Pro Panel - The Bobblehead Bungle
Best of 2002: The Gameops.com Review
Best of 2004: The Gameops.com Review
Ben Hill Interivew
Best of 2003: The Gameops.com Review
Our annual review of all things operations and entertainment was done
by polling a dozen of our most trusted non-biased industry pros.
Of course in an industry so spread out and diverse, it is impossible to find a large group of people who have see it all, but effort was made to find people who have seen a lot.
We also took note of stories and reviews from web sources and industry literature. Six categories have been selected.
Our selections are in:
The mascot whose work in was creative and enthusiastic, serving as a valuable tool for their team and in their community. All sports team characters and college mascots are eligible.
The Gameops.com Best Mascot award remains weighted towards NBA mascots, with about 4 out of 5 mascots nominated performing in the NBA.
Winner: (Tie) Squatch (Seattle Sonics) and Clutch (Houston Rockets)
Two mascots stood out from the pack in 2003 and we had a very even split in the debate over who was "best"...so we present our first "tie" and present the "Best of" award to both.
Seattle's Squatch was singled out for bringing a great range of talents to his fans in Seattle. Tumbling, drumming, dunking, dancing and a variety of creative skits.
Also honored last year with an Honorable Mention, Clutch, the Houston Rockets mascot, stood out by presenting bold writing on and off the court. His creative skits seperated him from the pack and he brings tremendous value to his team with a popular school program and innovative web content.
- K.C. Wolf (KC Chiefs) - A Kansas City Legend making hundreds of appearances on behalf of his team each year.
- Rocky the Mountain Lion - Rocky spent two years as the Gameops.com Best Mascot award and he hasn't fallen far. Mentioned near the top of of everyone's list, Rocky maintains his excellence and maintains his status as the best thing you will see at a Nuggets game.
The touring act or entertainment show that excels in providing quality entertainment for your fans. Consider drawing power, quality, cooperation of the act, media, and value. All touring acts and non-team affiliated shows and performers are considered.
Winner: Quick Change
This Las Vegas act continues to impress teams and fans nation-wide and for the second straight year wins Gameops.com Best Act award. The act features mind-numbingly fast costume changes and has been updated with some new twists to keep fans interested who may have caught their act previously. One of the few touring acts that can draw fans based on their tremendous word-of-mouth following and growing reputation.
- Red Panda - It certainly doesn't sound like one of the great acts on paper, but this act never ceases to please fans.
- Ushertainers (St. Paul Saints) - Not a touring act, but the Saints again have innovated with the Ushertainers. The performers each created a persona, (Patron Saint of Baseball History, Myths and Lies, Patron Saint of Late 70's/Early 80's Hard Rock, Patron Saint of Japanese Baseball), and provided new sketches for each inning of a game for each game throughout the year. The Saints passed on national touring acts last year relying instead on this talented bunch.
- Gentlemen Jugglers - A stand-out act for consistency, value and entertainment.
The provider of quality services or products that are most helpful for game operations. Consider service, products offered, and value.
Winner: Signs and Shapes
While this category gets few nominations overall, one vendor continues to impress several Game Operations panel members with their focus on creativity and service to sports entertainmnet, Omaha-based Signs and Shapes. Lead by Lee Bowen, Signs and Shapes has expanded their line of products and continued to improve on their line of inflatable costumes.
Best Game Promotion:
What single game night promotion was most effective and creative. An example would be "President's Night" where a team builds a game day promotion around a theme like "President's Night", perhaps handing out US flags and having namesakes like "George Washington, Richard Nixon, and George Bush" dropping the puck for a game held on President's Day. Consider creativity, entertainment value, media exposure, drawing power, and execution of the operations.
Winner: Awful Night (Altoona Curve)
The Pirates Double A franchise Altoona Curve put on a real tour-de-force promotion on July 14th, called Awful Night. Their goal....be simply Awful. The only failure: In their drive to be the worst, they have landed on top, with our Gameops.com Best Game Promotion Award.
The team sought (and found) every possible way to be bad, including music, video, premiums, entertainment, and pyrotechnics. The lowlights included:
- Clips from the movie Toxic Avenger
- Music from William Shatner and Milli Vanilli
- A gate giveaway of a 12 inch square piece of bubble-wrap
- A special presentation to awful teams like the 76 Buccaneers, 1962 Mets, and the 1990's Bengals
- Player batting averages were listed as "failed averages"....so a .300 hitter would have a .700 average of failing.
- Bad contests, like "Dunking for Onions" and "Bald Guy Races for a Toupee"
- An awful pre-game fireworks display
- In-contests, the winners get nothing.
- Pre-game autographs with non-celebrities
The event got national attention, including a mention on the "Best Damn Sports Show Period". The evening was a classic example of a team reaching every conceivable method to connect with fans on a promotion. While it was simply awful.....it was simply extraordinary. Creative, complete, funny, media-friendly, well executed.....and a winner all around.
