With Funko Fridays, the Everett AquaSox (Short Season A; Northwest League) leveraged a field naming-rights partnership into a successful season-long promotion that brought fans to Funko Field in droves. For its success and creativity, Funko Fridays is being cited as the 2019 Promotion of the Year in the annual Ballpark Digest Awards.
In March, the AquaSox announced a field naming-rights agreement with Funko—the downtown Everett-based company that has become a pop-culture juggernaut with its unique line of Pop! figurines. On its own, the agreement looked like a strong fit because of the involvement of a prominent local company in field naming rights, but the success of the partnership was amplified by several elements, including the popular Funko Fridays.
The AquaSox received the ability to sell field naming rights as part of a modified license agreement in 2017 with the Everett School District, which owns the team’s home. The agreement with Funko—which is essentially a three-way partnership, as the District approved the deal and receives a portion of naming-rights revenue—gave the AquaSox an opportunity to launch a unique promotion, and Funko was fully on board with the idea of a weekly giveaway.
“From the beginning, we talked about having a weekly thing with Funko Fridays—Funko Fridays was a special Funko night, and every fan that came to the park was going to get rewarded with a Funko giveaway that’s an AquaSox-type giveaway item,” said AquaSox General Manager Danny Tetzlaff. “It made a lot of sense for the Funko folks to have a weekly promotion like that, because they kind of fit right into our wheelhouse with the giveaway items.”
As part of Funko Fridays, the AquaSox gave away a Funko-related item at each of their six Friday home games. The promotion had a successful start, as 4,395 fans turned out for a Webbly Pop! figurine giveaway coinciding with Opening Night on June 21. There were other successes as well, including a crowd of 4,095 fans for a game on August 16 that featured a giveaway Jay Buhner Pop! figurine, depicting the retired outfielder and Seattle Mariners great in the AquaSox uniform he wore while playing with the team on a rehab assignment in 2001. The largest crowd under the promotion was 4,689 on August 2. The ballpark’s official capacity is 4,118, by the way–the larger numbers were achieved with overflow and berm seating.
“I had visions of it being a very, very, very good promotion,” Tetzlaff said. “It still went beyond our expectations.”
The success of the promotion was in no small part because of the AquaSox and Funko’s ability to blend two distinct fan bases. Funko has developed a loyal following of Funko Funatics, who joined baseball fans at Funko Field on a consistent basis.
“Funko has a very strong following, and we’ve obviously got the AquaSox fanbase that we turned into Funko fans,” Tetzlaff said. “It was kind of a unique marriage that grew and blossomed, and we were very fortunate that it created a whole new dynamic on Friday nights and really the whole season. It was not just Fridays, every game we saw people there that were not typically at the ballpark that were out because we are now Funko Field.”
Aside from Funko Fridays, the naming-rights partnership brought more elements to the table that had a positive effect on the ballpark and the AquaSox’s operations. A 16-foot-tall statue of Freddy Funko—Funko’s mascot—was installed in the Funko Field Right Field Home Run Porch, while Funko merchandise was a major factor in the AquaSox’s merchandise sales being up over 45 percent this season.
The blending of baseball and Funko fans helped the AquaSox in a year that saw merchandise sales, and attendance—which was up four percent overall from over a season ago—grow. As Tetzlaff tells it, however, Funko’s positive standing in the community also played a factor, helping to facilitate a positive reception locally toward the partnership and the resulting merchandise and promotions.
“They’ve helped us out at the gate, and also in merchandise and just the buzz in the community,” Tetzlaff said of Funko. “They are a very well-respected company in the community, and everybody in town has nothing but positive thoughts about the fact that we’ve partnered together.”
Going forward, the AquaSox’s partnership with Funko is one that should leverage more creative opportunities in terms of Funko branding around the ballpark and merchandise. Funko Fridays will be a major part of the partnership’s future, as Tetzlaff said that discussions are already underway about what items could be part of next season’s giveaways.
The partnership is off to a successful start, with Funko Fridays being a major component in its early accomplishments. The AquaSox see room for more growth going forward, as their positive relationship with Funko should boost the presence of two entities in the community and create a stronger fan experience.
“Working with Funko has been fantastic,” Tetzlaff said. “They’re all about growth and being creative, and they really want to make this a partnership that helps the viability of pro baseball in Everett and makes it a much more fan-friendly environment for people to come to the game. So they’re looking at it as, yes, we want our name on the ballpark, but at the same time they’re really looking at how can we impact the community and how can we really make the fan experience even better than what the AquaSox already do.”
Past Ballpark Digest Promotion of the Year Winners
2018: Deaf Awareness Night, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
2017: Bacon vs. Tacos (Fresno Grizzlies and Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
2016: My Big Fat Fresno Wedding Show
2015: Ambush Baseball, Brooklyn Cyclones
2014: MiLB Promo of the Year, Myrtle Beach Pelicans
2014: Summer-Collegiate Promo: Kalamazoo Growlers
2013: Promotions of the Year, Lehigh Valley IronPigs
2012: Home-Run Derby, Charleston RiverDogs
2009: BPD Promotions of the Year, Trenton, Lakewood and Quad Cities
2008: St. Paul Saints, Fresno Grizzlies
Best Ballpark Improvement (Over $1M): City of Baseball Museum
Ballpark of the Year: Las Vegas Ballpark
Team of the Year: Las Vegas Aviators
Best Ballpark Renovation: American Family Fields of Phoenix