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May 10, 2004

Breaking Balls

More MLB Promotions

by Derek Zumsteg

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I was disappointed that baseball backed off its plans to put Spider-Man 2 logos on bases in order to bring more kids into the game. What's baseball coming to when you can sign an agreement with those guys and they back off it over a little negative publicity? Isn't a deal a deal?

I was also surprised to learn that you bring interest to the game by picking the advertisements you accept. I understood that there's a game of chicken you can play with your ad space, where you let Coke have an ad for free, then try to get Pepsi to buy counter-ad space, and work your way to an advertising base that way, but to think...I could start my own magazine publishing the wit and wisdom of Chipper Jones and then get astrophysicists to read it by running branding ads for super-high end satellites ("Do you lie awake at night wondering if space really warps time? With NASA's Gravity B probe, you'll be able to answer those questions about relativity theory and rest easy..."). This is an amazing breakthrough in cause-effect reversal and I'm surprised it hasn't been written up in major scientific journals. Instead of inventing a better mousetrap and having the world beat a path to your door, apparently you can advertise really good cheeses and the mousetraps snap their way to you!

It's bad enough that MLB turns out to be so cowardly that it'll turn its back on the children they were trying to help, but what about the other outreach campaigns to widen baseball's appeal? Once they're putting ads in the field of play, it's open season: We can change the field, the game, whatever we want, in order to reach new audiences by running advertisements that they'll identify with.

  • Smokers: Get to first, light up a sweet, delicious Laramie cigarette. Bonus side effect of bringing in valuable cool teen segment.

  • Chew users: Dirt on mound colored a deep green, word "Kodiak" written on rubber.

  • People with social anxiety: Game stops, spotlight shines on pitcher. "Do you feel singled out, like everyone's watching you...like poor Steve Trachsel here? Take new Placibex RQ to feel better about yourself and stop being alone. Common side effects include sweating, vomiting, skin discoloration, lazy eye, baldness or excessive hair growth, facial tics, and explosive diarrhea. Make friends again with Placibex RQ." Please note that I don't mean to imply that Steve Trachsel has social anxiety, only that he's on the mound and takes a really, really long time to throw, so everyone has to watch him.

  • People who want to seem outdoorsy but really want boot-type-shoes to wear around the office: Players' shoes replaced with clunky Timberlands.

  • Extremely wealthy: Players wear Rolex timepieces while in uniform. When they get a hit, they're driven to their base of choice in an Escalade.

  • Heavy drinkers: Balls and strikes replaced with "Monarch" and "Petron" (respectively).

  • Stupid rich kids: Home team name replaced with "Abercrombie", visiting team name replaced with "Fitch". Authentic uniforms increase in cost to $600, caps $200.

  • Video game addicts: Halo night at SBC Park. The Giants have to field a lineup dressed as Grunts, except for Barry Bonds, who gets to be a Hunter. Their opponents play as Marines.

  • Young kids in general: Stadiums flooded, games underwater. Umpires must dress in special Spongebob costumes.

  • Young girls: New Hello Kitty uniforms. Home wears white with pink trim, visiting pink with white trim. Batting helmets would feature cute little kitten ears.

  • Slightly older girls and much older, creepy guys: Each team managed for one game by either Mary Kate or Ashley Olsen. Possible tie-in to interleague play and documentary movie filled with hijinks, as the two are forced to fly back and forth across the country.

  • Singles: Sponsored by one of the many, many online services, between innings an amazingly beautiful man or woman is brought out onto the field and introduced with relevant information (they'll all be successful businesspeople or teachers). Singles in the stand are invited to date this person by handing a note to their section usher with $5. Later, they'll all be matched to each other and the field samples will go back to their modeling jobs.

  • SUV drivers: Instead of wimpy ATV, team mascots drive around giant products for one day, running over the mound while hard-rock music plays, red-misting small children and tearing up the field before their overconfidence leads them to get into deadly roll-over accidents. Sales reps will be placed around the stadium to sign hot-blooded young men to long-term leases as they're drawn in by the macho appeal.

  • I have no idea what demographic responds but they must exit: To pull a pitcher, manager must take Carrot Top to the mound to make the call to the bullpen, following some histrionics.

  • Hit all the fast food demographics at once: In a preseason exhibition game, Jack from Jack In The Box manages a team of fast-food chain mascots against an embarrassed team of real players. During the 7th-inning stretch, Ronald McDonald (in clown shoes) competes against the Arby's Oven Mitt and John Olerud to determine the slowest baserunner in the world.

  • Basketball fans: Constant isolation plays. Every defensive play must be be carried out only by the player who fields the ball, and the batter has to try and score on every play. Single to center field? That guy has to try and run the batter down, and the batter has to try and make it home first. Grounder to short, the shortstop runs the ball to second and waits for the batter to run in for the tag. Throwing the ball to another player in a better position is prohibited. Results in high-scoring, fast-paced games with a lot of exciting one-on-one action while the rest of the team stands around bored, just like the NBA!

Now that baseball has decided that they're not willing to risk even the appearance of tampering with the game, no matter how large or important the prospective gain is, we'll never see any of these ideas in action. Baseball will have to find revolutionary new ways to recruit new fans. Those could include wacky ideas like better promotions, getting people into ballparks to see how cool baseball is live, or saying only good things about itself in public.

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Premium Article Under The Knife: Back ... (05/10)
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Breaking Balls: Sixtee... (05/06)
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Premium Article Prospectus Today: Addi... (05/11)

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