Controversial Joliet Jackhammers Billboard Sign

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Last week you may have heard or read about the Joliet Jackhammers of the Northern League placing a controversial billboard sign in/near Joliet, IL: has no animosity with particular team, league, executive, player, or any independent baseball personnel.  With that said, this site is not a “shill” for the industry either.  If we think something is done incorrectly we will mention it.

Apart from the obvious concerns about offending people and, as mentioned in the first article, one would that an independent baseball team (with a losing record every season since 2005 no less) would think twice about alienating its core fan base:  families with kids between the ages of 4 and 12.

Those who are veterans of the professional baseball world have to have thick skin and can’t be offended at much in order to last a long time in this business.  So, apart from the concerns of misusing religion and those who easily get “offended”, here is why this is a bad business decision even though people are talking about the team in December (as quoted in the end of the last article cited):

  • Minor league baseball (affiliated or independent) is heavily dependent on group ticket sales.  One of the few groups which convenes during the summertime are churches, a typical “old standby” of group ticket sales in minor league baseball.  Offending church groups risks hurting group ticket sales
  • The underlying belief/assumption is that “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is not correct.  Bad publicity gets people talking about you, but it is NOT a method for building a long-term business model especially when selling family entertainment.  With the amount of entertainment options open to families now versus 10 years ago, an entertainment business which relies on thousands of people to physically show up at one location cannot afford toalienate people.  A team which is comfortable with employing tactics to generate publicity at any cost is on a “slippery slope”; and it requires much greater finesse than most people realize to sway public opinion back to thinking that the team is worthy of their time and money over the long term
  • In the first week of October, the Jackhammers hosted the 2009 Independent Fall Meetings.  Both of the keynote speakers (not directly involved with the Jackhammers) spoke on the need for improvements in the industry in order to secure significant sponsorship dollars.  The fragmentation and feuds between some of the leagues are some of the reasons which have prevented major sponsors from investing in an industry which had over 8 million fans (announced attendance) go through the gates in 2009.  There is no “official” product sponsor of Independent Baseball for ANY industry; and stunts like this do nothing to endear the industry to major sponsorship dollars.  While the team and some readers may not like it, stunts like this – at best – will cause big-dollar sponsors to hesitate to spend with independent baseball teams/leagues.   In the worst case, sponsors who were considering investing in the leagues will hold onto their money and the 60+ teams slated to play in 2010 will suffer financially does not simply want to add yet another blog to the baseball industry which complains about situations.  Instead, we want to offer solutions because we are passionate about the industry and in our quest to help the industry gain legitimacy in the eyes of other pro baseball veterans, the fans, and large-dollar sponsors.

The goal of any sports team’s publicity/promotion activities is to increase the fans’ awareness of the team, and those actions are designed to persuade the fans (or sponsors) to take action by doing something which financially benefits the team/league.  With that said, here are some free suggestions which the Jackhammers (or any team) is welcome to use in order to endear the team to new fans, not alienate them:

  • Create videos and/or mini-reports on how to play better baseball and give them away to youth baseball/softball teams in the area
  • Find a way to offer more value to your ticket sales which costs nothing to the team.  For example, some teams in the CBL in 2007 and 2008 offered post-game lessons for all kids remaining in the stands.  Other teams offer nightly post-game base running for the kids.  Other teams have attempted to break/set world records based on gatherings of large groups of people.  Any of these, along with dozens of other ideas, can be beneficial in the larger goal of increasing ticket sales/sponsorships
  • Create “music video” slide shows of the team’s fans and send them to the fans asking them to send them to their friends and family members + Facebook/Twitter/MySpace pages.  This way a team can leverage its fan base AND increase exposure to new fans at no cost

Again, there are dozens of no-cost/low-cost ideas to get the word out about a team, increase brand awareness, increase ticket sales/sponsorship dollars, and earn “good will” in one’s community.  The Jackhammers, or any other team, are welcome to privately contact this site for ideas because – as previously stated – the goal of this website is to help the entire independent baseball industry gain further legitimacy, sponsorship dollars, and offer fans fantastic value for their time and money.

The Jackhammers have had some unique publicity items in 2009, from offering a contract to former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich and ownership stake offer to Rush Limbaugh.  Their willingness to be creative and spoof current events is rare in the sports world.  Here’s hoping that the Jackhammers, and any other independent baseball team, use creative publicity which increases revenues and endears themselves to everyone from this point onward.


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