Super Power Beat Down Anyone?

We can always rely on lead designer, Adam McCauley to keep us in the loop in the sci-fi fantasy world. It's no surprise we found him gearing up for some Marvel jersey designs this week by watching this YouTube series pitting one hero/villain against another in hypothetical battles. Here's the one with Wolverine fighting Wonder Woman: 

We ❤️ the concept, and it got us thinking about whether this may be a great way to take the Super Hero theme to the next level. We've done Star Wars Nights in which the home team wore our R2-D2 jerseys and the visitors wore our Stormtrooper jerseys. We've also done cartoon pairs for Nickelodeon Nights. One team wears the Ren jersey design, for instance, and the other dons Stimpy:  

This Super Power Beat Down thing could be fun spin on this. You wear one Marvel super hero, your foe wears another. Maybe you could do like the YouTube series and survey the crowd to see which character they think would win, updating results on the video board as the game goes along. Heck, given that the above Wonder Woman vs. Wolverine video has gotten more than 3 million views so far, you may want to think about bringing this outfit on board, too. They do have a contact us page. 

In the meantime, we'll keep our eyes open for more good ideas to make your events fresh and new for your fans. Adam is already surfing YouTube again as we speak ... 

Shedding Light on Team Store Displays

Lighting is one of the most important tools of retail merchandising, yet it can be easily overlooked or underutilized in displays. Don’t make that mistake. Use lighting to maximize the impact of your displays and sell more stuff. 

One of the best things about lighting is its versatility. When bright and focused, it can create drama and excitement. When dimmed down, it can create a cool, welcoming mood. Either way, lighting evokes emotional responses from your customers, and when you can do that you barely have to do anything else to close the sale.

There are three primary types of lighting. Primary lights are generally the overhead fixtures, usually fluorescent bulbs, that illuminate the whole space. It’s pretty straight-forward. One rule of thumb, however? Make sure fixtures are spaced no more than six feet apart along the ceiling. According to the Lighting Research Center, you want anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 Lumens per cubic feet.

Accent or secondary lighting includes well-placed spotlights on displays you really want to draw attention to. Be careful how you place them. Any angle sharper than 45 degrees may momentarily blind your customers. Secondary lighting also includes track lighting many retailers use to showcase a wall full of sellable art or clothing racks. It not only helps shoppers see the merchandise better, it also elevates the mood of the store and fosters buying impulses.

Incandescent lamps have sharply defined beams perfect for highlighting specific products within a display. Change up the mood incandescents or spotlights create by adding colored gels over the lights. Set designers in live theaters do this all the time. Know someone in the business? Get their advice. They may have a lighting tip that can really take a display to another level.

The third type of lighting is atmosphere lighting, which plays light against shadow to create a distinctive effect within a display. Say you've created a vignette of mannequins decked out in your team gear. You can use atmosphere lighting to make the display look more outdoorsy via shadowing or like pregame lineup announcement at the arena.  Gels, pinpoint spotlights and black lighting all help create the kind of drama that makes customers feel like they’ve got to have that jersey or jacket or cap.

There is one more type of lighting in retail stores, albeit not tied directly to merchandising. Task lighting is just what it sounds like. It helps you and your staff perform specific jobs, whether bagging products behind the point-of-sale or, if you’re an outfitter, putting together trip itineraries at a designated work station.

Task lighting is functional and can be recessed and track lighting, pendant lighting and under-cabinet lighting, as well as portable floor and desk lamps. Make sure your task lighting doesn’t produce glare and shadows and is bright enough to prevent eye strain.

And what about natural light? A number of studies have shown that natural light improves everyone’s mood, not just customers. Employees are happier and more productive in naturally lit spaces. So if your team store happens to have lots of windows, don’t block them. Let the sun shine in. A brighter store brightens the bottom line.

Retail 101: Mannequins to the Max

For most fan apparel buyers, seeing isn’t just believing. Seeing is buying. Having jerseys, T-shirts and other fan apparel on racks and shelves will get you so far. Mannequins will get you further.

 Retailers like Under Armor are using physically-fit-looking mannequins, not only because it makes sense with their brands. It's also how we'd like to see ourselves. 

Retailers like Under Armor are using physically-fit-looking mannequins, not only because it makes sense with their brands. It's also how we'd like to see ourselves. 

Go into any chain apparel store in any mall, and you’ll see mannequins positioned right at the entrance. There’s a reason for that.  Mannequins are excellent up-sellers.

Dressed-up mannequins show customers how great a sweatshirt and cap go together. Maybe they intended to get just the sweatshirt, but now they’re thinking they can’t get one without the other. Boom! You’ve just made an extra $20-$30 without having to do a thing.

That’s why it’s smart to always dress mannequins to the nines. Even when your main goal is to sell a T-shirt, adding everything from hats to sunglasses to shorts brings the whole look together and gets customers thinking about buying everything. (By the way, make sure to have all the product within grabbing distance of the mannequin.)

There are tricks to making mannequins more effective sellers. They should be as lifelike as possible. Remove all tags from clothing and caps and store in a pocket for safekeeping. Pin clothes from the back or from the inside of garments to create a perfect fit. Finally, do little things to garments that a person wearing them might do. Roll up the sleeves of a shirt, for instance. Bend the bills of caps -- Wait. Scratch that. The youth like them flat now.

Many retailers build entire scenes around mannequins, incorporating non-apparel goods, too. Do you sell logo coffee mugs? Consider sliding one on the hand of your mannequin, then taping it down. Beach towels? Yes! Throw one around his or her neck. Socks? Naturally! Turn your mannequin into a super fan, from head to toe!

