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SportsBiz: In Bobbleheads We Trust

The ritual unveiling of the Rockies’ promotion schedule is an event as big as opening day


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To the Colorado Rockies and the team’s marketing department, “81” is more than just the number of regular-season games scheduled to take place at Coors Field. It is the tabula rasa of promotional opportunity, the blank canvas inviting the artist’s brush, the glowing white page awaiting the opening keystroke, the three-chord progression of the unheard rock anthem. It is the numerical backdrop for noble and important work: the compilation of extracurricular theme nights and promotions that will decorate the season.

For collectors of bobbleheads, for devotees of the declarative T-shirt, for fans who yearn to hear a Beatles tribute band launch into “A Hard Day’s Night” before the opening pitch, the ritual unveiling of the Rockies’ promotion schedule is an event as big as opening day, a moment no less momentous than a walk-off homer to right-center. It’s the gateway to a summer of unrestrained schwag, an invitation to experiential merchandising immersion, a chance to walk away with reusable tote bags, customized wristbands and, if you’re among fans who attend the May 12 game (Brewers), a Delta Dental of Colorado toothbrush. (Please, for the love of Denny Neagle, tell me they’ll be purple at least.)

You’ve gotta love promo nights: The cleverness, the free stuff, the nonsensical innocence, the coupons for $1 hot dogs. But forget your generic fireworks nights, sports fans. What moves the needle for true aficionados is the oddball loot, the one-of-a-kind giveaway, the goofy incongruence. The joy comes from encircling in a ring of red permanent Sharpie the date of July 12, wherein you have a chance to come away from the ballpark enjoying not just the lingering afterglow of a Rockies victory but clutching a free LED lightbulb from Xcel Energy. (I’ll hang here for a minute while you scurry to get your seats. It’s mlb.com/rockies/tickets.)

Side note: I was also going to mention the July 29 game against the Oakland A’s, when the popular country singer Faith Day is scheduled to appear, but then I realized there actually is no country singer named Faith Day. What they mean is a harmonic convergence of spirituality happening at the ballpark. Like, you know, “Faith Day.” (There actually is a band playing that evening, however: the Christian rock group Passion.)

There are games for dog lovers and for hot dog lovers, games at which you’ll be handed a team poster, games for CU and CSU alums, a “Star Wars” theme night, a peanut allergy-friendly ticket package, a pre-game performance by a Fab Four tribute band, and on Aug. 24 (when the St. Louis Cardinals are in town) a game at which the giveaway is a “Beard Beanie.” Because: beard beanies.

Promotional giveaways, theme nights and assorted attractions are part of the common currency of professional baseball and its long slog of 162 regular-season games, half of which happen at home ballparks. Left to its own attractions, the game itself can reasonably be expected to draw a loyal base of fans, especially when the home team is winning (go Rockies). But promo nights and discounts are helpful for nudging families and fans to choose a night at the ballpark over bowling, mini-golf or Netflix. Promos also add to the sponsorship inventory the Rockies can package and present to companies that want more than signage in center field or TV commercials on Root Sports.

The Rockies earned some admiration on the promo circuit last year for giving away jerseys bedecked with the name Arenado. That landed the LoDo ballclub No. 12 out of 30 on a ranking of baseball promotions published by CBS Sports. (The No. 1 spot went to the Seattle Mariners, who gave away replicas of a Ken Griffey Jr. statue that was unveiled last season at Safeco Field.)

This year, contenders for the top Rockies promotion include the obligatory bobblehead (July 14/Mariners, with the fact that it’s Nolan Arenado elevating the appeal), the King Soopers-sponsored 25th anniversary jerseys (June 23/Marlins), and the 25th Anniversary beach towel (June 2/Dodgers.)

Even these freebies, though, take a baseball backseat to the Oakland A’s this season. Celebrating the team’s 50th anniversary in Oakland, the A’s invited everybody to come to the April 17 game against the Chicago White Sox for free, parking at Oakland Alameda Coliseum included. Say what you will about snagging a King Soopers cooler bag (Aug. 25/Cardinals). That’s a giveaway that’ll be hard to beat.

Maybe next year, Rockies?

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Stewart Schley

Stewart Schley writes about sports, media and technology from Denver. Read this and Schley’s past columns on the Web at cobizmag.com and email him at stewart@stewartschley.com

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