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Ideas tossed around at Promo Seminar10/01/2009 6:55 PM ET
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- One of the main selling points of the annual Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar is that "one idea is the worth the price of admission."
If that is the case, then everyone in attendance at this year's event already has gotten their money's worth. After opening remarks from emcee Dan Migala (a veteran sports marketing consultant and author), the seminar kicked off Thursday morning with a freewheeling exchange of ideas. Over the course of an hour, everyone in attendance shared what they considered to be their club's best promotion of 2009.
The range of responses served as an ample illustration of Minor League Baseball's diversity and, in many cases, irreverence. And since these teams collectively represent the whole of the United States, the responses also could be seen as a microcosm of 21st Century American culture. The following are a few of the innovations to which fans responded in 2009:
Jason Dambach, general manager of the State College Spikes, was the first to make a point echoed by many: In a tough economy, teams need to go out of their way to "promote the value of Minor League Baseball." In the Spikes' case, this meant aggressively marketing recurring day-of-the-week specials (Half Price Wednesdays, Kids Eat Free Thursdays, Four for $44 Fridays, etc). The point was driven home most fervently by Jeff Griffin of the Missoula Osprey. His club staged discount nights succinctly titled "The Economy Sucks."
Most of the above promos required a considerable amount of planning, but Katie Dannemiller of the Greensboro Grasshoppers reminded everyone that often "impromptu is best." And perhaps nothing was more impromptu than when Master Yogi Berra, the club's canine mascot, relieved himself on the field. The result was nationwide coverage and a moment of considerable levity during a year in which Americans needed all the laughs they could get.
Oh, certainly not to be forgotten amid the hubbub is this: The New Orleans Zephyrs (host of this year's seminar) revealed that "Mini-Kiss" (a little people Kiss cover band) were a huge hit at the ballpark. Expect these diminutive face-painted rockers to appear across the Minors in 2010.
You Gotta Make Sure You're Connected
Not surprisingly, social networking has emerged as a primary topic of conversation at this year's seminar. As the effectiveness of traditional media (print, radio and TV) continues to decline, it has become imperative for clubs to effectively harness the power of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Durham Bulls assistant GM Jon Bishop gave a presentation on "eMarketing" in which he detailed his club's use of email and "new media." Later, social networking was touched upon in several afternoon roundtable discussions (more on the these Friday).
The importance of these tools was summed up in an introductory video shown by Bishop that included the prescient observation that "Social media isn't a fad, it's a fundamental shift in the way we communicate."
Saved By the Belding
Two clubs made note of the fact that Dennis Haskins (aka Mr. Belding from "Saved by the Bell") provides a tremendous bang for the buck. Fresno Grizzlies vice president of marketing Scott Carter reported that the noted thespian was the highlight of the team's "Mad Tight '90s Night Celebration." And West Virginia Power executive vice president Andy Milovich remarked that Haskins was "the most friendly and accessible celebrity guest" that the team has hosted. He went on to note that Haskins and Dora the Explorer were booked on the same day at the ballpark and the line for Haskins was three times as long.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.