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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