Professional sports is a big business. Each team owner, regardless of revenue received through television or radio deals, wants one thing; a full stadium. Ticket and concession sales remain the surest way to ensure a team’s economic well being. Furthermore, having a lot of patrons enjoying a game brings the added bonus of boosting the health of stores and businesses surrounding the venue. In order to maintain strong attendance figures, some teams have come up with some pretty strange promotions.
Receiving a team hat, calendar, pennant or a bobble head doll of a popular player is usually enough to get the casual fan to buy a ticket. The promotional item's worth is weighed against the price of the tickets. The idea of receiving a gift just for being there is enough to entice people to come out. The problem with the regular type of promotions is that they get old fast. Unless you are an avid collector, a bobble head doll is pretty much useless and there are only so many flimsy team hats you can own. The run of the mill giveaways eventually stop bringing the patrons in at the same rate they once did. This forces management to come up with novel ideas in order to get people into the seats and keep their stadium filled.
What follows are some of the strangest ideas of all times. Although these may not have brought in sustained increases in attendance, the idiocy and brilliance behind them was such that they are remembered today.
10 Strap On The Feed Bag: (L.A. Dodgers 2007)
In order to fill certain sections of their stadium, the L.A. Dodgers decided to embrace the growing trend toward obesity and offer all you can eat seats to their patrons. Fans in these seats were allowed to fill their stomachs with any food available at the concession stands. The fans seem to take this unlimited food availability to the point of making themselves sick. The smell of vomit was said to become increasingly prevalent as the game progressed. Although it goes against healthy lifestyle and apparently causes immense amount of scent pollution the section is still open and remains popular with those who like to overdo things.
9 Salute the Porcelain Throne. West Virginia Power: (Charleston WV. 2007)
In order to prove that it is an essential part of life that is often taken for granted, the West Virginia Power minor league baseball team decided to hold a Salute to Indoor Plumbing night. Although they had discussed forcing all patrons to use port-a-potties, they eventually allowed modern conveniences. They kept the atmosphere plumbing related by holding a toilet seat toss and flattening brownies into compact patties for the poo toss competition.
8 Get A Free Ball Night( L.A. Dodgers, 1995)
It would seem that getting a baseball at a baseball game is a logical sequence of events. The trouble is the spherical object is designed to be thrown. Which is exactly what over 200 fans did when a disputed call in the ninth led to the expulsion of manager Tommy Lasorda and Raul Mondesi. There were so many baseballs hurled at the field and the umpires that the game had to be forfeited by the Dodgers. Rule one of promotions seems to be to refrain from giving away articles that can be easily thrown long distances.
7 Hickory Crawdads: Biblical Bobblehead (Hickory, 2007)
Bobble heads have become one of the most common promotional items. Almost every major league team has a night to celebrate their brightest stars in the form of these plastic dolls. The trouble when you are a Class A minor league ball team, you might not have the big name stars that are worthy of being immortalized in such a way. In Hickory the best alternative was to turn to the Bible to provide the star power worthy of a bobble head figure. In 2007 the Crawdads gave the first 1000 fans coming into the park a Noah doll. Apparently fans flooded the turnstiles for the item.
6 Hard Hat Giveaway (Chicago Blackhawks, 2009)
The Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the most successful teams in the NHL over the last few years. This however does not prevent them from having insane ideas for promotional activities. In 2009 the team decided to give the first 10,000 fans hard hats. This might not have caused too much damage if it had not been the night that Jonathan Toews scored his first NHL hat trick. As is tradition, hats began to rain down on the ice after his third goal. Of course the hats were the hard hats that had been given away. Spectators were injured as hats that failed to make the ice landed on their heads. In a strange turn of fortune, something designed to protect injured that which it was supposed to keep safe.
5 Anti-Doping Night: get your free cup (Vero Beach Devil Rays, 2008)
Any sports fan is aware of the stigma that surrounds todays’s top athletes. Any athlete whose performances seem a little too good are questioned about performance enhancing drugs. In order to promote a safe, drug free lifestyle for athletes, the Vero Beach Devil Rays held an anti-doping night. Although the premise might have been sound and the message a positive one, the promotional item was the lamest of all time. Rather that providing facts or literature on the subject, the Devil Rays decided to give away free urine sample cups. The question is, how many people, if any, used the cup for its designed purpose.
4 10 Cent Beer Night (1974 Cleveland Indians)
The Cleveland Indians were going through a trying period in the 1970’s. The team was constantly finishing in the bottom half of the standings without any hope of seeing post-season action. The city of Cleveland itself was not doing very well economically and fans chose to save their money rather than spend it on a mediocre ball team. The brain-trust of the team decided that a 10 cent beer night was the way to get fans in their seats. Management was right with over 25,000 fans showing up for their right to drink their limit of 6 beers for cheap (Beer was 65 cents at the time). The trouble was that the fans got way too intoxicated. In the ninth inning a fan went onto the field in a drunken haze and decided to attempt to take a visiting player’s cap. The players thought their teammate was being attacked and went out on the playing surface. Fans, some armed with knives and chains, stormed the field causing the teams to retreat. The Indians were forced to forfeit the game as well as the idea of offering 6 beers for 10 cents a pop.
3 Cash Drop Night (West Michigan Whitecaps 2006)
Minor league baseball often has to resort to interesting ideas to get people to come and see their games. Although an affordable outing, usually only the most avid of baseball fans follow the minor leagues, especially class A ball where the players might never even get a whiff of the majors. With this in mind the Detroit tiger’s affiliate West Michigan Whitecaps, came up with the brilliant idea of dropping $1000 in the center of the field and having fans clamor to get their piece of the pie. In their defence the promotion was only open to children, however this does not excuse the fact that during the fray a child was trampled and hospitalized, while others received minor injuries.
2 Death is Near! Prearranged Funeral night (Hagerstown Suns, 2003)
As far as promotions go this is the most macabre. The promotion was for one “lucky” fan to win an all inclusive $6500 prearranged funeral. This included all the basics, the casket, the embalming, the use of the funeral home and the death certificate. The promotion was wildly successful and the winner left knowing that everything was in order for his eventual voyage to the great beyond.
1 Disco is dead! ( Chicago White Sox 1979)
This promotion was designed to make the dead time between a double header pass quickly. Fans who brought a disco album to the game got a reduced ticket price. The explosion was expected to be for 12,000 albums but this number turned into 90,000, which led to an explosion that was so big that it tore through the outfield wall and allowed fans to stream onto the field. Although this event did not kill disco, it might have had a pivotal role in its demise.