A good rule of thumb for mannequins is to arrange them in action poses, as if they’re cheering a great play, walking to the concession stand or reaching for a foul ball or errant puck. Visual merchandisers have learned this creates the illusion of motion, which attracts the eye of more customers.

Mannequins are also effective tools for guiding customers toward specific sections of your store. Sometimes, it can be tough for shoppers to tell where the men’s section ends and the women’s section begins. Male and female mannequins can make it easier. The same goes for kids’ sections.

Is there space in your store that is always difficult to fill? One or two mannequins is an easy fix. They draw attention and create excitement in a space that used to suck they energy out of the room.

Given all the value you can get from a good mannequin, consider one a good long-term investment for your business. Look for mannequins that are easy to dress. Ease of manipulating and/or removing the arms, for instance, is crucial given how often you’ll be putting new shirts and jerseys and jackets on it.

Also, the lighter the better. A rule of thumb in retail is moving and redressing mannequins once a month to keep your customers interested. Lightweight, easy-to-carry mannequins help avoid any damage that can occur from dropping or banging them into things.

Customers can bang into them, too. Set up mannequins away from walkways and other high-traffic areas of your store to avoid it. But if your mannequins do get marked or chipped, fix them right away. Customers are turned off as much by worn mannequins as tired merchandise.

Finally, consider trends in mannequin design. Yes, there are trends. The latest is the athletic physique. It makes sense. Not all of us have six-pack abs, but we aspire to have them. Seeing clothes on a buff mannequin appeals to more customers and encourages them to buy what they see.

The clothes may not fit the same way on customers when they get home. But at that point your mannequin has done its job.


Ideas for Multitasking Team Marketers

While the Internet gives businesses big and small the same access to a global audience, getting its attention is another matter. That takes time many front offices don’t have, particularly in season.

Thank goodness for programs that help you manage it. Take search engine marketing. All the biggest companies employ people devoted to keeping their Web sites atop the list of certain key-word searches. Google’s Adwords program allows you to pay to have your ad appear atop the page of specific key-word searches.

While effective, Adwords requires a lot of attention to get good results while staying within a manageable budget. You can set daily budgets for each ad you place, and Google charges against that budget on a per appearance basis. The options and complexity of the program are dizzying, which is why a lot of companies either have a person who focuses just on Google or hires a consultant to help. 

For DIYers, start simple, with a text ad to appear only on Google searches (another option allows you to have ads pop up on other Google-owned sites). Get in the habit of checking the metrics on the ad when you get into work every morning. If people aren’t clicking, change key words. Change the wording in your ad. Make other tweaks until you get results.

For marketing via social media, Hootsuite is a great simplifier, allowing you to post the same message to your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds at one time. It also has an automated scheduler that automatically posts your messages at times of the day and night when social media activity is at its peak.

The free version of Hootsuite is enough if you’re posting on a weekly (or less frequent) basis. But if you’re a heavy user, consider upgrading for a monthly fee to get additional tracking features that help you see whether your initiatives are actually working.

One drawback to Hootsuite is its Instagram posting method. Because Instagram is a mobile platform, you’ll have to upload the Hootsuite app to your phone to get reminders to make those posts manually. Your pre-written message will be ready to be pasted into the Instagram caption.

For email marketing, try MailChimp. It lets you integrate a number of contact databasing services such as Google Contacts, Salesforce and Constant Contact so you can easily upload, download and categorize email lists from within the Mailchimp program.

Mailchimp also offers a number of layout templates for email marketing campaigns. Drag-and-drop tools let even novices easily place copy, logos and photos. But if you or someone on your staff is good at page design, you have the freedom create some really slick, professional-looking campaigns.

Mailchimp also links to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, which allows you to automatically post to those platforms when your email campaign is sent. And when it comes to sending campaigns, Mailchimp has an algorithm that pinpoints delivery time to maximize exposure. 

These and other programs will help you look like you have your marketing strategy in order, even if you don’t feel like you do. When it comes to marketing, looking good is half the battle.


The 2017 Team Store Playbook

How do you sell more team merchandise for your next season? By going all in on what minor league sports are all about.

Successful retailers often have at least one thing in common. They don’t try to be something they’re not. Whether a florist, book store or gift store, they zero in on what they do well and not only own it. They celebrating their theme or category in unique ways that keep their customers coming back again and again.

Here’s what you can do to draw the “fan” out of your shoppers and compel them to buy more and more often in the coming year.

Play the Pride Card

People love feeling like they're part of the minor league teams they root for, whether that means meeting and getting to know the players or wearing caps and jerseys for every game. Use your store to encourage that feeling.

For instance, pump up the local angle like a lot of chain restaurants to do to make their places feel like local institutions. Decorate your space with photography of the ballpark and other local landmarks and display team memorabilia from past seasons. Make the team store feel like an homage not just to the team, but to your town.

Also, consider creating a loyalty program that helps make your shoppers feel like they're buying more than merchandise. They're supporting the team. Loyalty rewards could be unique experiences at the venue, from player/coach meet-and-greets to one-on-one autograph sessions to opportunities to visit off-limits parts of the park like the press box. You’d be surprised at how many everyday things to you are extraordinary to fans.

Once you build a your loyalty list, you can stay in touch with these customers via SMS and/or email. SMS is preferable. Admit it. Everyone dreads combing through their emails now. You're more apt to read and respond to text messages. 

Whatever your communication channel, craft more personal messages than your standard blast email campaigns. Share info you think they’d value enough to pay attention to. New product arrivals. Cool design trends in sports. An insider dish on a new promotions you're brainstorming. Solicit input on new merchandise. Remember, you want them to feel like they’re part of the team.  

