Getting Way Too Excited About Michael Pineda as an All-Star

It happened. Michael Pineda pitched in the All-Star Game, to rave reviews from the only critics that really matter – the people of Twitter. Tweets from casual fans and respected writers came flooding in, praising Pineda’s performance.

But don’t take my word for it.

ESPN’s Buster Olney:

Olney later tweeted that Pineda made the “biggest first impression” of any player at the game.

Fox’s national baseball writer, Jon Morosi:

The Mariners’ official account:

The three hitters Pineda faced in the second inning went 1-2-3: Troy Tulowitzki flew out to center (side note: I secretly wish Curtis Granderson was a Mariner), then Pineda struck out Scott Rolen and Rickie Weeks.

And no, I’m not ashamed to admit that I took a picture of my TV to commemorate this momentous occasion.

That’s my boy. Here’s to many more All-Star Games for #36.

Three for the weekend (and week ahead)

Ahhhh, here we are again. Another Sunday night, another blog post. I’d like to blog more consistently, so I feel a twinge of guilt every Sunday night when I realize that I haven’t posted in a week, but I remind myself that my time spent not blogging was spent working and exploring NYC. Both good things, I would like to believe.

I will make a concerted effort to post more this week, but for now, you’ll have to live with this random post detailing three great things about this past weekend and the week ahead:

1) Rainy day movie viewings

While my walk home from work on Friday was dry, the skies opened up later in the evening and the idea of going out wasn’t very appealing. So, we settled for a trip to Pinkberry and headed back to our building to watch the greatest romantic comedy of all time, “When Harry Met Sally…”. It’s definitely one of my top 5 favorite movies (trust me, I’ve ranked them). I LOVE it. Everyone was annoyed impressed with my ability to recite whole scenes from memory.

Michael Pineda sporting the best alternate jersey in baseball.

2) Michael Pineda as an All-Star

My new favorite Seattle Mariner, rookie phenom pitcher Michael Pineda, was named to the American League All-Star team today as a replacement for Justin Verlander. The guy is a freakin’ stud, outpacing King Felix as the team’s ace. I doubt he’ll get much playing time in the All-Star game (who does?) but it’s cool to see him named to the team so early in his career.

The All-Star game will be on FOX at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday. This year it’s being played at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I think we can all agree it’s a real shame that the park can no longer be called the BOB (a nickname the park enjoyed during its years as “Bank One Ballpark”).

3) Bananas

I hate bananas. I haven’t eaten once since maybe age four (and even then, I probably just ate the chocolate off of a chocolate-covered banana). But, my dad sent me this interesting Wall Street Journal article on banana consumption in New York City, and it’s worth a read if you’re interested in bananas and/or the economy and/or New York. Apparently, New Yorkers are banana-crazed. This article takes a look at how the NYC banana business runs, how much they cost at different locations and what types of bananas people want to buy.

Well, I hope you enjoyed three bullet points about three completely unrelated topics. If you have three (or one or two) funny comments, links or thoughts to share about your weekend, please share; I’d love to read them!

Photo credit: NBC Sports Hardball Talk

King’s Court: A Way for Seattle Mariners Fans to Feel Like Royalty

After years of watching the Seattle Mariners wallow in mediocrity, fans might finally have a good team to root for. It’s still early in the season, but the M’s have a winning record and are riding a wave of momentum after winning their weekend series against the New York Yankees.

Part of this momentum stems from the Mariners’ impressive starting pitching. Rookie standout Michael Pineda has been lights-out, and Felix Hernandez, who won last year’s American League Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher, has continued his success.

However, while the team’s fortunes seem to be looking up, game attendance still reflects that of the days when the Mariners struggled to beat even the worst teams in the league. That tide is turning, though, with one terrific promotion that has been a boon to the Mariners and a great case study for effective promotional campaigns.

Fans who sit in the Mariners' King's Court section receive this t-shirt, featuring Felix Hernandez and his signature wind-up.

