This isn't exactly hard-hitting analysis, but it's something I think about sometimes. Why are the Orioles so bad at promotions? They have a crappy team and plummeting attendance, so how should they get people to the ballpark? Promotions! Don't say it doesn't work, either. You've been to Fireworks Night. You've seen how many people show up for bobbleheads. What is their deal?
As many of you know, last week I was in Pittsburgh for their interleague series with the Orioles. The Pirates spent the entire series rubbing it in my face that forty years ago they beat the Orioles in the World Series. On Monday they handed out a very nice canvas wrap (attached to a frame) depicting the final out of the 1971 WS. On Tuesday they handed out an even nicer ceramic stein commemorating the 1971 team. Both items were much nicer than pretty much anything you'll get at Oriole Park outside of a bobblehead, a common promotional item across baseball. One look at the Pirates promotional schedule shows that their entire season of promotions is more plentiful and imaginative than the Orioles.
After I returned from Pittsburgh, I took in Saturday night's Orioles game against the Reds, which happened to be Buck Showalter Bobblehead Night. I love my Buck bobble, it's awesome. We even arrived early to make sure we'd get one, and it turns out that was a good idea. The attendance was nearly double the number of bobbles they were handing out, and we witnessed one person trying to buy a bobblehead from everyone he saw since he didn't get one. Last year, Matt Wieters bobblehead day was on Wednesday, June 30th. The attendance that day was about 21K, which doesn't sound that fantastic until you consider that the day before they had 10K less fans in the stands and the day after they had 6K less. They only topped 17K two other weekdays that month (out of eight games), both when the Yankees were in town. And that's not weekdays in April, people. That was June.
Finally, Baseball Nation this week ranked each major league team by its best promotional item. The Orioles and Nationals tied for 28th, with only the Red Sox (who don't give anything away), falling below them. Here is what Grant Brisbee had to say:
The PR people from the Nationals and Orioles know each other, apparently, and they had concert tickets the day the promotional schedules were due. Bobbleheads from players you'd expect. A mug. Some hats. The hats are different colors. Throw in a fireworks night, and call it a day. This is the promotional equivalent to copying and pasting a Wikipedia article for your term paper.
Look, promotional items might not be something that we give a ton of thought to (although I personally am a big fan), and ideally the Orioles would be so good that it wouldn't even matter, but that's just not the case right now. Do they want to get more people in the stands? Sure, it costs money to give items away, but wouldn't the corresponding bump in attendance make up for it? (By the way, a quick glance at the attendance shows that t-shirt days don't seem to give the team too much of a bump, but bobblehead days and other, cooler ideas, like the day in 2009 they gave away Nick Markakis BP jerseys AND showed Field of Dreams on the big screen after the game, do raise the attendance.)
So if anyone from the Orioles is reading this, do us all a favor and, in addition to fielding a better team in 2012, put a little more thought into your promotions as well.