Thursday April First...aka April Fool's Day, so can we have some fun?
Maybe it's because we have all become too politically correct, or maybe it's because there is sooo much time spent on trying to be the most techno-savvy we can be that the simple, grassroots and fun promotions aren't as fun or "interesting" as they once were. For whatever reason, even with all the opportunities available to promote through new media, the "stunt" is becoming more and more of a lost art. April 1, aka April Fool's Day, was always one of the best points where media, teams, athletes, could look for ideas that were able to capture the imagination and even if for a few minutes give people pause and some fun. One year the New York Islanders pretended to forfeit a game and save their travel time to the Minnesota North Stars...then there was the legendary Sidd Finch, created by George Plimpton and the folks at Sports Illustrated. Those were just one or two of many over the years. Two groups seized the opportunity, although more tongue in cheek, to use April 1 as a platform for sports promotion and to have a little fun. The first was Pirate Brands, which announced that the New York Mets have "traded" star third baseman David Wright to...well, the Pirates.
The press release and all the great digital platforms around it went out on the 31st, and generated some fun buzz and great images for the move, which was essentially a dry announcement about Wright joining the company's board and getting an equity stake with the group (although they will be creating healthy snack alternatives for kids and will work with Wright's Foundation). Still, they made something that was not much into something, using the April Fools platform. Great spin, nice visuals, and it took the day for what it is supposed to be, lighthearted engagement in a very unique way. .
Then we had Texas Motor Speedway. For a sport which has always tried to balance fun and business, the folks at TMS certainly took a pop from some media who didn't see the fun, or didn't take the time to delve into, President Eddie Gossage's ploy saying Dallas DJ Terry Dorsey had accepted Gossage's offer of $100,000 to legally change his name to TexasMotorSpeedway.com." The story was reported across the country, as media outlets ran the story, which came out on TMS letterhead, before Gossage admitted it was a fake, intended as an April Fool's joke. Gossage even boasted on his Facebook page that news of Dorsey's name change was being mentioned by major media outlets. The outlets, which included print and TV, never took the time to see that Gossage had offered Dale Earnhardt Jr. $100,000 in '08 to drive in the IndyCar event at TMS, which Earnhardt declined, or that TMS on April Fool's Day in '08 released a statement that it was adding a $900M "retractable roof that would be completed by 2011. The track admitted the hoax as April 1 dawned, and even went so far as to create another viral video lampooning Tiger Woods' recent interview in explaining away the prank. It was a great ploy for TMS, which will have racing coming up in a few weeks, and a nice pop for NASCAR in a slow time of year, even though it rankled the media who were taken by the prank.
The irony in the whole situation with TMS is that many of the best pranks on April 1 around sports were created by the media themselves, and literally hundreds of media outlets this year tried to one up themselves in spreading bogus name changes, takeover stories and media events that didn't exist. Still for this one, the Raceway and Gossage found a slow news day and a credible path to gain traction (no pun intended), and effectively put one over on those who may take sports, and the business of sports, more than a bit too seriously. The business of sports and its billions of dollars are not a joke most of the year ... but for one day, congrats to these two groups for having some fun and gaining some attention for their creativity.