Professional sports teams have long used bobblehead dolls and free t-shirts to entice fans through the stadium gates. Even a less-than-exciting matchup can draw a crowd if a free gift is offered. A 2000 study by Mark McDonald and Daniel Rascher in the Journal of Sport Management found that promotions at Major League Baseball games increase short-run attendance by 14%.

With this in mind, the Mariners decided to capitalize on Felix Hernandez’s popularity and success. They took his nickname, King Felix, and created King’s Court, a section in the Safeco Field stands for which fans can purchase reduced-price tickets. Fans who sit in the section receive a free King Felix t-shirt (which, I must say, is awesome).

The first King’s Court promotion was held during Saturday night’s game against the New York Yankees, and it was a runaway success. A day after its initial announcement of the promotion, the club tweeted that the first section was sold out and another would be added.

Not only was the promotion itself a good idea, but the execution was also spot-on and holds lessons for future PR practitioners like myself. In reading more about the promotion, I pinpointed three lessons that this promotion holds for current and future PR practitioners who want to launch a successful campaign:

1) Capitalize on the best player you have.

The best “player” doesn’t necessarily mean the best athlete on your team. It could be your company’s best product or the best feature of that product. If your client makes ice cream and knows most of its customers prefer Rocky Road, your client should offer customers a discount on that specific product. It might encourage them to purchase more Rocky Road and/or more cartons of another flavor.

No fans would sit in a special section named after one of the Mariners’ more pedestrian players. Understanding what or whom the fans love and capitalizing on their willingness to support that product or person will lead to a more successful promotion.

2) Accommodate your customers and clients.

King's Court cheers on the Mariners during their 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees on May 28.

The original King’s Court section sold out quickly. Rather than saying “better luck next time” to the fans who still wanted to purchase King’s Court tickets, the Mariners opened another section for the promotion. While I don’t know exactly how many more fans purchased tickets in the second section, The Biz of Baseball blog noted that Safeco Field was filled to 79% capacity that night, larger than average attendance for the team.

It’s rarely possible to please every single person in a situation, but doing your best to accommodate customers, clients and guests can never do harm. Give people what they want, like another free sample or a discount on their favorite product.

3) Respond to your fans.

Some Mariners fans who were watching the game on television had not heard about the promotion by gametime on Saturday. When asked what the section of yellow shirts was all about, the Mariners responded with an explanation and a link to the site where he could purchase his own tickets. By not only informing fans of the promotion, but also giving them easy access to the ticket link, the Mariners are encouraging participation in the promotion and helping grow ticket sales.

They also tweeted Sunday, the day after the game, and asked fans for their thoughts on the section. The replies showed that fan response was overwhelmingly positive and that many fans want to buy King’s Court tickets later this season. Asking for feedback shows that the Mariners care about their followers’ opinions and are looking for ways to improve the King’s Court experience. You can do the same by asking event attendees for their thoughts via Twitter or by sending customers a survey to gauge their satisfaction with your service. Customers want their voices to be heard, so giving them an opportunity to express their opinions is key to a successful promotional campaign.

Hopefully, the excellent promotion execution continues and King’s Court becomes a tradition for Mariners fans. Even if the Mariners’ performance on the field starts dipping towards mediocrity again, I’m sure King Felix and his Court will give many fans a reason to keep coming through the Safeco Field gates. I’ve already talked with my dad about when we can head for Seattle to don the yellow t-shirts, enjoy a baseball game and become a part of the King’s Court.

Journal citation:

McDonald, M. & Rascher, D. (2000). Does Bat Day Make Cents? The Effect of Promotions on the Demand for Major League Baseball. Journal of Sport Management. 14, 8-27.

Photo credits:

T-shirt: Image from the Mariners’ King’s Court page

King’s Court: Elaine Thompson, AP photo. Accessed from the Kitsap Sun.