Everyone loves to get something for free. There’s a reason why #swag is a hashtag on twitter (although I’m not sure many of the people who post even know what “swag” actually means: Stuff We Acquired Gratis), who doesn’t love to go somewhere and leave with something you weren’t expecting. Unfortunately, we can’t all catch a foul ball or LeBron’s sweaty headband, but ballparks are always ready and willing to give stuff away, usually because it’s useless crap. But who ever said that useless crap wasn’t awesome? Here are the top 5 best stadium promotions.
Free Bobble-Head Night
The big daddy of them all. A staple of any self-respecting baseball stadium, the bobble-head is kitschy holy grail of any stadium pilgrimage. I have family members who seriously plan their summer stadium tour around which ballparks are having a free bobble-head night. And while grabbing the bobble-head of the staff ace or superstar center fielder at a Major League game may be the preferred option, how else will you remember your trip to see the Montgomery Biscuits than with your Matt Moore signature bobble-head?
Listen, how else am I supposed to eat ice cream at a baseball game, out of a cone, like some commoner? Out of a waxy Dixie bowl like some sort of Dickensian ragamuffin? No! I expect to be treated like the royalty I am, and that means being served out of a plastic replica batting helmet, like Charlemagne was. A staple of my childhood, I’m pretty sure I owned enough Expos mini-helmets to field an entire roster of baseball-mad house cats. Or just mad house cats. OK, so I once tried to do this and still suffer from cat-scratch-related PTSD. The point is that mini-helmets are awesome and ice cream is delicious.
The T-Shirt Cannon
If there is a better way to distribute a scratchy, ill-fitting, advertising-filled $2 t-shirt, human engineering has yet to figure it out. The t-shirt cannon combines three of my favorite stadium pass-times: people-watching on the Jumbotron, the use of high-powered air rifles and waving my hands around like an idiot. All for a t-shirt commemorating the 15th anniversary of Bob’s Poutine Emporium supporting the Moncton Beavers. The aero-dynamics of cotton-polyester blends aside, watching an unsuspecting 10-year-old get plastered in the face with a pneumatic surface-to-air missile is a joy to watch.
This one offers a high degree of difficulty, because many people who go to games may already have the cap of the home team. But this succeeds for several reasons. One, it might be a chance to get a limited edition style that’s not readily available. And everyone knows that limited edition is the best kind of edition (one exception: New Edition). I have a friend who has a post 9/11 Yankees cap that I’m pretty sure he keeps in a locked vault, and even being a Red Sox fan, I have to admit it’s damn cool.
Of course, nothing says “I love you” like re-gifting a free baseball cap you got at a crappy minor league game to your father, which he will then wear proudly while mowing the lawn or cleaning the gutters. Probably while also wearing the weirdly discolored t-shirt you got from a t-shirt cannon and re-gifted 3 years ago. You’re a dynamite son, really.
I spent 3 years in Dallas for college and went to several Mavericks games in that span. They routinely had a promotion where if the Mavs scored 100 points, every fan was entitled to a free chalupa at Taco Bell. Whoever devised this bit of marketing genius hopefully was promoted within the organization, and probably lives in a gold house with diamond windows by now. This created a genuine buzz in the stadium in the 4th quarter. Any time they hit the bell that signaled the century scoring mark, the place would explode like Chavez Ravine after the Kirk Gibson homer. It generates interest in the game, makes everyone rise to their feet in anticipation, and involved thousands of dollars worth of junk food. A good promotion will give you something to go home with, a great one will create a moment. And apparently also free tacos.
Matt Brockway is a big fan of free chalupas. Follow him on Twitter @subtlehyperbole.
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