Chug Jugs, Slurp Juice and Flossing: IronPigs Bring Fortnite to Life

Perhaps there is no better test for the quality of a minor league promotion than the opinion of your children. After all, minor league baseball bills itself as family friendly entertainment, so my trio of 14-, 12- and 10-year-olds should provide a pretty good barometer as to whether a promotion is going to be a hit or not.

Fortnite Day at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs

This test becomes even more relevant when discussing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs’ “Fortnite Day” promotion scheduled for this Sunday. Like just about every family household in America, ours has been invaded by Fortnite. My boys are obsessed with it. They play it whenever they are allowed; other times they seek out YouTube videos about playing it. I, on the other hand, am a Fortnite novice, knowing only that it does not appear violent and it somehow relates to the flossing dance I see kids doing everywhere—at the pool, grocery store, between pitches during Little League games.

So I turned to my boys to gauge their interest in the IronPigs’ Fortnite promotion, which includes the possibility of playing it on the team’s huge videoboard against actual professional gamers named Hectiic and FantasticalGamer and select IronPigs players. They smiled and nodded, acknowledging “cool” and “wow” as I filled them in on the details.

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Promo Of The Month Nominee: IronPigs Strike It Big With #LVWantsLeBron

Minor League Baseball Golden Bobblehead

The Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar released the five finalists for its top promotion for the month of June. The winner, to be announced next week, will receive an automatic berth into the coveted Golden Bobblehead competition at the Promo Seminar this September in Des Moines, Iowa. This month’s finalists include . . . 

In the end, LeBron James picked L.A. over L.V., but the IronPigs did their best to sell King James on the majesty of the Lehigh Valley. The LVwantsLeBron promotion reached its crescendo with a night devoted to courting the free-agent NBA star, but the build up had already been going on for more than a month.

LeBron James and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs
The IronPigs offered LeBron James almost everything to come to Lehigh Valley—including his own locker.

The IronPigs created a social media buzz when they debuted a highway billboard courting LeBron James and made their first pitch suggesting that he follow in Michael Jordan’s footsteps by playing a season of minor league baseball—for the IronPigs. The tweets promoting and courting LeBron were among the most-viewed in IronPigs history, and the story was picked by many mainstream media outlets, including ESPN, Bleacher Report and Bandbox News (of course).

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Outraged Over Amarillo’s Name? Remain Calm. It’s All Part of the Plan

The new Amarillo franchise set to make its debut in the Texas League next season announced the five finalists for its new name earlier this week. As expected, the choices are hardly traditional, which of course is the new minor league tradition.

Temporary logo for Amarillo's new minor league team.Whether people love or hate the idea of a baseball team being named the Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky, Long Haulers or Sod Poodles is not really the issue. What matters is that people are talking about it, that local and national media are reporting on it, and that fans are visiting the team’s website to vote on it.

This is all part of the Brandiose tried-and-true formula for launching a new franchise. The company that has worked with 63 minor league teams on their identities and is responsible for leading the minors down this path of silliness has followed this script for more than a decade to help introduce everything from a Jumbo Shrimp to a Flying Squirrel. Brandiose’s golden rule: Attract attention. It’s key to building a brand.

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp's Minor League Baseball Logos

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How to Market the Minor Leagues: IronPigs GM Kurt Landes Leads the Way for Out-of-the-Box Thinkers

Smell the Change.

Laugh. Cheer. Oink.

Bacon is Better.

These are all mottos that Kurt Landes has embraced while bringing the zaniness of minor league baseball into the mainstream during his tenure as president and general manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Landes has established himself as one of the preeminent promoters in minor league baseball, beginning as a young GM with the Daytona Cubs and Hagerstown Suns before launching the IronPigs franchise in 2008. He has since become a trendsetter, building the IronPigs into one of the top draws in the minors while pushing the limits with creative promotions.

What follows is my conversation with Landes about his quick rise through the minors, how he approaches promotions and his philosophy for building a successful brand. His insight should be useful for anyone involved in marketing—whether in professional baseball or elsewhere. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.

Kurt Landes speaks at the IronPigs' winter banquet

When did you decide that you want to work in minor league baseball? What about minor league baseball appealed to you as a career?

Like many high school kids, I was really involved in sports growing up, so I wanted to be involved in sports but I didn’t really know what that meant. I ended up going to Bowling Green State University in Ohio and doing a lot of different internships and practicums in different areas of sport, and one of those was with the Toledo Mud Hens. And I really enjoyed it and really gravitated toward using sport and entertainment collectively. I enjoyed that a lot.

The following year they asked me to come back full-time. And that was back in 1995. I cut my teeth and got my start with the Mud Hens in Ohio. I really understood how baseball and sport was a vehicle for entertainment and I really enjoyed that cross-section, and minor league baseball kind of hooked me at that point in time.

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The King and His Courter: IronPigs Create a Stir with LeBron Promo

The Eagles won the Super Bowl. Villanova took home the NCAA tournament title. The Sixers’ “plan” is actually working. And the Phillies are a half-game out of first place (keep blinking, but it’s true).

What could possibly be next for the suddenly-blessed sports town of Philadelphia and its fans across the region? How about LeBron James coming to town. And by town, I mean Allentown, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Sure, it’s a longshot, but when you’re running good there’s no harm in asking, right?

The always-creative IronPigs did just that yesterday, courting The King as his free agency approaches this summer by making their pitch on a billboard along a local highway and creating a viral sensation all at once. 

The four-time NBA MVP hasn’t responded to the IronPigs’ tongue-in-cheek offer, but seemingly everyone else on social media has. The promotion was picked up by mainstream news and sports outlets, as well as by other minor league teams. The IronPigs’ tweet had received 3.1 thousand Likes and 1.1 thousand Retweets, which according to IronPigs president/general manager Kurt Landes is the most popular tweet, with the biggest reach, in team history.

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