Ben Hill runs milb.com's Promo Preview, an in-depth chronicle of the top Minor League promotions. Hill told me how promotions have a significant impact on attendance and add to the overall fan experience. "It's about providing as much entertainment as possible over the course of nine innings so that fans will be inclined to come back again no matter what is going on," Hill said.
While admitting that it was a difficult task, as he's been following 160 teams (most with 70 games), Hill shared his five favorite recent promotions:
1. Frederick Keys: Clue Night: A game-long mascot murder mystery based on the classic board game.
2. Reading Fightin Phils: Win Jim Murphy's Jaguar: Rather than drive his 1991 Jaguar back to his home in Washington, Murphy, Reading's first baseman, gave it away. All proceeds went to charity.
The Reading Fightin Phils are holding an unusual promo: the team is giving away a 1991 Jaguar owned by 1B Jim Murphy: http://t.co/laPCetlB6H- Ballpark Digest (@ballparkdigest) August 21, 2013
3. Lehigh Valley IronPigs: Funeral Giveaway: The IronPigs recently gave away a funeral (the winner had ALS). A few days later, the Club gave away foam fingers for Prostate Cancer Awareness Night.
4. State College Spikes: Purr in the Park: A lot of teams allow fans to bring dogs to the ballpark, but during each of the past three seasons the Spikes have extended that offer to cats as well.
5. Potomac Nationals: Roger Bernadina Sharkarine Night: In honor of Bernadina's nickname, the P-Nats gave away figurines in which the lower half of his body is a shark.
"The promotions that have the biggest impact on attendance are when a giveaway item corresponds with a celebrity guest," Hill said. Keep that in mind, MiLB and MLB marketing departments!