Video: Fresno's shamwow race
Video: Fresno's mix-o-matic
As Seen in Ben's Biz Blog
When it comes to Minor League promotions, it doesn't really matter which team came up with an idea first. All that counts is whether the fans respond in a positive manner.
That said, there are a number of clubs throughout the Minors that take pride in being innovators. There is, after all, a great amount of satisfaction to be derived from seeing an idea spread like wildfire throughout the industry.
Recent examples of much-copied promos include "Going Green Weekend" (first staged by the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2007) and "Star Wars Night" (first staged by the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2006).
Will the Fresno Grizzlies' "As Seen on TV Night" be next?
It seems like an idea that is ripe for the taking, given the recent resurgence of celebrity pitchmen and products on our nation's airwaves. Salesmen such as Vince the Shamwow guy and Billy Mays have become ubiquitous figures, easily identifiable by all but the most TV-averse American.
In Fresno, "As Seen on TV Night" came about because of a particularly annoying front office member.
"We've got a guy on our staff, [group sales account executive] Jon Gilbert, who's always going a mile a minute. He never shuts up," Grizzlies vice president of marketing Scott Carter said. "He came into my office one day talking about how he loves Vince the Shamwow guy, and I was like, 'Dude, you could do that.'"
So he did. The Grizzlies quickly put together a satirical promotional video entitled "Get Your Fitted On," in which Gilbert sells Fresno baseball caps in an excitable and over-the-top manner . The video was released in February, along with the information that June 6 would be "As Seen on TV Night" at Fresno's Chukchansi Park.
"We figured someone was going to do ['As Seen on TV Night'] sooner or later, so we may as well do it first and do it the best," said Carter. "For myself and the entertainment staff, it was one of our easiest nights to brainstorm. The ideas were coming at a fast and furious pace."
This past Saturday, many of those ideas were finally put into action. To begin with, the first 2,500 fans received a Shammy Cloth emblazoned with the Grizzlies logo. Once inside the stadium, all fans had the chance to see Gilbert in action.
"[Gilbert] was doing live product demonstrations on the concourse, and all of the products could be bought at the team store," said Carter. "It all had the feel of a county fair."
The vast majority of the in-game entertainment was centered around the evening's theme. Player headshots featured plenty of product placement -- for example, Matt Wilhite became "Chia Wilhite," and his photo was doctored so that his hair, eyebrows and goatee resembled a Chia Pet.
The Grizzlies made an inadvertent discovery during the game, one that may have Chukchansi Park staying power -- the Clapper advertisement is a great way to initiate rhythmic applause.
"[The commercial] got the whole stadium going, with no prompting," said Carter. "We might use it during games as one of our rally videos."
And no writeup of "As Seen on TV Night" would be complete without a mention of a very unique between-innings stunt. In the Snuggie/Shamwow/Life Alert relay race, contestants had to don a Snuggie, absorb water into a Shammy Cloth, drain the cloth into a cup on top of their partner's head and then tumble over and yell, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" into a microphone.
In a world where it seems that just about everything has already been done, it's safe to say that this was a ballpark first.
"Some teams care where they are in the pantheon of creativity -- and we're one of them," said Carter. "But the ultimate goal is always to put on a good show, whether we're the first team to do something or the 50th."
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.