Surprise Customers (They love surprises)

A hallmark of minor league sports is unpredictability. Fans never know what'll happen at the game. Will they get shown on the Kiss Cam? Will they get a bear hug from the mascot? Will they find something new to try at the concession stand?

Make sure your shoppers find something unexpected in the team store, too. Something that makes them say, “Hey, remember when I got these cool Pelicans flip flops at Field? Good times.”

One way to sell a surprise is being responsive to social trends as they happen, especially when they’re local- or team-specific. One of the best examples happened last summer in Cleveland, where Twitter user @HipsterTito coined the phrase, "Party at Napoli's,” and the Indians first baseman just ran with it. Mike Napoli eventually sold shirts with that phrase to raise money for Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. The shirts were everywhere in Cleveland.

Hey, do you know who makes custom performance Ts? And can turn them around in a hurry? We do! Call us …

Stay Loco for Local

Tired of mustachioed hipsters preaching the merits of artisanal cheeses and soy soap made by local farmers? Sorry. It’s still happening, and the minor leagues are very much about local and home town, too. Wear it.

 custom baseball jerseys

Many already are. Look at the temporary rebranding movement. The Reading FIghtin’ Phils just announced they’ll be the Whoopie Pies for a game in August not only because it sounds funny and Whoopie Pies are delicious. The earliest recipes come from Amish kitchens in neighboring Lancaster County. The area is known for Whoopie Pies. Now, so are the Fightins.

What is your town known for and how can you sell it? Greensboro has a rich history in denim production (Jeansboro!), and guess what? The Grasshoppers store sells locally made Wrangler jeans. The Bulls celebrate Durham by selling local boutique brands alongside team jerseys caps.

If a customer perceives he or she can find something only in your town, they’re more likely to buy it plus a few more things to commemorate their visit. 


How to Get the Most From Jersey Auctions

We are lucky to be living in an era of jersey fanatics, when web sites like Uni Watch and have legions of fans clamoring for even the slightest updates to jersey designs. (Count me among them!)

That’s why no promotion is more alluring to fans now like a special one-off jersey night and auction. Special jerseys build excitement among your regular fans and draw jersey enthusiasts from outside your area.

How can you ensure a special jersey night will not just pay for itself, but will also earn a sizable sum for your favorite cause? I got some advice from two of the best in the business. Juliana Paoli is Senior Vice President of Communications & Chief Marketing Officer with the San Jose Giants, and Jen Brunson is Senior Director of Community Development for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Here's what they had to say. 

Make It Matter

The San Jose Giants center their jersey auctions around cause-related nights and co-brand the jersey with whatever organization they’re raising money for. Linking a jersey to a cause lends more value to it. Sometimes, that value goes way beyond monetary.

For instance, Paoli recalled selling a cancer research jersey to a player whose mother was going through chemotherapy. She wanted to wear his jersey for each treatment as a way to feel closer to her son. 

“I’ve always said we’ve never had to ask anyone to write us a check for the cost of the jerseys,” said Paoli. “We always end up making money for the organizations we partner with. We’re happy to take on the costs up front because we know they will sell.”


Include the Business Community

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Brunson said military appreciation nights are big in Myrtle Beach, which is located within driving distance of several military bases. One local business sponsors everything for that night, from special card sets to T-shirts given away at the gate.

“That business asked its employees to make a donation to help cover the cost of the jerseys, because we wanted to give them to veterans and active military in attendance that night,” said Brunson. “We raffled off jerseys to 41 people, but we were still able to cover the cost with donations.”

When it comes to jersey events that build goodwill in the community, the more the merrier.


Tie It to the Experience

A Minor League ballgame is one giant carnival of fun, where a baseball game just happens to be going on. Fans enjoy the food, the mascots, the between-inning contests and the kiss cam. In San Jose, Paoli said fans enjoy the auctions, too.

That's because winning bidders don't just get the jersey. They also get the experience of retrieving it from the player on the field after the game.

“That moment they get with our players is what they’re really paying for," said Paoli. "Some teams don’t realize ability they have and leave money on the table.”


Wear Them More Than Once

Brunson said that last year the Pelicans wore a special cancer jersey for four games instead of one, and the added exposure made a difference in the auction.

“We auctioned them off online at the end of the year, and it was our most successful auction because people got to see them more often,” she said.


Let Fans Buy It Now

The Giants do in its live auctions what eBay does so well online -- play on people’s impatience. The latter does it by offering a “Buy It Now” option in many of its listings. At Municipal Stadium, fans get a "Buy It Off the Table" option. It’ll cost them, though.

“That number ranges, even fluctuating based on the player,” said Paoli. “An average price is $400, but for the San Jose Bees jerseys we did last year it was $1,000. It should’ve been more.”

You can hear the regret in Paoli’s voice when she mentions the Bees jersey Hall-of-Famer George Brett wore during his appearance at the game. The team set the Buy It Now price at $2,000. It sold in less than a minute.

“We haven’t perfected the pricing yet, but we have at least one jersey bought off the table at every auction,” she said. “That extra few hundred dollars helps offset the others that get the minimum bid of $85 to $100.”

And even the minimum bid price is $20 to $30 above cost. 

Don’t Forget the Players

Guess who really gets psyched about special jerseys? The players. Paoli said one-off jerseys break the monotony of a long season and has them excited to bid.

“They will come running out of dugout as soon as they see the jerseys on the counter because they want to buy theirs before the auction,” said Paoli.

That can be a problem. A top prospect may want his jersey, but his is the one that is likeliest to get the highest bid. So, the team now takes orders from the players and includes them with the regular order. 

“We go down to the clubhouse with the artwork and order form," said Paoli. "It’s been a really good addition for us.”

