Picking the brain of the Indians’ promotions pro

Indians manager of promotions in his Progressive Field office with some past giveaways. (Kyle Emery photo)

Indians manager of promotions in his Progressive Field office with some past giveaways. (Kyle Emery photo)

The Indians today released  their annual promotional schedule, and it’s once again chock full of goodies, from bobbleheads, jerseys and T-shirts to fireworks, Dollar Dog nights and Rally Alleys. You can find the full promotional schedule on Indians.com.

Indians Manager of Promotions Jason Kidik has overseen the development of the promotional schedule for the last eight seasons, and answered some questions from TribeVibe on how the laborious process works.

TribeVibe: How did you end up in this role with the Indians?

Jason Kidik: I spent six years working in Minor League Baseball (Mahoning Valley Scrappers, South Bend Silver Hawks, Columbus Clippers). While I was primarily responsible for promotions, I did everything from selling tickets to serving beer to pulling tarp to power-washing the ballpark to, on occasion, performing as the mascot for all three teams. You have to be creative/unique/innovative to survive; do the jobs others will not. In 2005, I was offered an opportunity to become the Promotions and Events guy for the Indians. It’s been a fun ride.

TV: How long of a process is the schedule development? Do you try to schedule promotions or giveaways on dates or days of the week when crowds typically are smaller?

JK: We typically get our first look at the next season’s schedule the June before and spend the next five months researching, benchmarking and brainstorming. We are always on the lookout for what is topical and relevant now and six months from now — which is not easy. We weigh everything in determining what events or items are assigned to each game date: time of season, day of week, opponent, strength of item, historical data, fan feedback, etc. We assign events and/or giveaways strategically based on the data in-hand in an attempt to maximize attendance. Some dates require more help than others to bring people to the ballpark. We try to speak to all of our demographics throughout the season and give them added incentive to experience the ballpark.

TV: Corporate sponsors obviously play a role in the process; do they approach you about getting involved, or are you working with our corporate partnerships department to generate sponsors for some of the promotions?

JK: Once the promotions calendar is set, our corporate partnerships team works with our partners to determine best fit for each item or event. Sometimes the partner brings an idea to the table that we explore and implement as well.

TV: What promotions are most popular with fans these days?

JK: Wearables (jerseys, caps, T-shirts) and bobbleheads seem to attract the most fans, which you will see translates to the 2013 promo schedule. However, there is still something to be said for items like a fleece blanket or Slider Slippers that offer a unique opportunity. From an event standpoint, fireworks are still king with our fan base. We are offering 16 fireworks nights in 2013, including the two-night return of the award winning Rock N’ Blast. KeyBank Kids Fun Day on Sundays is a big hit with families. The introduction of the Kids Clubhouse in 2012 took the event to a new level and gave kids a place to go every game.

Vaughn BH displayed in HOF 2

TV: What has been one of your favorite promotions? What’s your favorite on this year’s schedule?

JK: My favorite giveaway has to be the 2009 Rick Vaughn bobblehead. Over a year’s work went into bringing the item and the day around it to life. Working with Paramount Pictures and BDA to create the bobblehead that is now on display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame (pictured) was so much fun and a sense of pride. Building the “Major League” 20th Anniversary event around it was exciting. We targeted an interleague game versus the Brewers so Bob Uecker (Brewers play-by-play and “Harry Doyle” from the movie) could participate. He was wonderful to work with. ESPN picked us up as their national game to cover the event. We received coverage from MSNBC, CNN, FoxNews, USA Today, etc.  In 2013, I am looking forward to Rock N’ Blast, like I do every year. Words cannot describe the experience. If you are in Northeast Ohio, it is a must-attend. Also, I am excited to bring Albert Belle back to Progressive Field in bobblehead form. I am very pleased with how this item developed and hope the fans enjoy it as well.

TV: What’s the craziest promotion you’ve done?

JK: I would not call any of our giveaways or events crazy. However, we did bring in WWE’s Sgt. Slaughter a few years back (I think 2008) and added him to the mix of our in-game Sugardale Hot Dog Derby. He was supposed to fake-clothesline Ketchup behind home plate. However, Ketchup decided to run full speed into the Sarge’s arm, flinging Ketchup backwards in mid-air and landing hard on his back. I had a great view of the entire ballpark from our left field door (where the Hot Dogs enter the field for the race). When Ketchup went down, the roar from the 30,000-plus crowd rivaled a walk-off homer. We ended up leading off SportsCenter that night. There is another time where I almost ended (former Michigan quarterback) Drew Henson’s baseball career in Columbus, but I do not think I can get into that. Working in sports, you see and do things you never would imagine, but it is a blast.

TV: Have you ever had to turn down a promotion and why? Any horror stories as far as logistics/delays/arrivals go?

JK: There are many more promotional ideas than opportunities to implement, so we are always picking and choosing carefully. As for horror stories, my biggest headache was the Mustard Plush Doll giveaway of 2010. In the days leading up to the giveaway date, the truck delivering the dolls from California could not be found by the vendor. We spent a few days trying to track down the driver. Finally on the day of the giveaway, the vendor heard from the driver. We received the items a few hours before gates opened. At the end of the day, it all worked out, but I never want to go through anything like that again.

See below for a video featuring Indians radio broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus that is sure to get you excited for the 2013 season!

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