Duffy's Irish Pub in Washington, D.C. announced a new promotion last week. Every time Washington Nationals (and former Phillies) outfield Jayson Werth homers anyone in the bar at that time watching the game (and wearing Nats gear) will get a free shot. I love this. I love this not that I'm a Nationals fan (I'm not. I'm a Phillies fan). Not that I'm a Jayson Werth fan (I am... c'mon Phillies fans, the guy will forever be in our hearts as an instrumental part of that 2008 world championship team).
I love it as a business owner who appreciates other business owners that come up with innovative ways to market their businesses. Why not leverage off the Nationals? They're likely to do pretty well this year and their fan base is growing. Why not take a sliver of the team's publicity and turn it into some more business for your business?
Tying your marketing to your local baseball team can bring in those fans that were never your customers before. If it's innovative you may get some free press out of it, like Duffy's. It makes things more interesting for your employees. And frankly it just makes your boring work day a little more fun.
So how to profit from your hometown team this summer? Consider these ten brilliant ideas.
1. Targeted promos. As a kid I remember that whenever a Phillies player hit a home run it meant a box of Tastykakes for some lucky fan. I remember the local Daily News ran a home run payoff contest awarding money whenever a homer was hit and lots of money for a grand slam (do they still do this? I think they do). During the course of the baseball season, pick a target and promote it. Duffy's gives shots whenever Werth hits a home run. How about a free item every time your home team wins a game? Or a 10 percent discount whenever there's a shutout? If you're bored, change the target every month. If your team starts losing, make it all about losing more. Mets fans: pay close attention to that last piece of advice.
2. Take your best people to games. Why do the big law and accounting firms buy up those tickets to sporting events? Because they're rich of course! And they're also smart. Small businesses can do the same. And we don't have to be ruthless bastards either. Buy a full or partial season ticket plan. If it's too late, scoop up tickets on Craigslist or eBay. It will cost you a few thousand bucks. But man up! The returns can be significant. Use these tickets and take your best customers, partners, vendors and... yes... employees to games. Try not to just give these tickets away, even if you're from Pittsburgh. I agree it could be painful to watch the Pirates on the field, but avert your eyes and focus on your companion. Unlike most other professional sports, baseball is so boring there's nothing better to do than to sit around and talk business. And you might just get more business out of the evening.
3. Give stuff away. If you don't want to do targeted promos then just buy a bunch of cheap gear related to your hometown team and give it away on certain days. If you're a Phillies fan then it could be something fitting like "Saturday is Phillies baseball cap day." Or if you're a Mets fan then try: "Monday is Mets sanitary napkin day." Something like that. Promotional gear is sold everywhere and can be inexpensive. There's no legal issue if you're just giving it away. But it demonstrates your pride (or your insanity) about your local team and builds up a little community support.
4. Run a baseball-theme contest. Have your customers fill out a form (online and with their permission-based email addresses... remember you're building up your VIP list for future marketing) where they can guess how many home runs a certain player will hit this month. Or how many beers the Red Sox will drink by the 7th inning. Or how many days until Ozzie Guillen gets chased out of Miami. Let your customers choose their own all-star team. Even if your team falls out of the running you can still have fun with baseball related contests.
5. Get involved with a charity. Instead of being so selfish, why not think of others for a change? Pick a charity and run baseball-themed promotions to raise money. Something like "for every Cardinals win, we'll donate $100 bucks to XYZ charity (which is not supported by Albert Pujols)." Spread the guilt and invite your customers and partners to match your generous donation. Don't worry -- you'll still get the marketing and public relations credit and you'll come off as a super sensitive person too. Just make sure you get to present one of those giant cardboard checks to the charity at their next luncheon and have someone call the local newspapers beforehand.
6. Do a community thing with your team. All the MLB teams do community service stuff. The Phillies, for example, have a new "Phillies Phitness" program (spelling is not our strength in Philly). They also award standout teachers and students. They run local baseball events and educational programs. They do the environmental thing. And if you look at your team's website under "community" you'll find a schedule of all their pending community-related events. Even the L.A. Dodgers give something back to their community, which is the kind of behavior you don't see very often in L.A. So get involved. Be a sponsor. Give your employees time off to participate. And then promote the community organization as part of your company's marketing.
7. Make your baseball passion part of your company's communications. Newsletters are boring. Technical specifications are boring. Marketing emails are boring. So spice them up with something completely different: your love of baseball, your love of your local team. Maybe include in each newsletter a little insightful commentary about your team's prospects. Or a completely unrelated piece of baseball trivia in your next marketing piece. It changes things up a bit. It shows your human side. It creates interest. It may grab the attention of a baseball loving prospect or customer. It shows hometown pride. Including a baseball item in what would otherwise be another boring piece of corporate communications creates a fun discussion angle that may help you get to know your customers better.
8. Create a baseball rivalry. Choose a friendly competitor in another town and create a rivalry. Mayors do this every year in the post season. Put your money where your mouth is. Every time your team plays your rival you wager something particularly local to give away to your enemy: a cheese-steak if you're from Philly, a cowboy hat if you're from Houston, a bag of marijuana if you're from San Francisco. Get your customers involved. Take this rivalry with you to the next industry trade show. It'll create some attention and be a fun thing for others to talk about. If the rivalry makes it to the post season (no, not you Mets fans) then turn into a story for the local media. They'll love it.
9. Create new baseball partnerships. Find a business locally that has nothing to do with your own and create a baseball partnership. Together agree to give away free stuff to each other's customers if your local team accomplishes something. Maybe give away free sushi from the local Japanese restaurant every time Yu Darvish wins a game. Or a bottle of vitamins from a nearby health food store whenever Manny Ramirez hits a home run. Your customers benefit. Your partners get exposure to your customer base. You can probably even get the odd tuna roll for free once in a while too.
10. Advertise. This is the most expensive proposition of all. But there's justification here. Most teams have their major corporate sponsors of course. But there are plenty of opportunities to purchase ads on websites, programs and other materials offered out by the club. 45,000 fans attending and millions watching each game is nothing to sneeze at. Oops... sorry, I got those numbers from the Real Madrid soccer website. The average numbers for the MLB are much lower than that. But they're still pretty good and worth considering in your marketing plans.
Profit with your team. Have fun. And good luck to everyone this season. Except for the Mets, of course.
Another version of this post appears on The Philly Post.
Follow Gene Marks on Twitter: www.twitter.com/genemarks