Definitely Log On

Even without great live auction results, teams can make a killing online. In fact, Paoli said the Giants are mulling a hybrid scenario in which fans at the game can bid online via their phones against people who aren’t at the game.

Brunson said whenever the Pelicans announce an online jersey auction via social media, she and her staff tag the aforementioned Uni Watch and Sportslogos social media accounts, which prompts those editors to retweet or repost the announcement. Bottom line? Suddenly, a lot more people on the Internet know about the auction.

“We post our coaching staff’s jerseys online about two weeks before the game date, just so people can see the jerseys,” said Brunson. “Then the rest of the team and even our blank jerseys go up for auction at the game. If no one bids on a jersey, then we throw it up online.”

The online auction bids, said Brunson, tend to be higher than those taken at the game, which has the Pelicans thinking about doing more online this year.

Get Everything Signed

When auction-winning Giants fans retrieve their jerseys from the players after the game, they always do the same thing. Take a selfie, then get it signed. That got Paoli thinking.

“We now auction off a team autographed jersey, which always goes for more money than a regular jersey” she said. “We’ve also auctioned some team autographed hats, and those always do well.”

Paoli has also learned that fans typically fixate on one player. Last year, first base prospect Chris Shaw was that guy. So in addition to his game-worn jerseys, Paoli had a few others made with his number, then had Shaw sign them. All of them went in the ensuing auction. 

Reality Check: How to Maximize The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Trend

Like millions of other people, I just saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which debuted atop the box office rankings and stayed near there over Thanksgiving weekend. By the time you read this, it'll have likely surpassed $500 million in ticket sales worldwide. Obviously, there will be a sequel. 

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last five years, every other major TV and film character has some sort of supernatural power. The Force seizes the zeitgeist again with Rogue One dropping Dec. 16. Next year will give us the first Wonder Woman film and the second installation of Guardians of the Galaxy (with Nathan Fillion!). The second Avatar movie is slated for 2018. So is The Flash movie. Meanwhile, this holiday season Samsung and other tech companies are pushing virtual reality gear hard. After years (and counting) of being bombarded with reality TV, all we want now is an escape from actual reality. And we're willing to pay to get it.

The immediate takeaway is that sci-fi/fantasy shows no sign of losing mojo as ticket-driving special event themes. And we can do that jersey for you (see below). We're also totally down to create a wizard jersey per Fantastic Beasts. The key to drawing more attention and ticket dollars, however, is putting a fresh spin on it. Here are a few ideas: 

1. Create Your Own Super Hero. Why not? He or she or it can wear your team's colors, possess certain powers related to baseball (or not, whatever) and "save" officials, players and fans between innings/periods. You could even solicit fans to create the hero, then do a big unveil. You're limited only by your imagination. Just one thing, though ... 

2. Turn Virtual Reality on Its Head. You know what's cooler than strapping on a pair of goofy goggles to "feel" what it's like to be a major athlete? Skating up the ice for real in a one-on-one shoot-off against a pro goalie with cat-like reflexes. Or digging in against your pitching coach who used to be a big league pitcher and can still bring it. Call it "Real Virtual Reality" or "Virtual Virtual Reality" Night. 

3. It's Magic! Funny how, with all this focus on the supernatural, magicians still get a bad rap. Amiright? I mean, they have a wand, just like Harry Potter and Newt Scamander. Maybe it's the top hat. Yes Edna Mold, it's probably the cape. Maybe magic is right there, just beneath the surface, waiting to become the next big trend. A "Magic Night" has the potential to draw lots of families. Teach kids "magical powers" on the concourse. Host magicians to do between-innings or -periods tricks! How about a bunny petting station? We can do a mean magician's jersey for the occasion. 

4. Fantasy Draft Day! I feel as if we're all missing a hidden-in-plain-sight opportunity here. Somehow, minor league sports teams can take advantage of the huge opportunity that is fantasy sports. I'm not talking about the gambling part. I'm talking about event hosting. Drafts are increasingly elaborate affairs groups enjoy holding at unique venues. Bingo. Hockey teams? Fantasy baseball drafts are in March. Baseball teams? Football drafts are in August. Ready, set, go! We'll make the special jersey for the team to wear. 

Promotions for a Post-Election Fan Base

Here is a bipartisan observation. America is going to be pretty freaked out after November 8, regardless of who wins the Presidential Election. And our collective anxiety about the state of things will likely spill over into all of 2017. 

Your fans will need comfort. They will need a release. And many will turn to sporting events for a much-needed diversion. Be there for them. Let your team and event and arena or ballpark or stadium be chicken soup for their troubled souls. As always, I have a few promotional ideas to help you really connect with them ... 

1. Tout Your Turf 

Over the last couple of years, I've noticed a trend not just here in North Carolina but everywhere I've traveled. People are planting flags, figuratively speaking. They want to represent where they're from, whether it's on a T-shirt or bumper sticker or yard decor. The best example I can think of is the success of The Home T. The company with the shirts that have the U.S. state shape and "home" caption. That resonates right now, especially. 

 custom baseball jerseys

Several teams have already successfully celebrated local pride this year, including the Johnson City Cardinals. It ran a Tennessee Pride" promotion every Tuesday this past summer, with the team wearing a jersey design featuring state flag icons and, of course, the Tennessee shape. The Durham Bulls didn't just play off local vernacular with its special "Durm" Night, it had a local streetwear designer, RUNAWAY, work with us to create the game jersey. Wildly popular.

At its core, this idea zeroes in on something unique about your town and playing it up in an event night that will make your fan base feel prideful and secure about where they live and forget for a few hours all the turmoil this election has stirred up. 

