Over the past couple weeks, I have noticed a couple teams in the news using unique promotions to get press and reach fans. During this tough economy, it’s great to see teams actually acknowledge it and then come up with something different in the process.
The St. Louis Blues are admittedly a team that has been struggling in attendance even without the recent financial crisis. That being said, the Blues are offering their own Fan Bailout Plan. This plan includes every Saturday home game this season where one fan will win a four-month mortgage or rent paid up to $4,000 by the Blues. In addition, the Blues have discounted tickets and will have a Free Food game on March 15th where those in attendance that night will receive free food. So how does this relate to sports PR? Well, for a team that isn’t at the top of the league both on and off the ice, this special promotion caught the eyes of media outside of just St. Louis. Not only did the St. Louis Post-Dispatch mention it, but so did the AP, San Diego Union Tribune, National Post (Canada), The Province (Canada), The Sporting News, and Kansas City Star. Sure the mentions weren’t long and included the online version or blog for many of these media outlets, but it did get the team some press.
While The Hockey News has an online article that has a negative reaction to the promotion, it seems most find it to be a unique way of getting butts in the seat. I personally don’t see it as being insensitive as the THN reporter would suggest, but as a promotion that shows the team understands the hardships facing Americans these days and is using that realization to help boost ticket sales.
Another interesting promotion that I wanted to point out in this post was the recent Paint the Town gas giveaway that lasted an hour in a gas station near the Palace of Auburn Hills. The Detroit Pistons teamed up with Meijer to give away $20 in gas to 200 fans in the area. While that’s a decent idea itself, the Pistons went a little farther and had the players come and personally pump gas for the fans. For such a little time investment by the players, it garnered great publicity for the team as the local Fox, ABC, and NBC stations covered it for the evening broadcast as well as an appearance in print publications like the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. The team held the event just two days before the season opener so the added publicity helped improve the profile of the team just before the start of the season. Plus, it resonated with fans because high gas prices have certainly been a concern of metro Detroiters over the past year.
“With the heightened focus on economy and the fact that all metro Detroiters are feeling a pinch at the pump, we, along with our good friends at Meijer thought this would be a great opportunity to help some Pistons fans AND get them ready for the upcoming season,” said Pistons CEO Tom Wilson.
What I liked most about the event is that it gave a chance for fans to connect with the athletes and allowed even more of their personalities to shine through. Whether it was laughing at Rip Hamilton getting into cleaning windshields of the cars coming through or Rasheed Wallace’s jovial attitude at the event, I certainly enjoyed seeing the teammates’ chemistry off the court while helping fans financially in the process.
Update: Interestingly less than 12 hours after I made this post, the New Jersey Nets announced their new promotion, which goes even beyond the two examples I mentioned above. The team is giving four tickets to any unemployed individual who submits his/her resume to the Nets Job Bank as well as access to a Nov. 22 career fair at their home arena. The applicants’ resumes will then be distributed to the team’s 120 corporate sponsors as well as many other companies that own season tickets. This promotion will last for five home games and 300 tickets will be given out as a part of this program for each game.
“Hopefully they’ll come out and experience the Nets, and then when times get better they’ll invest in us, because we invested in them,” Yormark said. “No other team is doing that, and I think it’s the appropriate thing to do, because times are tough.”
Apparently, the team will do this promotion again next season if they feel that it was successful this year.