the Golden Spikes in 1999, 2010 was our final year at Rosenblatt Stadium, and 2011 was the first year at Werner Park.”
The Storm Chasers even had themed music and drink offerings at some games.
“We had one Saturday every month that was called Bands & Brews. We had a band playing music from each of the matching decades and paired it with a brew,” Long said. “With the 70s, we did 70-cent Natty Lights. In the 80s, we did 80-cent Bud Lights because that was the popular beer. In the 90s, it was Bud Ice. In the 2000s, it was Michelob and from 2010 to present, we did craft beer like Goose Island.”
One promotion that garnered national attention was the 50th-season bobblehead series. Each bobblehead represented a player from each of the decades and, when put together, formed the Storm Chasers logo.
“We talked about the players for the bobbleheads because we knew each of the five would represent a different decade and we wanted to find players that we hadn’t recently honored with a bobblehead like George Brett or Salvador Perez,” Long said.
“We went through and picked out our top five players from each of the decades and narrowed it down,” she said. “Then last year at the promo seminar, I was talking to one of the bobblehead companies and said I really want them to connect somehow and make it part of a series. I was thinking about our oval logo and told him what I wanted the poses to be so they aren’t all in a similar position. He broke up the design through the space each player would need and we started rolling from there.”
Faces from Omaha’s past like Mike Sweeney and Jack McKeon joined the festivities throughout the year and brought out a variety of fans.
“We were able to attract fans of all ages because of the difference in the decades,” Long said. “We had Jack McKeon, who was our first manager of the Omaha Royals. He went on to manage other clubs and became known in the business as Trader Jack, so you have the older, middle-aged men say oh, Trader Jack is coming. Then you have younger people get excited because Mike Sweeney is coming. Then you have younger kids who get excited whenever Salvador Perez rehabbed here.”
In addition to honoring those who made contributions on the field, the Storm Chasers honored those who have made an impact off the field during the franchise’s history.
“Steve Pivovar was our long-time beat writer for the Omaha Royals and Storm Chasers. He was really involved with baseball in the Omaha metro and passed away a couple of years ago due to cancer,” Long said. “We wanted to do something to honor his memory, so we invited his whole family out and dedicated the press box to him so it’s now the Steve Pivovar Press Box.”
The team also honored Bill Gorman, who was Omaha’s general manager for over 30 years, by naming its administrative offices in his memory.
Two big projects that were unveiled for the 50th season: a mural on an exterior wall at Werner Park as well as a feature-length documentary. The mural came about after a brainstorming session between president and general manager Martie Cordaro, assistant general manager of operations Andrea Bedor, and community relations manager Becki Frishman.
“We’ve had this huge wall and have talked about what to do with it over the past few years. They came together with the Omaha Creative Institute and created a contest where artists could submit their designs,” Long said. “Based upon that, the artist that was chosen was Hugo Zamorano. Images were chosen that were iconic, and it kind of goes in chronological order.”
Long explained that as you look at the mural from left to right, it has images in chronological order that depict the history of the franchise since 1969.
“It starts at the left with Johnny Rosenblatt and includes players in between like George Brett, Willie Wilson, and Salvador Perez and goes up to our owner Gary Green.”
Perhaps one of the biggest projects was the feature-length documentary called 50 Summers, which not only chronicles 50 seasons of baseball in Omaha but also working in baseball.
“A few years ago, we started a conversation with a film company called Hurrdat Films,” Long said. “They are based out of Omaha. It started as just talking about baseball in Omaha and how it’s hard knocks for working in baseball. That has grown into a major produced film. We are getting ready for the premiere. We are releasing it and taking it to film festivals with the end intention of it hopefully getting picked up by a Netflix or a Hulu. It’s a really encompassing movie that will hopefully showcase all of our 50th season and what it takes to put together an anniversary season.” A VIP premiere was held last night, with local and national dignitaries on hand to celebrate the release.
After such a huge undertaking, there’s no time to relax as the Storm Chasers are already starting to plan for the 2019 season.
“We are going back into our planning sessions,” Long said. “We’ll probably focus more on fun, crazy, wacky promotions that the minor leagues are known for but still mix in some fun baseball promotions as well.”
Long said while new, wacky promotions are fun, keeping baseball relevant in the community is also important so future fans will continue coming to Werner Park and enjoying the game of baseball.
“Sometimes the younger community is a little bored with baseball. We want to find ways to keep entertaining the kids and bringing them out here,” Long said. “Mike Sweeney was here this year and you see kids that just light up when they see him. They want to see him even though they don’t know who he is. But it gets them excited about baseball and baseball players and they become a fan as they keep growing up.”
From an active and entertaining slate of social media channels to unique digital marketing ads, the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) stand out for their creativity. “Yard Goats marketing is a direct reflection on our brand and ballpark: fun, creative, and outside the box,” said Yard Goats general manager Mike Abramson. “It’s an honor to be recognized by Ballpark Digest.”
The Salt Lake Bees (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) offer a weekly promotion called Smith’s Family Night, consisting of four tickets and four hot dogs for $20 for every Monday home game. This is part of a marketing effort with ballpark naming-rights partner Smith’s Food and Drug, which also includes the “Smith’s Produce Race” at home games and the “Produce Surprise” television spot. “Our internal marketing team worked closely with our sister company Saxton Horne Communications (Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment),” said Beesdirector of marketing and game operations Brady Brown. “The produce surprise spot is a great example of working closely with our stadium naming rights partner, Smith’s Food and Drug. They are an amazing partner and are always willing to allow us to do weird, crazy stuff at their stores. This campaign helped increase Monday Night or Smith’s Family Night sales significantly.”
The Williamsport Crosscutters (Short Season A; NY-Penn League) run a multi-faceted marketing effort that covers several mediums and used that in 2018 to promote their 20th season. Social media and digital advertising are a big part of the club’s strategy, but it also uses billboards, print advertising and radio and TV spots to aggressively promote the team and upcoming promotions. “We are honored to be cited for our 2018 Marketing Campaign centered around our 20th anniversary season,” said Crosscutters VP, Marketing & Public Relations Gabe Sinicropi, Jr. “In today’s world, it becomes harder and harder to capture people’s attention and stand out from the crowd. We work very closely with our ad agency, Concepts Design Group, to get in front of as many eyes and in as many ears as possible on a limited budget. We appreciate the recognition of our efforts by Ballpark Digest.”
2018 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
Marketing TV Spot: Quad Cities River Bandits
Continued Excellence Award: Fort Wayne TinCaps
Promotion of the Year: Deaf Awareness Night, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
MLB Broadcaster of the Year: Pat Hughes
MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Tim Heiman
Commitment to Charity: Hartford Yard Goats
Team of the Year: Indianapolis Indians
Executive of the Year: Doug Scopel
Ballpark of the Year: SRP Park