2. Bring Back the Good Ol' Days

One thing we've learned over the last year is a sizable portion of the population likes things just the way they are/were. This isn't a groundbreaker, but the time is now for throw-back nights. 

 custom baseball jerseys

Remember that time your team won the championship? Bingo. Celebrate it, maybe even if it's not a nice, round anniversary year. How about that time whatshisname, the guy who made it big, played here? Yep. Tout it. Bring that player back for some pre-game ceremonial thing if you can. 

Be creative and just run with it. Is your special retro jersey from a team in the Carter years, when everyone waited in line at the gas pumps? Raffle off gas cards! Celebrate polyester (ironically, a petroleum-based product). Is it an 80s night? Let's get physical! Work with a local gym that offers whatever the modern version of aerobics classes are. Yoga, right? How about leg warmers matching your team's hockey socks? Talk to Kyle. We may be able to make those for you, too. 

3. Ice Cream Social

 custom baseball jerseys

Perhaps it's a stereotype, but our top stress eating food is ice cream. Okay, that's a non-scientific claim. MY number-one stress-eating food is ice cream. Bottom line? We all have a comfort food (burgers, mac 'n cheese, pizza, chocolate in any form and, in desperate times, Hot Pockets) we prefer when the going gets tough. Therein lies opportunity. 

Surely, your community has local spots that serve the goods. A local manufacturer? Even better. And perhaps a national sponsor will get on board with a jersey sponsorship. During breaks in play, you could do the classic eating contest (although that can be messy) or a "play with your food" kind of contest. If you celebrate mac 'n cheese, macaroni art! Pizza? Frisbee toss! 

Look, things may change over the next year or so whether we like it or not. But one thing that won't change is our collective appetite. Amiright? 




Design & Promotion Ideas: Christmas 2016-17

It's here, people. I saw Christmas lights at the Walgreens last week, and it's only getting crazier from here until January. I realize most of you have your holiday promotions all set, but it's never too late to call an audible and change things up and/or add another special event to the calendar. We still have time to turn around a Christmas game-jersey order. People eat that stuff up -- along with candy canes, fruit cake and cookies -- at this time of year. Happy Holidays!

Christmas Cookies

Honestly, I'm surprised a cookie-driven Christmas promo hasn't happened somewhere already. One of the signatures of any holiday season is the humble Christmas cookie, usually sugar and slathered in red, white and green icing. Wreath shapes. Candy cane shapes. Bell shapes. Etc. A cookie decorating contest could make for a great in-game, between-periods diversion, paired, of course, with a stunning game jersey designed to look like one giant cookie. Picture your team logo done up in frosting. Deliciously profitable in an auction!

Elf Yourself

As if I needed any more pressure as a parent at Christmastime, my kids are crazy for Elf on the Shelf. Which is great, except for the fact I now have to remember to "magically" move the doll around and write little notes from said elf every night for about a month and a half. 

But I digress. My point is elves have risen to the fore in holiday celebrating, with the whole Elf on the Shelf thing and recent TV specials such as "Prep and Landing." (Please stop trying to make "tinsel" a thing, Disney!) 

How about a "Dress Like an Elf" costume contest? Or, the elf costumed get in for free or at a discount? Or, some contest on the ice that involves elf-related activities, such as loading Santa's sleigh with as many gifts as possible in one minute. Just spitballing ... 

The hockey uniform really lends itself to an elf-driven event, with the padded shorts and sock combo. Hey, we make socks! We can do candy cane stripes, then a jersey that looks like an elf jacket. It's a design we're good at. 

The Ornament Game

In another life, I worked for a media group covering the gift and home decor industry, where I learned how nuts people get over Christmas ornaments. In the dead of summer, on vacation at the beach, people will actually by Christmas ornaments to commemorate their trip. It's amazing.

So, a Christmas ornament giveaway at the rink? Bonkers. Make it an annual thing, and suddenly you have people expecting and looking forward to the event. Make these ornaments limited edition and numbered to get all the collectors whipped up into a frenzy. Heck, even call the night the "Ornament Game" so people can circle it on their calendars.  

A special jersey can match the ornament design, which will boost interest in the in-game or post-game jersey auction. Both the ornaments and the jersey are collectibles, after all. 


Custom Baseball Jersey Trends, Part 5 of 5

The Sweet Sound of Success?

We’ve been doing Jimmy Buffett Night jerseys for years now. It makes sense. Loyal following. Beach bum fashion. Songs about pub food, beer and leisure, which minor league baseball offers in spades. There’s also a tinge of nostalgia to Buffett’s music. Baby Boomers, his Parrothead base, probably got into him when they were jobless college kids (or just out of college and earning peanuts). Those were the days.

Nostalgia. As big as that concept has been in MiLB theme nights via TV shows and movies (Ghostbusters Night! Full House Night! Ren and Stimpy Night!) it has yet to show itself in music. And I would argue that music conjures more emotional nostalgia than any other form of pop culture. Think of all those one-hit wonders!

So when Myrtle Beach hosted Biz Markie for Hip Hop Night this past August, complete with a graffiti art jersey, I was like, “Yesssss!” Because think about it. Theme nights are already addressing Gen Xers and Yers towing their kids to games. All the 1990s Nickelodeon themes prove it. And look at Hollywood rebooting 90s staples like Ghostbusters, Full House and Gilmore Girls (I know, I know. That was early aughts. But it has the spirit of a 90s show). 

It was only a matter of time before creative teams came around to pop music. There’s soooo much untapped potential here. Google the Billboard charts for the 80s and 90s and I promise you there’s a good theme night somewhere on that list. Any of these would work: 

  • One Of Us [Joan Osborne]
  • Jump Around [House Of Pain]
  • Barely Breathing [Duncan Sheik]
  • Ice Ice Baby [Vanilla Ice]
  • Closing Time [Semisonic]
  • Tubthumping [Chumbawamba]
  • Macarena [Los Del Rio]
  • Rico Suave [Gerardo]

Whoever it is, I beg you to somehow incorporate big bangs and feathered hair, shoulder pads, parachute pants, the color teal and wayfarer sunglasses. Because I still have all those tucked away somewhere in my closet. 

