Swatting bees away? A hot dog trying on buns? Feeding bees by giving them hot dogs? These are just a few ideas the Salt Lake Bees (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) brought to life through their creative videos and ads, earning our 2019 Best Marketing Campaign in the annual Ballpark Digest awards.
Every offseason, teams around the country brainstorm to come up with new ideas on how to engage their fans. The Bees typically produce about six to seven videos every season and for them, it comes down to a few key marketing points.
“We want to make the videos engaging and entertaining,” said Brady Brown, Bees Director of Marketing and Game Operations. “We want to sell the message that it’s better at the ballpark. We try to find ways to try to convey that fun.”
Brown added that it’s also important to recognize that creating a fun atmosphere is important because fans don’t come to games purely for baseball anymore.
“Most of our fans coming out to the ballgame aren’t necessarily big baseball fans,” he said. “They want to come to an event and it’s being outside and enjoying baseball but, also, it’s a relaxed, family-friendly environment where they can be with friends. That’s really our main messaging.”
Another key part of that messaging is the team mascot, Bumble the Bee, who features prominently in many of the ads.
“We use our mascot a lot. He’s the most recognizable person on the team,” Brown said. “With Minor League Baseball, teams cycle through players really quickly so we use Bumble so fans immediately know what we’re talking about.”
One example is the video Bumble’s Bad Day. Bumble is shooed away from people who think that bees are a pest in the summertime. Fast forward to him arriving at the ballpark and he’s the most popular bee at the ballpark.
The Bees had a new addition to the roster this season and were able to utilize Frank the Hot Dog, who appeared the commercial to promote Smith’s Family Night. Smith’s is a regional grocery store chain and a subsidiary of national retailer Kroger, and also the naming rights partner for the Bees’ home, Smith’s Ballpark.
“When we make these videos, we want to keep it fresh,” Brown said. “How can we tell the story that a lot of our fans know but in an engaging and entertaining way? Smith’s was nice enough to let us play around with big mascots in their stores, use their displays, and their cashiers. The idea was building on the best way to implement Bumble in the store.”
The ad focuses on Bumble trying to tell fans about Family Night and trying to get his message across through dancing. His friend Frank the Hot Dog tries to buy hot-dog buns going through checkout but is busted for trying on the buns. Brown said the team’s inspiration comes from various sources.
“A lot of our creativity comes from other things that we have seen. One example is the This Is SportsCenter commercials. They use mascots in different aspects that show the mascots as real characters with emotions which they have fun with.”
Another fun spot was The Rise of Bumble, which promoted the team’s Star Wars Night.
“We wanted to play off of The Rise of Skywalker movie that’s coming out because he’s the most recognized member of the team,” Brown said. “We used still shots from different Star Wars nights we’ve had over the years and fans interacting with some of the volunteer groups that come out like the 501st Legion. We used a lot of still photos and baseball highlights. It had almost like a movie trailer feel.”
What do fans think about these videos?
“The response has been really positive,” Brown said. “The fans think they are cute and fun. We do some surveys about our marketing campaigns. The video spots are the ones that people remember the most.”
For Brown, it’s all in a day’s work.
“Mainly we just want to be able to create fun stuff and try to get that message out to our market that it’s better at the ballpark,” Brown said. “We’re given a lot of freedom to have fun, out-of-the-box ideas. We’re very grateful that Smith’s and our company allows us the opportunity to do those things and use these fun experiences as ways to promote baseball.”
Commitment to Charity Award: Kane County Cougars
Charity Event Award: Quad Cities River Bandits
Best Ballpark Improvement (Under $1M): Calfee Park Party Deck
MLB Broadcaster of the Year: Marty Brennaman
Best New Logo/Branding: Fayetteville Woodpeckers
Best New Food Item: Crabzilla, Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Best New Concessions Experience: Pensacola Blue Wahoos
MiLB Broadcaster of the Year: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler
Promotion of the Year: Funko Fridays
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