Bobbleheads may be a trendy collectible, but in an age where marketing means everything they don’t represent your product like the simple, age-old, and appreciated baseball cap!
Just days before the Indians concluded spring training in Arizona, the front office staff in Cleveland rolled out the red carpet for the media for its annual “What’s New at Progressive Field” promotion.
The things new to the ballpark this year ranged from a change in policy concerning re-entry during a game and allowing factory sealed water bottles to be brought into the park to new foods and promotions for the 81 home slate.
The freedom to bring in your own water is long overdue but a welcome addition. Many fans just want to be sure they have something handy to drink so they don’t have to wonder around the ballpark for an inning or two looking for a concession stand that sells water. And it takes the thought of the team trying to squeeze the last buck out of fans when the team permits fans to bring their own water bottle.
I can tell you from experience, going to a game in Phoenix to see the Arizona Diamondbacks would be a lot different if fans were not permitted to bring their own factory sealed bottle to the game. Fan revolt might be one way it would turn out. The other would be fans staying home in 100 degree temperatures rather than see the game in person. While the climate is a bit different out in the Valley of the Sun, there are plenty of muggy nights here that a bottle of water would be the saving grace.
But the puzzle to me again is that the Indians will have not one, not two, not three but FIVE bobble head nights this season with most featuring players of the past such as Gaylord Perry, Carlos Baerga and Sandy Alomar, Jr.
The Indians are having a few jersey giveaways but they are strictly for the younger set and won’t go nearly as far as my favorite giveaway item, “Cap Day.”
And the Indians are not alone. A check of of the Reds promotion schedule finds Cincinnati fans in line for FOUR bobble head nights with most of the featured Reds being members of the current team. They include MVP Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, who, while popular Reds, will still find their bobble heads tucked away in a closet or in a basement party room where few if anyone will ever see them.
During the “What’s New at Progressive Field” event, a Tribe executive pointed out that the bobble head promotions are due to the overwhelming response the team received on staying with the quirking premium.
But I just have to wonder about the long-term effects of giving away a bobble head instead of having a number of cap days, featuring what is pretty much a new look for the Indians.
I’ve asked that question before but found little to believe in what I was told. An Indians executive told me that the problem with running a cap day is finding a sponsor to pay for the caps.
On the surface that sounds like a valid reason to avoid giving away either the new blue hat with the red block “C” or the red hat with the blue block “C” which are still running behind former Tribe head gear seen around town on the heads of Indians fans.
But looking deeper at the question of finding a sponsor for a cap day has its flaws in my mind.
Think about it. If you are a sponsor of a giveaway night for the Indians, what gives your company more bang for your buck? Is it a bobble head, which has a certain demographic, be it the very young fan or the adult baseball item collector, that will go right from the ballpark to a shelf in the basement or the bedroom of Tribe fans?
On the other hand (or other head) if you are the sponsor for “Cap Night” you don’t care what age of the fans who are given hats as long as someone wears it days, months and years after the game.
If a young kid is the recipient of the Indians hat, it will get worn out before the end of the season but the sponsor will smile each and every time the item is seen anywhere around town. The same can be said if the giveaway hat goes from the fan attending the game to a friend or relative. There are plenty of young adults, uncles and grandfathers who would wear an inexpensive giveaway hat while cutting the grass, doing yard work or running errands all summer long.
It sells the “brand” and it sure beats the hell out of a sponsor believing that a bobble head on the book shelf will be a great advertising tool worth the expense.
I get the feeling that the Indians and the Reds, who also will not have a “Cap Day” this season, are worried about cutting into their sales of the $20-25 hats that they sell in their team shops or at the ballpark.
But once again, I must disagree. Fans that receive an inexpensive cap for free at the ball game are those who really won’t plunk down $20-25 for the top of the line baseball hat.
In reality, the giveaway hat will land on the head of a fan who is happy with an inexpensive hat and will wear it proudly. The fan interested in the more expensive fitted hat will give the cap day hat to a friend or relative who would be glad to have a hat. And that fan who will buy the more expensive hat will still find his way to the team shop for that authentic head gear.
I believe in the power of the giveaway hat for many reasons. On top of that list is if it’s good enough for the New York Yankees, it should be good enough for a team like the Indians. The Tribe makes no bones about protecting their “brand” so much that they issued a multi-page color printed press release on how the media should use team’s logos.
And why do I say the Yankees? Because, like in years past, the Yankees in 2012 have a number of cap days. This season, fans attending games at Yankee Stadium will be treated to cap days in May when the Reds visit, in June when the Indians are in the Bronx and in July when the Los Angeles Angels come calling. And to top it off, the Yankees are still able to find a sponsor for bat day, a BBQ apron day and a T-shirt day during the season.
The bobble heads? Yes, the Yankees also have a bobble head event, but it will be a Snoopy bobble head and not a current or former player. In fact, Snoopy is the nickname for the new home of the New York Football Giants and Jets, who now play at MetLife Stadium, also known as Snoopy Stadium. That’s based on MetLife’s “spokesman” being the cartoon beagle.
The baseball hat in American culture and marketing can’t be dismissed.
While the Detroit Tigers have gone the bobble head route and won’t have a cap day this year, they are missing a chance to promote their “brand” in ways that can’t be measured. If you are old enough, you will remember what Tom Selleck as “Magnum P.I.” did for the Old English D on the blue Tigers hat. And I lost count watching the Indians on TV last weekend against Kansas City of those wearing those royal blue KC hats in the seats at Kauffman Stadium. Not a very good team, those Royals, but they sport a very sharp baseball hat.
I’m not a marketing executive, but I play one with a laptop and I’m willing to listen to anyone who tells me I am wrong.