Custom Baseball Jersey Trends, Part 4 of 5

The Old College Try


Being based on Tobacco Road and near the border of SEC country, we understand the passion people have for college sports. When we began seeing more teams harnessing this passion as a theme night, it felt like an idea that was a long time coming.

We were at the Mahoning Valley Scrappers' Youngstown State night in July, with appearances by university luminaries such as athletic director Jim Tressel, wrap-around shades and all. Cedar Rapids sported a very Iowa Hawkeyes football-like jersey in August.

The Tacoma Rainiers avoided alienating fans by hosting both a Washington State Night and a University of Washington Night at Cheney Stadium. The Myrtle Beach Pelicans straddled the fence, too, with a South Carolina Night and a Clemson Night on their schedule. The Pelicans also did a great jersey salute to College World Series champion Coastal Carolina, based in nearby Conway.

Given the emotional hold college sports have on people, this is a theme that is staying in school for the foreseeable future. Cheerleader-inspired jerseys (Hey, colleges have guy cheerleaders, too!). Band jerseys with an appearance by the band. We can help with anything.

Custom Baseball Jersey Trends, Part 3 of 5

The Temporary Rebrand


This move is gaining serious steam in Minor League Baseball after Fresno’s successful Tacos rebrand in 2015. How successful was that? The Griz did the rebrand every Tuesday this season, with a fresh, new jersey and cap design to spice things up. This year, we also saw the aforementioned Scranton-Wilkes Barre Pierogies take the field for a night.

Again, we’re seeing an evolution beyond food. Midland’s Millionaires and El Paso’s Desert Gators were hits. While a Major League team can’t get away with this, the annual churn of zany creativity in minor league ball makes it work for farm clubs. Fans expect new things all the time. It’s part of the culture.

So, not only do you have a team rebranding itself regularly (Hurray for Taco Tuesdays!). You also have one doing it just for the postseason, which, as far as we know, hasn’t been done before. Visalia was clever about it, though, giving fans (and superstitious players) “reverse the curse” backstory that added intrigue to the team’s fourth straight Cal League playoff appearance.

Custom Baseball Jersey Trends, Part 2 of 5

The Evolution of Local


The main route this trend has taken over the last couple of years has been food, proving that a way to a fan’s heart is indeed through his or her stomach. The Fresno Grizzlies took on their alter ego “Tacos” every Tuesday and, of course, for the Taco Truck Throwdown. Scranton-Wilkes Barre became the Pierogies on Aug. 28 to help celebrate its Jewish Food Festival. Both Lakewood (7/2) and San Jose (8/19) did Luau Nights that were food driven.

The Stockton Ports sported a sweet asparagus jersey early in the season to celebrate that town’s prominence in asparagus cultivation. Worst job ever for that night? Bathroom clean-up. Asparagus enthusiasts and the people who share the same bathroom know what I’m talking about.

Bottom line? The food thing still works. This is America. We love to eat. Find an untapped local specialty food angle and run with it. Since I live in North Carolina, I’m just going to say it. Eastern vs. Western Barbecue Night! It can be our Taco Truck Throwdown, Grasshoppers, Hickory Crawdads, Kannapolis (soon-to-be-former) Intimidators, Durham Bulls, Carolina Mudcats, Asheville Tourists, Charlotte Knights and/or Winston-Salem Dash. Can we please make that happen?

There’s something new on the local front, though, with a few notable non-food local statements. The Greensboro Grasshoppers hosted “Jeansboro” night on Aug. 20, saluting the city’s denim heritage pairing a handsome “Jeansboro”  jersey with hilarious faux denim baseball pants.  (They kind of looked like Mom jeans on the players. Ha!). Next year, we’re in if the Hoppers want to do the full Canadian tuxedo. The jersey? A matching faux denim sleeveless jean jacket. Call us.

I also thought the Fresno Grizzlies’ did a nice job taking advantage of a local newsman’s retirement. “Fresno Famous” Night included a jersey that looked like the newsman’s signature loud shirt.

2016 Special Event Jersey Concepts of the Year (Part 1 of 5)

Fun with Custom Sublimated Baseball Jerseys

Everything is pumpkin spiced again, so it must be time to look back at MiLB 2016 and see what this year’s special events can tell us about the future. A big kudos to all the hard-working, creative front offices out there for making baseball fun for fans and for us here at OT.

As always, we designed and produced a ton of pink, military, Nickelodeon and Star Wars jerseys in 2016. Those are evergreen themes that bring in fans at the gate. Five themes and designs, however, give us a sign of what’s coming. These are jersey themes that really speak to fans in a personal way, compelling them to not only take photos and tweet and snap and chat about them. They also bid heavily in auctions. 

This week, we look at our first one: Fun with Family Photos


  • Reno Aces Heroes jersey (4/23/16)

  • Syracuse Chiefs Bark in the Park (8/24/16)

  • Harrisburg Senators Bark in the Park (8/6/2016)

Our poor lead designer had a nervous breakdown piecing together fan-submitted photos for several awesome jersey designs this past season. Each design incorporated so many images, each one came out smaller than a postage stamp. But even he admits the idea was pretty cool.

After all, a jersey can’t get any more personal to fans than one with their own photo on it. Thanks to the wonders of sublimated technology (and our designers) it can be done quite well. The Reno Aces, Harrisburg Senators, Kane County Cougars and Syracuse Chiefs wore jerseys with thumbnail-sized images all over.

