I love live baseball. There’s something even more special about being at a baseball stadium than other sports venues. The smells, the sounds, the crack of the bat on the ball, the roar of the crowd, and the sense of closeness to the game.
Baseball has permeated so much of our culture. Without getting all “Field of Dreams” it’s amazing how America’s pastime brings so many of us together. Summertime brings us to the park to slow down a bit. We put on our favorite jerseys and faded cap, tuck our gloves under our arms and cram into a ballpark buzzing with energy. We grab a dog and a beer, and head to our seats. Gotta be in the seats for the national anthem and the first pitch! We immediately become at one with the crowd, the players and even the field.
Just like craft beer is not just about the beer, baseball is more than the action on the field. It’s the numbers behind the game, the connections with fans in the crowd, and the sharing of memories of experiences long past. We connect through the good times and the bad. We cherish the rare, special moments of triumph, and look forward to victories down the road as we mutter “we’ll get ‘em next time” leaving the park. Baseball, like craft beer, builds community.
If you’re like me, you applaud a great play even if it comes from the other team. The game is bigger than the moment, bigger than the wins and certainly bigger than any given error, bad call or even loss. We live to see the next great play. We live to connect, and maybe even win, another day.
I’ve had the good fortune to have seen a game in every MLB team’s park over the years. When traveling for business, I tried hard to check another ballpark off my list every chance I could. The quest started at Shea Stadium in 1973 when I was a teen, and was completed at Petco Park in 2015. There were a lot of repeats, especially sunny afternoons in the bleachers at Wrigley, night games after work at the now demolished Riverfront Stadium, and since 1995 at my home park Coors Field. I hit many Triple A ballparks or other lower farm team games along the way as well. Frankly, these lower level games are some of my best memories. The seats are closer to the field. Though the play may not be as spectacular at times, one can’t help but feel more a part of the experience.
What can baseball teach us about marketing craft beer?
The best connections are built by getting people out to the game. And when people come to your ballpark, make them feel as welcome as possible. I love the old timer greeters at ballparks. You know they are there for the greater experience, their love of the game, and for connecting with fans. Be sure your taproom and tour staff emulates that same zeal and reverence for your game and builds the same kinds of connections. And if you cannot get the out-of-town fan to the brewery, bring the brewery to life for them at retail in their home towns. Marketing counts – and it’s more than a slick promotion. Events out of your home territory are also great ways to bring the brewery to life in a memorable way, connect with your more remote fans and remind them they are a part of your team as well.
Keep the fans close to the action. Many of the newer ballparks have excellent sight lines. I remember wondering around Target Field for the first time and remarking there is not a bad seat in the house! How do you create sight lines and experiences that bring your fans closer to the game? Your fans want to see as much of the game as possible, whether on tour or enjoying beer in your taproom. Like the well-manicured fields in baseball, keep your copper and chrome shiny!
Celebrate your team’s history. I love the way baseball teams keep memories alive in the park, venerate heroes past and present, and celebrate spirited competition and rivalries. Be sure you celebrate your beer the same way! How do you pay homage to your hero beers present and past? Even if you’re just now opening your new brewery and have yet to establish your legends, show respect to the craft of beer. It communicated that even though you are new to the game, you appreciate the legacy of the craft.
Celebrate your stars. Your staff are your stars. How do you support and celebrate them? Do you post information (appropriately) that lets your fans get to know your players? In today’s world we need to protect our identities, but what about sharing something safe and interesting about your staff to connect them more personally with your fans? Your brewers are your superstar. How do you bring them into connect with the fans? How do you bring their personalities to life? What’s the value of a selfie with the brewer of your new favorite beer? Or a private look out back? They’re priceless.
Have community days. Have you ever been to a baseball game where they weren’t celebrating some group or cause in the local area? Take a page from their playbook. It’s not just about getting butts in the seats, though that is a great benefit of these events. More than just attendance, it’s a chance to reach new drinkers, and connect current drinkers just a bit closer. It’s about building and claiming your place in the community. It shows you care about your fans for more than just commercial reasons. It shows you’re not just a pin on the Google Map.
Keep the level of play high. As I’ve mentioned many times, even great beer doesn’t market itself. But bad beer, like poor on-field play, will eventually kill even the most beloved team. And like any rookie, you’ll be quickly benched if you whiff at the plate too often.
Next time you’re out at the ballpark, take a look at how you can emulate these best practices back at your brewery. Let me know what ideas you find!
Hope to see you at a game soon, and your taproom afterwards.
Cheers! And let’s play two!
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