It takes more than homers and no-hitters to put fans in the stands, so the Lugnuts go with creative promotions to attract Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other pop culture fans.
LANSING, Mich. – It seems obvious that a baseball team needs to deliver a strong experience on the diamond for fans. But the Lansing Lugnuts, a low-Class A franchise, also knows the fans in the stands love to come to Cooley Law School Stadium for more creative reasons.
Each year, the franchise changes up its promotional schedule, coming up with unique events and giveaways that fans from all around can enjoy. Lugnuts have over 30 special promo events planned for the 2019 season, which Tyler Parsons, the team’s General Manager, said was a challenge to plan.
Parsons said the planning process started at the end of the season.
“We have a whole team here with the Lugnuts, and really once the season ends, we kind of sit down and start having some thinking sessions,” Parsons said. “We take a look at our schedule, we look at it which days we kind of want to go find promotions and put some of our top nights on. We call those target nights for us, which we target sellouts for all of these nights.
“And that's what we want to stagger out of top promotions. So we'll kind of outline all of those and we'll start really just bounce ideas off and literally can be just a room and we’ll grab some pizza and beer and all that kind of stuff.”
So why do the Lugnuts believe they had the best promotional schedule in all of Minor League Baseball?
“We won with our golden bobblehead in all of Minor League Baseball last year with our Backyard Baseball promo with Pablo Sanchez. We’ve had a great response when the schedule was initially released, so we feel good about our promotional schedule this year,” Parsons said.
Parsons has an interesting take on what might be the best event, and it shows the franchise’s creativity and nose for news.
“I think the one that's caught the most buzz, and I think that we have the greatest chance to capitalize on, is probably our Tribute to Burt Reynolds Night,” Parsons said, referencing the late actor. “I think we have a really, really cool niche with this one and I think the local ties with Burt Reynolds being born in Lansing.
“When we released the jersey concept that we're going to do for that day, which really is a yellow jersey they're going to auction off from Smokey and the Bandit. They just blew up all over the place and we got tons and tons of media coverage for it.”
Some of the other big planned events include Forrest Gump Night, Mystery Jersey Giveaway, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Night, Star Wars Night, Backyard Baseball Night 2 in a follow-up from last year, Salute to Service Night, among others.
The Lugnuts have found a strong fan response to their promotions, leading to a group of superfans.
Carole Haley grew up in Lansing before leaving for the Navy and was away from Lansing for the next 30 years. She moved back to Lansing almost 11 years ago and has been a fan of the Lugnuts since. She has rarely missed a home game, and only with good reason.
Last year, Haley celebrated her 75th birthday at Cooley Law School Stadium with the help of her daughters. It was her favorite moment at the ballpark, as she received flowers from one of the players.
Haley likes all of the promotional events and even has a schedule listing what dates the promotional events are on. She also has extra schedules lying around - just in case. Her favorite event is the Family and Faith Night in August.
“The one I like is usually in August it's called vocations night when the priests and the nuns come in. The bishop usually throws out the first pitch.” Haley said.
She also likes a few more events that come near the end of the season. She mentioned the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Jersey giveaway, and a few years ago, for the Harry Potter promotion that had a Golden Snitch baseball.
“Then I like, of course, the Crosstown Showdown. The Jersey auction on the 30th of August, that’s where I got this one, where you bid on the jerseys. I also got the Harry Potter one, that was fun,” Haley said.