Moravian Students Pitch IronPigs Promotional Calendars
This semester, students of Moravian College’s “Mindfulness and Flow in Sport Organizations” course tackled one of the most difficult questions facing a minor league baseball affiliate, “How do you successfully promote an early-season weeknight game?” Boiled down, when the temperatures are hovering around 40 degrees, what will get fans through the turnstiles and into the stands?
As part of a semester-long partnership and project with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Moravian class divided into five teams and created promotional calendars for the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league organization’s 2014 season. After researching promotional schedules across the country, contacting product vendors, and strategically scheduling their fictional events, the students shared their insights with three members of the IronPigs sales team: Lindsey Knupp, director of promotions/entertainment, and Brad Ludwig and Don Wilson, group sales managers.
The presentations, held in Comenius Hall Nov. 18 and 20, were met with equal parts praise and constructive criticism, providing plenty of what Katie P. Desiderio, assistant professor of management, called “Aha moments.” Desiderio explained one of the most significant benefits of working with a community partner, like the IronPigs, is revealing real-world issues to students in an educational setting.
Desiderio pointed out students began to understand the hurdles of working with vendors, the importance of organization and time management, and the work that goes into maintaining a professional relationship.
“Ultimately, the students learn that their role is to satisfy the client,” explained Desiderio. “If the clients have some criticism, it is important to digest that and understand their role is to give the client what they want. Once they receive this new information, it is on them to go back and make it better.”
To accommodate the 72 home games hosted at the IronPigs’ Coca-Cola Park next season, the students compiled an array of wide-ranging promotions, activities and on-site events to reach perspective ticket buyers, all while staying within the confines of a $100,000 budget.
Presenters Ericka Blair ’14 and Keith Hinds ’14, representing Team Zinzendorf, introduced the idea of Theme Thursdays, with events like Dog Day (dress your dog up), Red, White and Blue Day, Christmas in July, and Back to School Night. Not to be forgotten was a Fight for Cancer-themed event, which proposed featuring a special guest appearance by boxer Larry Holmes.
For Team Moco, presenters Casey Scanlan ’14 and Dan Seitzinger ’14 championed a host of events, including a Margarita-themed block party and a dollar hot dog day, as well as several inventive giveaways. Among the most notable were a Chase Utley bobblehead night, “Oink for Freedom” wristband promotion on the Fourth of July, and a sunscreen promotion to raise awareness of melanoma.
This entire experience has been so worthwhile, and the IronPigs have been wonderful to work with. I try to include a community partner into all of my classes because it really is so valuable for our students.”
– Katie Desiderio
The IronPigs staff thoughtfully discussed the positives and negatives of many of the ideas, posing questions of their own to the students. “One thing you must consider,” Ludwig explained, “is how do you make sure people don’t abuse the promotion, like the dollar hot dogs. You must also consider what a promotion might do to your staff, and how overwhelming might it be for them.”
Knupp complimented the students for the Phillies tie-in, though explained such a promotion would need their major league team’s approval beforehand.
The sales staff also delved into how it handles many of its promotions, noting that bobblehead and other premium giveaways are often scheduled in the beginning of the season when the weather is least inviting. Drawing fans in April is a common discussion point, the staff said, noting that even opening day activities don’t have the same popularity on the minor league level as the major league teams receive.
On more than one occasion during the Nov. 20 presentations, the IronPigs staff members opened the floor to the students, soliciting their perspectives and insights. “What are your thoughts and what would attract you to come early to a game?” asked Ludwig.
Desiderio commended the IronPigs staff for sharing their professional expertise and their willingness to work with students. “This entire experience has been so worthwhile, and the IronPigs have been wonderful to work with,” she said. “I try to include a community partner into all of my classes because it really is so valuable for our students.”
Additionally, the experience had several positive takeaways for the IronPigs, who plan to adapt at least one of the student promotional ideas – a bandana for an outdoors appreciation day – in the future, according to Desiderio.
Following their meetings with the IronPigs, the “Mindfulness and Flow in Sport Organizations” students hosted a second presentation in class where they connected theory to practice. “This is where they have to take the semester-long project and extract concepts from the chapters and discussions we have had over the course of the semester and talk about how they experienced those things in action,” Desiderio explained. “This, too, provides a lot of ‘Aha moments’ for the students.”
In addition to the presentations, the Moravian class got an up-close view of the IronPigs’ game day experience this fall, volunteering at the 2013 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game, hosted by the IronPigs on Sept. 17. To read more about the championship game experience, click here.
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