Keeping fans engaged is key to a minor league baseball team’s survival, according to Maria Valentyn, vice president of entertainment for the Beloit Sky Carp, a Wisconsin minor league affiliate of the Miami Marlins. That’s where two lifelong friends come in with their unique marketing ideas to reel in audiences.
“Minor league baseball has always said they’re the front porch of the community,” Jason Klein, co-founder of the sports marketing company Brandiose, told CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. “Our job, I see, is to bring dignity to these towns.”
He and co-founder Casey White begin their work by going into communities to get a feel for its culture. They then use it to create “this whole world that reinforces that thing that they’re proud of,” Klein said.
Season ticket sales for the Sky Carp are up more than 6,000%. Valentyn attributes some of that success to Klein and White.
“The idea is that no matter what type of day you’ve had prior to the baseball game, you can drive and step into this whole other world where there’s mascots playing with your kids,” Klein said. “There’s on-field entertainment. There’s silly names. There’s promotions, and they all reinforce everything that you love about your community and that it’s celebrating some story that means a lot to you as a local.”
The two, who became friends in kindergarten, started the company with hopes of creating the ultimate high school mascot.
“We sent 150 letters to every minor league baseball team across the country, and one got back to us, and they said, ‘If we like it, we’ll buy it.’ And we turned my bedroom into an office at my parents’ house, and Brandiose began,” Klein said.
They’re behind such team names as the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Akron Rubber Ducks, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and — one of their most iconic feats — the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
“The ownership group hesitated a lot using the word trash in their name,” said Lindsey Knupp, the team’s vice president of marketing.
But the logo featuring a raccoon in a trash-can rocket ship took off with fans after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the team’s first season.
“We sold $2.3 million in merchandise before playing a Trash Pandas game and helped keep us afloat there,” Knupp said. “It kept all of our employees, full-time employees here. It kept the business from going under, and we were able to get by.”
The Trash Pandas now have some of the highest attendance rates in minor league baseball and sell more merchandise than other teams.
But the Pandas’ success wasn’t enough as the pandemic negatively impacted Brandiose. So the two created The Clink Room — an online forum where aspiring designers from around the world can bring their visions to life on baseball hats.
“Literally saved our business,” Klein said of the endeavor.