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Should We Do It?: How to Know if a Gameday Promotion is a Good Idea and Will lead to Incremental Ticket Sales

Dan Migala's picture

Theme night promotions are designed to generate two things: publicity and incremental ticket sales.

Arguably, the more bizarre and unique the promotion is can lead to a greater increase in tickets sold and attract in the much-coveted entertainment seeker to the game.

However, as teams try to create unique promotions, they sometimes run the risk of going too far and cross the unwritten line of social standards.

The objective of this Report is to understand the idea-generating process of theme nights and to provide an outline for teams to create their own internal litmus test to determine if a promotional idea is worth pursuing.

Fight for your right

The Frontier League River City Rascals cancelled a planned “Sports Criminals Night” that planned to highlight famous athletes involved in criminal activity. The negative outbreak from the media and public forced the team to cancel the promotion and deal with the negative feelings created as a result.

While the team’s intentions were to have a little fun with a promotional night and try to sell some extra tickets, the promotion failed before it could even see the light of the day.

This is the situation the Minnesota Twins potentially were in after the team announced plans to give away 5,000 G.I. Joe dolls on a night the team planned to celebrate and support American troops.

Upon announcing the promotion, a local columnist penned a negative article on the idea stating that the team was promoting violence and War. However, unlike the Rascals, the team countered back and defended the reasons for the promotion.

The idea for the night stemmed from the team showing a satellite feed from Iraq with Minnesota-native soldiers throwing a simulated first pitch at the start of the season. The idea received so much positive attention that the team wanted to schedule a night dedicated to the troops.

Twins Vice President of Marketing Patrick Klinger first scheduled internal meetings to discuss ideas and then visited with area Generals and veterans to get their feedback.

The result of these meetings was to give away G.I. Joe dolls that the team would pay for themselves in lieu of attaching a sponsor’s name. The military officials and veterans agreed that the G.I. Joe doll is universally accepted as a positive symbol of the military.

“What can be perceived as a negative by some, including the press, can be a positive to many other people,” Klinger said. “We all agreed this was a great thing and did this step to make sure it would be perceived positively by people we wanted to embrace it.”

While the general media was against the promotion and the story was picked up nationally, the club received thousands of e-mail messages in support of the promotion. The negative reaction from the media fueled the promotion and created more exposure for the event than ever imaginable.

“We always want a buzz to be created with any theme night but this was purely to support our troops,” Klinger said. “We were honest with the press and said our intention was solely to support the troops. I wouldn’t have thought in my wildest dreams that it was something that would be controversial but I learned for whatever theme night you might do that you should be prepared to explain the reasons for the night and how you came up with the idea.”


Like the Twins and Rascals, the need to come up with new ideas for theme night promotions is universal.

This is one of the reasons the Class A Brevard County Manatees, known for their creative promotional nights, created their own internal checklist to pass before any promotional theme sees the light of day.

While the basis of the team’s tactics is to help prevent a situation like the one that occurred with the Rascals, the Manatees stress they are not afraid to create a promotion that fails.

In fact, the team almost expects a few flops.

“A player that gets three hits out of 10 at the plate gets in the hall of fame,” said Buck Rodgers, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Manatees. “We as promoters can’t be afraid to swing the bat too because you will hit a lot of home runs that lead to a lot more ticket sales.”

Rodgers said the majority of the team’s promotional theme nights are geared towards attracting the casual entertainment seeker and moms as team research discovered that four out of five families in the market list mom as the decision-maker for family outings.

The team established a checklist to better understand the potential for success and to provide a safeguard for making a mistake with a bad idea.

Brevard County Manatees Promotional Idea Checklist

- Is it fun?
- Is it feasible?
- Is it affordable?
- Will it add to the fan experience?
- Will it be a $2 bill? (unwanted/avoided)
- Is the timing right?
- Is it suffering from the '8-ball syndrome?' (dead in the corner)
- Has the remainder of the staff approved?
- Is it marketable?
- Will we have to apologize tomorrow?
- Will it promote the team/sponsor positively?
- Will it pass the 'family test?' (what if your immediate family came to the came, would Mom be proud or ashamed?)
- What will happen if we don't seize the moment?
- And last of all, when in doubt, WWVD (What Would Veeck Do?)

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This story was originally published on Aug 1, 2004.

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