" />
Roundtable Discussion: In-Game Promotions

Roundtable Discussion: In-Game Promotions

9 minute read

  • Successful in-game promotions look to engage the entire audience and not just a select number of fans.
  • Some of the best in-game promotions come from the minor leagues or international leagues as they have to be more creative to draw attention and fans.
  • Sponsors should look to add to the existing in-game atmosphere with their promotions to ensure they do not take away from the crowd’s energy

During stoppages in play, properties must ensure that there is entertainment to continually engage the fans. From t-shirt tosses to trivia, teams will look for new ways to entertain the fans and at the same time create a piece of sponsorable inventory. MKTG outlines their favourite in-game promotions, keys to success for sponsors activating in-arena, and what the future of in-game promotions will look like.  

 The following is a transcribe discussion between MKTG’s Amy Van Kessel, Jake Clements, Matthew Klar, and Geoff Biss. 

Geoff Biss:

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a number of great examples of in-game promotions from the world of sports. From the city of Nashville embracing Smashville, to the Atlanta Braves and their viral in-game promotion Beat the Freeze – it’s been a good month for sports and in-game entertainment. With that in mind, this week we are discussing our favourite in-game promotion in sports. What are some of your favourite in-game promotions?

Jake Clements:

One of the promotions I really like is the 60 Seconds of Madness promotion at Toronto Raptors games. You have the t-shirt cannons, the Dance Pak, and the promotions team running around. It’s loud and attention grabbing. In fact, they have the attention of the entire audience. Everyone is on their feet during this particular promotion. It’s extremely high-energy, and not all promotions we see engage the entire crowd.

Matt Klar:

I think part of what makes the 60 Seconds of Madness so successful is that many in-game activations focus on looking at the court - stop what you’re doing, and watch what we’re doing. On the other hand, 60 Seconds of Madness focuses on going to the audience and engaging with them directly.

Amy Van Kessel:

A lot of in-game activations focus on a single contestant or row of fans. 60 Seconds of Madness gets so much more people involved. It engages everyone, so the level of excitement is that much greater. Another great promotion in our own backyard comes from the Toronto Blue Jays. They are very strategic and successful with their giveaway or promotional items. A lot of teams offer giveaway items, but I find the Blue Jays are successful in giving high-value items that entice you to go to a home game. I go to their website and check their promotional calendar for games that have specific giveaways. From branded cowboy hats, to beach towels, to picnic bags. They’re practical items.

Amy Van Kessel:

Exactly. These are way better than your typically rally-towel. That’s going to draw people to select games.

Matt Klar:

What the Blue Jays do well is make a whole event out of it. Some teams will give away an item upon entrance or on the way out of the stadium. But in the case of the Blue Jays, and specifically the Josh Donaldson “Bringer of Rain” Umbrella giveaway, they integrated the promotion throughout the game. During every break in play, they had video content of Donaldson and something about the umbrella. They made it an experience rather than a simple giveaway.

Amy Van Kessel:

For a sponsor, those sort of giveaways are so much more valuable because they stand the test of time. A fan will more likely keep the umbrella for years because it’s practical. Plus, they get the added exposure throughout the game because it is made into such an event.

Geoff Biss:

What I find the Blue Jays do very well is tie-in the sponsor with the promotion. The sponsor of the Josh Donaldson “Bringer of Rain” Umbrella was sponsored by Sonnet. The umbrellas tied-in with a Sonnet commercial spot which aired just prior to the giveaway, which featured a bride in the rain.

Jake Clements:

Baseball is a unique property for in-game promotions. There have been conversations about whether the game is too long. But the benefit of baseball is there are a lot more natural pauses and breaks in play. That’s an advantage from an activations standpoint.

Matt Klar:

One of my favourite in-game promotions was Home Hardware and the World’s Fastest Grounds Crew. What I like about it is the longevity of the program. It existed for so long, that you didn’t feel you were being advertised to. It became as much a part of a Blue Jays game as the 7th Inning Stretch. In some sports, I feel like some promotions kill the momentum or interrupt the game. With, baseball, because of these pauses in play, in-game promotions seem less intrusive and are a more natural part of the game.

Geoff Biss:

While we’re on the subject of baseball, when I think best-in-class promotions, I look to the minor leagues. Minor league baseball is where you’ll see some of the most unique promotions in sports. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. Minor league teams don’t have the name recognition or budget as a major league team, so they need to be that much more creative and innovative. A good example of a successful in-game promotion was executed by the Reno Aces (Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks). The Reno Aces allowed fans to nominate a terrible walk-up song for the visiting players for a donation to Ronald McDonald House. To nominate a song, they asked fans for a $10 donation. However, the average donation ended up being $23. I like this particular promotion because it engaged the fans, while also having a charitable component to it as well.

Matt Klar:

To your point about minor league promotions, there are also great examples of in-game promotions in other countries. There is a team in the Japanese baseball league that will have their closer come out of the bullpen in a sponsored convertible car. The crowd goes wild when he drives out in this car. Like the minor leagues, some properties overseas need to do more to engage fans and drive ticket sales. As a result, there seem to be fewer restrictions on how creative you can be and this can serve as an inspiration for professional sports teams in North America.

Geoff Biss:

For me, any promotion which interferes or interrupts the game is obviously a bad promotion. I’ve been a Florida Panthers fan since I was 10 years old (I know, weird choice of team). Fans in Florida have been throwing plastic rats on the ice at Florida Panthers home games since the team’s Stanley Cup Final run in 1996. During the 2016 playoffs, however, the team was penalized after fans delayed the game by tossing plastic rats on the ice.

Amy Van Kessel:

It’s all about the fan experience being integrated within the game. The Coventry City Football Club in England, encouraged fans to tweet specific substitutions during the game. I can see teams giving fans that kind of access and decision-making at the minor league level. Going back to Geoff’s example of the Reno Aces, we’ve already seen teams give fans the ability to impact the in-game atmosphere. By voting for something as simple as the music being played in the stadium, they didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the game, but they did have the ability to choose what goes on around them.

Jake Clements:

I think the next step is live in-game competition among fans or viewers. Given the competitive nature of sports, I can see mobile games or apps where fans predict each hit, catch, as the game is taking place directly in front of you. You could be battling your friend next to you or there could be a fan leaderboard which highlights the fan who is able to predict the outcome of every single play on the field or ice. We’re just going to get further into the digital age, and I think fans will take centre-stage just as much as the athletes on the field.

Amy Van Kessel:

One of the things I really like is how teams are embracing the local community and what defines that community. In this year’s playoffs, Nashville embraced their persona as “the Music City” and had live bands perform during intermission. Local bands that played in bars down the road now have a platform to perform in front of a concert-size audience.

Matt Klar:

Nashville is leading the pack with the in-game atmosphere at the NHL level. The Predators adopted the “Smashville” brand identity and deployed a number of executions that were uniquely inspired by the city of Nashville. Despite a small market size, they had over 100% capacity throughout the 2016/17 season. If there is a final takeaway from this, it’s that moving forward, if sponsors want to activate through in-arena promotions, they need to support the property’s narrative, not detract from it.

Sponsorship Picks of the Week: July 4, 2017

Sponsorship Picks of the Week: July 4, 2017

Picks of the Week: June 26, 2017

Picks of the Week: June 26, 2017