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Market Your Assets Off

This is an excerpt from Greg Coleman’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.

It was a Friday afternoon, in the Central Valley town of Modesto, California and a few people in the front office of the 2002’s Modesto Athletics were sweating. The perspiration had nothing to do with the hot summer temperatures. On the following night, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Oakland Athletics was scheduled to give out seat cushions to the first 1,000 fans. Seat cushions may not go down in baseball history for promotional originality, but any fan who has tried to sit in a seat at John Thurman Field or another sun-soaked ballpark can appreciate the value of not burning his or her bottom.

The end of the business day had arrived, but the seat cushions hadn’t. The shipment was tracked to a distribution center about ten minutes from the stadium, but the cushions weren’t scheduled to be delivered until the next business day: Monday. At the time, as General Manager of The Modesto Athletics, both I and my staff needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat or prepare apologies for both the fans and the sponsor. Presented by a local health services agency to promote smoking cessation, the missing cushions were to read The Butt Stops Here.

GMsHandbook
This is an excerpt from Greg Coleman’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.

After unsuccessfully trying to reach the distribution center by phone, we planned to go there on Saturday morning to see if we could conjure up a miracle. After getting into the building through a door that was ajar, we were able to locate a well-meaning employee who informed us that our ten boxes were on a locked trailer that was waiting to be sorted. He wouldn’t be able to sort the trailer, but he was willing to open the back of the 18-wheeler and allow our staff to search for the boxes ourselves.

We called in our 10-person staff, along with friends and family, and started unloading items – boxes, tires, lamps and more. The trailer was packed from floor to ceiling. It was a sweltering day, and it was even worse crawling around inside the truck. About halfway through fully excavating the trailer, we located our first box of cushions. It was like we’d won the World Series – high fives and hugs all around. Unfortunately, the boxes weren’t together, but we soon found four more boxes of cushions.

While we continued to search for the remaining boxes, one of our two Assistant General Managers decided to take a quick break and a sip of Gatorade. During this break in the action, he decided that he wanted to see the cushions we’d been working so hard to extract. He opened one of the boxes and pulled out a seat cushion. Much to our surprise, the giveaway we’d worked so hard to execute wasn’t going to happen. The vendor and our merchandise director both missed a typo in the design, which incorrectly read The Butt Shops Here. One letter can make a big difference.

We reloaded all of the packages back onto the truck (far more quickly and far less carefully) and headed to the stadium. We made amends to the sponsor and offered rain checks to the fans as they entered that night. We marched forward with the rest of our promotional plans for the game and then launched fireworks to cap the evening. Plenty of things went wrong that day, but most of our miscues would go unnoticed by the fans — until they tried to drive home. Our promotional efforts, which were supposed to draw fans to the game and encourage those in attendance to stop smoking, ultimately ended with our fireworks setting a nearby riverbank on fire. It wasn’t our finest promotion, but it was memorable.

Running a Minor League Baseball team requires resilience. Some key factors in achieving your business goals are out of your control. You can do your best to manage inclement weather conditions, but Mother Nature will have her say. In the affiliated minor leagues, a General Manager has little impact on team performance. Major League teams determine which players are assigned to each level and which coaches and instructors help them develop. Every Minor League executive would love to have a championship season and a lineup packed with future Major League All-Stars, but you can’t build a business plan on that premise.

Fortunately, there are plenty of variables that can be controlled. You can hire talented, creative and hard-working people to sell and market family entertainment. You can make the ballpark a welcoming, comfortable place to spend a few leisurely hours. You can treat attendees as guests in your home and make their experience so much fun that they want to return as soon as they can.

Perhaps no word is more inextricably linked to Minor League Baseball than fun. Bowling Green Hot Rods Baseball was Fueled By Fun and later, to the chagrin of some English teachers, FUNNER. The El Paso Chihuahuas want their fans to Fetch the Fun. The Richmond Flying Squirrels don’t just play at the Diamond, they play in FUNNVILLE. They have so much FUNN in Richmond, they require an extra N to contain it. Each of these teams is trying to increase awareness, create interest, generate sales and create brand loyalty. This is the very definition of promotion.

Major League teams enjoy many advantages. They play in the largest markets and have the most resources, and they can spend those resources on star power. A Minor League team’s biggest star is typically its mascot. Despite the lack of star power and resources, good promotions and creative marketing can help a Minor League team cut through the clutter to draw an audience. Teams can use promotions to create the perception of value for the fans and create value for the team in the process.

Affiliated Minor League Baseball teams play 70 home games per season. While some games may be more attractive to fans because they fall on the weekend or feature an opponent of regional interest, most are unremarkable events until a team puts its own promotional stamp on it. A well-designed promotion can give a fan an additional reason to attend an event. Some promotions even can be THE reason a fan attends an event. Not every promotion will resonate with every fan, but teams can layer multiple promotions to give more fans a motivating reason to attend.

This is an excerpt from Greg Coleman’s chapter in “The GM’s Handbook” which is available in paperback, Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is cited, indexed and professionally edited, providing perspectives from 16 MiLB C-Suite Executives on leadership, hiring/firing/interviews, merchandise, tickets, concessions, corporate sales and the business of sports revenue generation.

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