Roll out the red carpet, it’s Golden Bobblehead time again.
The five finalists for the top promotion from the month of May have been announced by Minor League Baseball. The winner qualifies as a finalist for a Golden Bobblehead award, a recognition of promotional greatness awarded after the season at the annual Minor League Baseball Promo Seminar.
This month’s nominees were selected from more than 70 entries and embrace the fun, fan-friendly and community-minded spirit of the sport. Each month, teams can either nominate promotions or events of their own or other teams for the award. The winner qualifies as a finalist for the Promo Seminar held in Des Moines, Iowa, where they will present their promotion before their peers, who will then vote on winners in the following categories:
- Best Theme Night
- Best In-Game Promotion
- Best Non-Gameday Event
- Best Community Promotion or Event
- Best Digital Campaign or Activation
So, ladies and gentlemen, the nominees for the top promotion in the month of May are . . .
Albuquerque Isotopes, Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico
The Albuquerque Isotopes rang in Cinco de Mayo in style and with a completely new identity. As part of Minor League Baseball’s season-long Copa De La Diversion initiative, in which 33 teams across the sport rebrand themselves in an effort to reach out to their local Hispanic communities, the Isotopes became the Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico and transformed Isotopes Park into The Plaza.
The team incorporated the Mariachis theme in virtually every part of the game and ballpark:
Players wore special mariachi jerseys, and Orbit the mascot wore a special outfit of his own.
Mariachi bands and Ballet Folklorico dance groups performed inside and outside the ballpark.
Pinatas hung from the ballpark entrances, another of the many highlights for an event that resulted in the largest crowd in Isotopes Park history: 16,975.
“The response to this has been unbelievable,” Isotopes general manager John Traub told the Albuquerque Journal. “I think fans have been appreciative of the fact that it is culturally sensitive and has a genuine cultural tie-in with the community.”
Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Half Off For Hunger
For the past five seasons, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have been working with the Backpack Buddies program, which provides meals for kids who otherwise would go hungry when school is out. The team’s promotion, “Half Off for Hunger,” offers half-price tickets for Monday night home games to fans who donate a food item.
This season the Pelicans are making it easier for fans to participate in the program through a partnership with Lowes grocery stores. Customers can now donate an item while checking out at Lowes and receive a half-price ticket voucher.
The team distributed 4,500 coupons to the Lowes grocery stores at the start of the partnership in May. Two days later, the grocery store contacted Pelicans General Manager Ryan Moore to inform him that they had almost run out. “That’s 4,500 food donations to Backpack Buddies,” Moore said in a video about the promotion. After three weeks of the partnership, roughly 21,000 vouchers had been distributed.
“I think the ease of doing it at the checkout process at Lowes allows people to make their commitment and make their donation right there without having to go out of their way to buy the items, bring the items to the ballpark and bring them to the ticket windows on site,” team president Andy Milovich said. “So, it makes it quick. It makes it easy. And it helps expand our opportunity to impact these young kids who desperately need our help.”
Greensboro Grasshoppers, Royal Wedding Celebration
Converting current events into ballpark promotions has become a regular feature around minor league baseball. The Greensboro Grasshoppers embraced that concept with their tribute to one of the biggest media sensations of the spring: the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The Grasshoppers featured plenty of pomp and circumstance at the event, including passing out 1,000 bobblehead tributes to the new royal couple and “royal guards” and bagpipe and drum corps greeting fans as they entered the gates down a red carpet.
A royal couple of the game was selected from a social media contest, were escorted to an on-field ceremony in a London taxi and were given a royal gift package that included royal seats of honor. A rendition of God Save the Queen preceded the National Anthem and a variety of royal-themed promotions were incorporated into the between-innings entertainment.
Fans lined up outside of the ballpark hours before the gates opened for the bobblehead giveaway, and the announce attendance of 6,249 was well above the team’s average.
El Paso Chihuahuas, First Bi-National Play Ball Event
The El Paso Chihuahuas play in perhaps the most unique location in minor league baseball. The team’s Southwest University Park is in downtown El Paso, just north of the Mexico border, and draws fans from both the team’s hometown and the Mexican city of Juarez. For the first time, the Chihuahuas brought together kids from both areas to participate in the first bi-national Play Ball event, a two-day baseball and softball skills session in partnership with Major League Baseball’s Play Ball initiative and the El Paso Border Youth Athletic Association.
The two sold out events allowed more than 500 kids ages 5 to 13 to participate in various stations where they could work together on skills like fielding, agility, hitting, running the bases, and even a home run derby.
“It’s totally appropriate that this happens right here in the borderland,” Chihuahuas vice president and general manager Brad Taylor told MLB.com. “Between Juarez and El Paso, we have an unbelievable community here. They participate in many things together and I think this is just an extension of that.”
Frederick Keys, Cool Runnings Night
“Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time!”
That it was at Harry Grove Stadium on May 11 as the Frederick Keys paid tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Disney hit film Cool Runnings. The highlight of the evening was an appearance by actor Doug E. Doug, who played the starring role in the film as Sanka Coffee.
The Keys tribute went well beyond Sanka. The team incorporated themes from the movie into nearly every aspect of the ballpark experience, including a video of players trying to complete the above-mentioned line from the movie, interns sporting Jamaican flag T-shirts, movie-themed headshots of players on the videoboard and special between-inning games based off the movie.
The Keys reported a roughly 1,000 person increase in attendance compared to the same date the previous year and spike in social media views for their tribute videos.