Now that it’s been done, the question is what’s next? Raffling off spots on the jersey to limit the number of photos and, thus, make each one bigger and clearer? A photo booth design with strips of photos of fans making goofy faces on the jersey? Perhaps from a booth placed on the concourse? A contest for fans to submit their most jersey-worth pics of your ballpark?

A picture (jersey) is worth a thousand ideas.

Maximizing Souvenir Sales from a Kiosk

A souvenir kiosk at a venue is different from those at a mall. A mall kiosk is usually the one location for that vendor. In your case, a team store with a wider assortment of the same goods is within walking distance. Somehow, you've got to make your kiosk stand out.  

Step one is making a visual statement. Honestly, if a kiosk looks like a watered down version of a full-blown team store, customers may not be motivated enough to buy, let alone pause to take a look. You need to make that kiosk look and feel special. 

You can do it with one of the team's colors, showing all red or blue or black souvenirs. One big color statement is impactful. Fans won't be able to pass without looking. You can also use that kiosk to focus on a key demographic, such as kids. Or, the kiosk can specialize in a key category, such as headwear. Either way, the message to consumers is that your kiosk is special and thus is worth browsing. 

Next is the location. Obviously, you don't want your souvenir kiosk to be anywhere near the team store. And where you put it can be based on what you sell. If the kiosk is kids' stuff, perhaps you set up near a dedicated family section, where kids run free. If the kiosk is hat-focused, try setting up near seating sections that company's rent out for events. These are people who don't frequent games and probably don't have a cap already. Bottom line? Think strategically about location. 

The key to a kiosk, really, is the person manning it. Often, this goes one of two ways. For those of us who have been to malls, you know very well the hyper, pushy salesperson who openly solicits you to check out what he or she is selling. These are the people we avoid eye contact with. 

We've also seen the oblivious mall kiosk salesperson whose head is always bowed over his or her cell phone. They couldn't care less if you stop to look at their selection of cell phone cases or jewelry. And as a matter fact, they'd prefer you just moved along so they can Snapchat uninterrupted. 

An effective kiosk rep is one who makes eye contact with passersby and occasionally says hello without inviting people to take a look at the goods. Friendly, but not pushy. Sounds easy enough, but good luck finding people who can do it. To be fair, long hours of standing at attention can be draining. The pull of Twitter and Facebook and Pokemon Go can be too much to resist. A smart move might be limiting shifts to an hour, rotating employees from the team store to kiosk and back again. 

The endgame is keeping your kiosk fresh and inviting. If put in the right spot, it can capture sales your team store missed. 



Guerrilla Retailing: Using the Whole Venue to Sell

You are the envy of main street retailers everywhere. Fans paid to pass through the turnstiles and now you have three or so hours of people walking by the team store. A florist or furniture store or clothing boutique can only dream of that kind of foot traffic.

But just having plenty of passers by doesn't mean you'll ring up a lot of sales. Some of these fans will walk into the team store, of course, but even more of them won't. You have to go out there and get their attention. 

 The whole ballpark is your oyster, Shucker Shop! Display your merch all over MGM Park!

The whole ballpark is your oyster, Shucker Shop! Display your merch all over MGM Park!

It begins by breaking free of the idea that the team store is that small room or kiosk you've been given to manage. The entire ballpark or arena is the store. There are selling opportunities all over the place. 

Look at those lines at concession stands, for instance. People are just standing there, waiting to order their hot dogs or peanuts or chicken fingers. As they wait, their eyes wander from their smart phones to the person in front of them to the guy in the next line over and back to their phones again. Give them something else to look at, like a sign placed over or beside the counter advertising a new jersey or a sale on T-shirts. 

Parents often loiter outside the restroom entrances, waiting for their kids to finish their business inside. Bingo. There's another chance to promote an item or two via strategically placed signage. I've been in more than a few bathrooms that have advertising on the walls above urinals. Yep, there's another opportunity. How about on the inside of bathroom stall doors? 

Think of other places you notice fans loitering. Near the venue entrances and exits?. Perhaps you can hang a shirt or jersey there so fans notice it as they wait to get in. I'm betting your venue has a popular watering hole. My non-scientific research shows that the more adult beverages fans consume, the more they want that new cap or souvenir polo shirt. 

My point is the concourse is just an extension of the team store. Use it to engage fans and make them realize that, yes, they really do want a cap or T-shirt or foam finger. 

Retail 101: Making the Old New Again via Merchandising

Baseball players have a name for this time of the season. They call it the "dog days," and the name doesn't just apply to their struggles. Everyone who runs the show at minor league ballparks across the country can feel that malaise creeping in. The GMs. The ticket sales people. The concessionaires. Even those running the team stores. 

I can't help the players (drink more water, maybe?) or the front offices (drink more coffee?). But I do have a suggestion for retailers. Mix it up those displays. The next time the team hits the road for a few days, reorganize all the jerseys, T-shirts, golf shirts, foam fingers and other knick knacks, moving the merchandise to new locations and/or cross-merchandising it with different product. 

Why move your product around? 

It's psychological. For local fans who have been to several games -- and to the team store -- several times already, putting product in different places changes their perception of the entire store. Everything seems new again. Researchers have done studies showing product that isn't selling in a display at the back of a store suddenly sells when it's displayed elsewhere. 

The psychological effect can be a boost for store managers and employees, too. Plus, the whole process of reorganizing the merchandise helps them get more familiar with the product and start thinking strategically about their work. Translation? They're more engaged in the business and capable of increasing sales. 


How do you re-merchandise your store successfully? 