- $1 SARS Night in Toronto - When the SARS outbreak hit Toronto it nearly shut down the city and caused serious damage to Toronto's tourism. The Toronto Blue Jays flexed its civic role by encouraging a massive turnout to a game. To send the message that the city was a safe, vibrant and healthy city, it offered tickets for $1 Canadian (about $.69 US) and sold over 48,000 tickets, which was the largest crowd since opening night.
The team used the game and surrounding publicity to help educate people on the SARS virus. While the team cited nearly half a million dollar loss (from the potential revenue lost from selling $1 tickets), the $48,000 gate was really only about $160,000 less than the revenue for an average game. The loss on paper is insignifacant to the goodwill earned and the message that the team sent to fans, locals, and potenial tourists.
- Throwback Nights - (Seattle Sonics, among many other teams) Many teams took the standard "Turn-Back-the-Clock" nights beyond wearing old uniforms in the last year. Many, like the Seattle Sonic, integrated the theme throughout their game presentation and marketing. Seattle turned back to 1979 and handed out replica Championship rings, throw-back jerseys, discounted food and beer specials and special ticket purchase packages in their year-long "Throw Back Tuesday Promotions".
Best On-Field Contest or Promotion:
What promotion or contest is the most entertaining. For example, a "Chuck-a-puck" contest. This is a repeatable on-field promotion that is held in-game. Consider entertainment value, sponsorship possibilities, cost, and repeatability.
Winner: Milwaukee's Sausage Races / Brooklyn's Hot Dog Races
No contest got more publicity than the Sausage Races in Milwaukee thanks in part to Pittsburgh first bagger Randall Simon....but that's not the only reason our panel loved the Sausage Races. Nothing says "Milwaukee" like Sausages (and beer), so the race is both fun and sponsor-friendly, but it also ties into the community, albeit in a rather odd manner.
While many teams have some "live" racing, Milwaukee and the Brooklyn Cyclones "Nathan's Famous Hot Dog races" stood out for their creativity and community connection. Credit also to Brooklyn for creating an amusing back-story with their lovable loser "Relish" (the hot dog who finds a new way to lose each night).
- Baby Races / Diaper Dash
As one panelist pointed out, "I love the baby races". The cute and comical baby races are back in popularity. Many teams are also using them to attract families and a non-traditional sports sponsor (baby-products) to their games. Fans get a huge kick out of the event as the cute kids of the community race to see who is the fastest baby.
Several teams like the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA) have also added a Community Relations element boasting a charitable donation in the form of a diaper Drive to the event....raising money and awareness for the Homeward Bound Program.
Read more about Baby Races on the Gameops.com Interview with Glen Gower of the Ottawa 67's.
Best Team Operations:
Which team is doing the best job in their game operations and game presentation. Consider creativity, value to fans, overcoming sport and budget limitations, quality of presentation, and attention to detail. We level the playing field by considering budget constraints to minor league teams.
Winner: Dayton Dragons
When you sell out 287 straight games, you are doing something right...and the Dayton Dragons seem to be doing everything right. Game presenation is one of the highest priorities from this Mandalay Baseball Properties franchise, and their committment to entertaining fans is paying off with repeated sell-outs even when the team isn't winning. They have continued to create, revise and innovate to keep games fresh and interesting....and the waiting list for tickets continues to grow.
Brooklyn Cyclones - Class A team that has devoted itself to providing a high-level of game night entertainment to the fans in Brooklyn. They have tapped into years of area baseball history and Brooklyn pride to present a show that is both entertaining, relevant, and sponsor-friendly. As they like to say...there is nothing minor about Brooklyn Baseball.
- Pittsburgh Pirates - The Pirates use their game promotions to highlight games and series at a time when their on-field product may be sub-par. The often tie premiums, into theme nights and use the entire fan experience to send fans home with a complete entertainment package.
- Ottawa 67s Hockey - A team that is constantly looking for fresh ideas and new acts. They also pay attention to the little details and nuances of every promotion that really set them apart from other teams. For example, many teams do the Baby Races, but Ottawa took additional steps to make it more interesting for fans and turned it into great web content for their team site.
- Saint Paul Saints - Nothing changed for last year's "Best of" Award Winner. Baseball's fun-centric underdog, the Veeck-inspired Saints could win this every year with their dedication to fun and increasing entertainment value. They do more with less fiscally and they relish in making a statement while they are at it.
While the NBA mascots get the most attention in the Best Mascot category, it was interesting that we had no NBA teams nominated for Best Team Operations. A couple panelists mentioned that the NBA has become so homogeneous it has become the least creative and interesting in sports. Baseball's slower pace and longer season make it the best breeding ground for interesting and fun promotions, especially at the minor league level.Best of 2007: The Gameops.com Review
Ben Hill Interivew
Best of 2004: The Gameops.com Review
Best of 2002: The Gameops.com Review