Jacksonville adds up promo puzzle pieces

Chapter 2: Jumbo Shrimp packing schedule, picking giveaways

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | January 9, 2020 10:45 AM

This is the second article in a multi-part series detailing the evolution of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp's 2020 promotions schedule. To read the first installment, click here

Jacksonville's Minor League team is the Jumbo Shrimp and they are, as such, invertebrates. Nonetheless, they've given their promo schedule a backbone.

That backbone, per Jumbo Shrimp director of promotions David Ratz, is the team's slate of Saturday giveaway items. 

"We start building out from there," said Ratz. "Without revealing everything, we're giving away three bobbleheads, upping the total by one [over the 2019 season]. And then there are a number of wearables and we're doing a ["Miami Vice"]-themed giveaway again. ... And as always, there'll be a shrimp-themed giveaway. We already had a neck pillow, so there'll be a wearable item this year as well."

Saturday games only account for 10 of the Jumbo Shrimp's 70 home games, but they represent the Double-A Miami affiliate's first priority when it comes to the months-long process of building the promo schedule.  

"Now is the time of year where we start internally locking things in. Making calls, getting things set up, so by [Feb. 3] everything on the calendar is stationary and not moving," said Ratz. "We can build out once we have solid days and the sales staff knows what day is what. After Feb. 1, there can be more added, but everything that's in at that point cannot be moved." 

Ratz noted that, while there remain plenty of details to be sorted out, 60 of the team's 70 games currently have some sort of promotion attached to them.

"It's the time of year where everybody thinks they're behind, but once you take the time to look at it, you realize you're not. But it's the feeling that you are that pushes you," he said. "You got 10 blanks. You need to come up with something. It's also a time of year where you play your cards close to the vest. While we're locked in internally on Feb. 1, we won't release the promo schedule until probably the first week of March."   

Ratz and his staff have to come up with multiple "somethings" for every home date on the schedule, adding a stand-alone theme to a recurring weekly deal.

"Our goal is at least one secondary promo every night," he said. "So, yes, it's Thirsty Thursday, but what else? Is it horror movies? Is it Guns N' Roses? It's not just Two for Tuesday or Friday Night Fireworks. There have to be two every night, the theme and whatever else the ticket or food special is."

The day of the week also dictates the type of theme night planned by the team. While Saturdays are reserved for bigger budget, all-inclusive celebrations, Thursdays can be more experimental and irreverent. The crowds are likely to be younger, and given the scheduled beer specials, a bit rowdier.

"We're looking to do some fun stuff for Thursdays, as those are days where we can stretch out over the line," said Ratz. "Not crossing the line of good taste, but we have some more leeway. We have something hair metal-related coming out, and one probably involving a 1K beer run. There's another one that we can call 'Topless Appreciation Night' and then let people's imaginations go from there."

Some of the Jumbo Shrimp's biggest promotions will be those they've had success with in the past, like the aforementioned "Vice" Night. This Day-Glo celebration of one of the 1980s' most popular TV shows and its influential aesthetic is one of four dates enhanced by one-night-only theme jerseys.

"['Vice' Night] has bright colors, it fits our audience and it gives us a different brand identity. This time around, we're showing a little town pride, putting 'Duval' on the front," said Ratz, referencing the county that includes Jacksonville.

When it comes to planning new promotions, the Jumbo Shrimp kick things off with an all-staff meeting. As Ratz explained in Part 1 of this series, during this meeting every person on the staff is tasked with coming in with theme night ideas and at least two activation ideas for the night.

"It was nice getting ideas from people who haven't worked in the industry before," he said. "If you have an idea, don't worry about why it won't work. Pretend the budget is unlimited. There are no 'nos.' Maybe there'll be some piggybacking on the idea and you end up with something that's 10 times better than the original. The possibilities are endless. Let our department figure out how to make something work that you might not think works. 

"One of the better ideas that we got behind was Outdoors Night, which came from one of our ops guys. Where we're located, there's hiking, hunting, fishing, boating and beaches, just so many businesses to call on."

Offseason MiLB include

While Outdoors Night is not an idea unique to the Jumbo Shrimp, the team has plenty of theme nights that are. 

"Instead of Agriculture Night, we'll have Aquaculture Night. An aquarium on the concourse and a shrimp petting zoo. We'll see how many letters we get from PETA about that. I'll put the over-under at 4 1/2," said Ratz. "And there's one [theme night] in particular that I'm excited about. We're going back and forth with a nationally recognized toy company on a big idea, one of our biggest outside-the-box ideas that no team has done before." 

Meanwhile, another one of the Jumbo Shrimp's original endeavors is already well underway. In November, just in time for Black Friday, the team released its "Into the Shrimpverse" comic book and merchandise line. The project revolves around an original superhero, Dr. Crustacean, and his nemesis, Dr. Cocktail Sauce. These characters will be the focus of the team's May 1-3 Comic Hero Weekend, so named because the term "Super Hero" is jointly trademarked by Marvel and DC. 

"It's the second homestand of the year. We're doing a giveaway featuring the cartoon and the characters," said Ratz. "It's also Boy Scout Night, Youth Sports Day and National Free Comic Book Day. ... We're looking forward to having this be a part of the Jumbo Shrimp season, not just this year but in the years moving forward." 

Despite the work still to be done, Ratz is confident in the strength of his team's 2020 promotional schedule. 

"I probably have seven nights highlighted, where I don't know if I've seen another team that has done something like it," he said. "Things that, when people see it on the calendar, they'll think, 'What in the world is that going to be?' It's not just for the fans to go, 'Wow!' That's a major component. But it's interesting when your peers in the Minor League Baseball world say, 'What is that?'

"Some may fail majestically, but if you don't fall flat on your face, you're not learning and sometimes massive failure helps you for the next year. If there are eight new ideas out there, and you hit with six and miss with two, I'll take it -- 6-2 makes the playoffs."

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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