Create a plan-o-gram, a map of the store showing where you have the categories displayed in your store. Bigger retailers use these to map out certain shelf spaces, but it can be scaled out to show an entire floor plan. Put your map on a big white board hung in the back room, where all your employees can see it. Over time, this plan-o-gram plus sales data from the register tells you where the hot and cold zones in the store are. You may find, for instance, that product moves briskly just to the left or right of the point of sale. You'll know to try slow-moving product there.

Harness the power of color. In my travels to ballpark team stores so far this summer, I have seen surprisingly few stores using a big color story to engage their customers. Color is a huge influence on retail sales, and all the crazy ways teams brand themselves with color plays right into your hands. 

If your team is wearing special red jerseys this season, for instance, create a wall or section of red product, with like-colored sweatshirts, Ts, jerseys and other items grouped together. Look no further than the color-driven merchandising approach of most fashion retailers for inspiration. Heck, you can even get ideas from grocery shopping

Another way of using team colors to freshen up your store is showing distinct groupings together, kind of like this. A section of red souvenirs by a section of white souvenirs by a section of blue souvenirs. It's impactful, and it makes customers see the product in a whole new light. 

Every ballplayer and manager will tell you that the long season is a grind. Shake off the dog days by shaking up your store. Your customers will show their appreciation at the cash register. 



Insider Q&A: Joey Santos, Reno Big Horns

The Reno Big Horns of the NBA Development League staged its first theme night that included an OT Sports game-worn jersey design. Account Executive/Team Store Manager Joey Santos explains why the team will do more of them in 2016-17. 

OT: What led you to come up with the idea to do a Star Wars theme jersey? 

Santos: We were coming up with theme night ideas last September, and with the new Star Wars movie coming out we thought its release date would end up on perfect timeline with our season. Unfortunately, we had scheduling conflicts and moved it to March, but it didn't matter. The movie was still a big deal.

OT: What was planning the event like? 

Santos: We followed all of Lucas Films' guidelines. We sent invitations to all the dress-up groups sponsored by Lucas and had characters at the game. Storm Troopers, Jedi knights and desert creatures. The fans loved it. 

OT: How did the jersey auction go?

Santos: We did a silent auction during the game for the American Lung Association. Bids started at $250 and we sold every single jersey. We even sold the one worn by a player who played 3 minutes for the entire season. The American Lung Association ran the auction for us. We set up two tables on the concourse with an extra jersey on display so people could see see it up close and get a feel for the quality and design.

OT: What did the players think? 

Santos: One of our guys, David Stockton, liked his jersey so much that he tried to win it. He gave our team president a spending limit and told him to bid on his behalf. [Editors note: Stockton was outbid. :-( ] Our players told us they liked playing in OT Sports jerseys. The quality and comfort is the same as their everyday game jerseys.

OT: Do you know what did the winners did with their jerseys?  

Santos: We did have one fan who came to a couple of games afterward wearing his jersey. But we got a lot of them autographed because most of the winners wanted to frame them for display in their homes and offices.

OT: What did you learn from doing that first special jersey event? 

Santos: I know as an organization we definitely want to do more theme jerseys next year. Personally, I learned the timing of everything, working with Lucas, OT Sports and the league. That should help us next time. I want to have more time to promote and prepare for the event because I think we could draw even more fans. 


Food! Glorious Food!

America's love affair with food is nothing new. But sports teams pushing the envelope to capitalize on it is, like a spinach salad with pine nuts, fresh. 

For the past few years, we've seen minor league baseball teams take food to a whole new level, from the Charleston Riverdogs hiring a culinary-school-trained chef to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs building an entire identity around bacon. 

 The Lehigh Valley IronPigs' very popular bacon hat. Yep, their players actually where these in games, too. 

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs' very popular bacon hat. Yep, their players actually where these in games, too. 

The whole thing goes back to a fan who, in 2003, won a name-that-team contest after the double-A Orlando Rays announced its move to a brand-new ballpark in Montgomery, Ala. The Montgomery Biscuits have since made a mint in merchandise sales, while also selling more than 300,00 actual biscuits at its games (doused in Alaga syrup, if you know what you're doing.)

The Iron Pigs are going next level again, playing its June 10 game as the Lehigh Valley Cheesesteaks due to the team's close proximity to Philadelphia. 

But perhaps no other team proves the power of the food promotion more than the Fresno Grizzlies, which last year rebranded itself as a food for one game. The Fresno Tacos game last August dovetailed with the annual Taco Truck Throwdown at the ballpark. The jerseys and hats got more attention than the delicious tacos. 

Who wants to do a Poutine Night jersey? (You know you want to)

Baseball has proven repeatedly that a food-driven event can be a big money maker for teams. Here are a few key ingredients to pulling it off. 

Involve fans. Use social media to solicit suggestions from your fan base. If an overwhelming food theme comes out of that, you know what to do. 

Eat local. Montgomery and southern biscuits. Fresno and tacos. Allentown and cheesesteaks. These pairs already went together, and exploiting the connection generated civic pride that translated into more ticket and souvenir sales. What's your town's special sauce? Barbecue? Toasted ravioli? Green bean casserole? Key lime pie? 

This is what people think of when they think of fall (and winter).

Get festive-al. One thing that made the Tacos rebranding wildly successful (so much so that the Grizzlies are now the Tacos every Tuesday) is that it tied into an event that already drew a lot of people. Can you tie your food-themed event with, say, a Taste of the Town event? Or a local cupcake bake-off? 

Mind the trends. Then there are those overarching frenzies that infect cities across America thanks to chain restaurants and other food outlets pushing them. Of course, I'm talking about the autumnally ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. C'mon people. There has GOT to be something we can do with that. 

Give Kyle a shout. He likes lattes. (whole milk, but light on the foam.