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A Giant Race for a Giant Market: Giants Enterprises Engages Active Consumers

Giants Enterprises’ ideas have served as a catalyst for organizations to dive into the active engagement lifestyle, which is heavily important to consumers.

Aaron Blake

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Photo credit: Giants Enterprises

If you have been involved in baseball, odds are you might have ran the bases at a minor or major league ballpark before as part of a fan promotion. But what if the fun did not have to stop there, and you had access to run on the field and experience the major league ballpark from a different perspective? 

Well, Giants Enterprises — the entrepreneurial business arm to the San Francisco Giants — has you covered with its annual Giant Race Series. Taking place every spring and through the season, the organization holds these walk/run events, combined with baseball, in various West Coast cities.

As a whole, Giants Enterprises helps businesses and organizations throw one-of-a-kind experiences at Oracle Park, throughout San Francisco, on the Bay, and across the country. The group bridges the sports and entertainment gap outside of the 162-game season.

“San Francisco is interesting,” said Brian Kennedy, race director, Giant Race Series. “There is a lot of health and wellness in the Bay Area, and this just made sense.”

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Running and baseball make sense, but why specifically hill-ridden San Francisco? According to Runners World, San Francisco is the No. 1 running city in the United States, creating a great fit.

At its base, the Giant Race is the ultimate fan-interaction event with the San Francisco Giants and their minor-league affiliates, spanning multiple Giants markets in California and Arizona.

Beginning during spring training, with tours through Scottsdale, San Jose, and Sacramento, the event culminates at Oracle Park with 30,000-plus participants.

“Scottsdale is like an adult spring break,” joked Kennedy. “And this is a good way to get back into the swing of baseball. Three-fourths of our Giants fanbase wants to travel down for spring training, so we give them a unique experience.”

Kennedy and his team know that this physical interaction with the San Francisco Giants brand is easy and one of the best ways to bolster their own mission of being San Francisco’s leader in creating innovative, entrepreneurial events, and in commercializing major events and venues.

“We’re authentically connecting fans through health and wellness,” said Kennedy. “The race is an incredible platform for the organization to engage with fans and supporters on the active lifestyle front.”

The individual markets are saturated with people, while San Jose is a top-10 market city and Sacramento is a 35th largest city — both claiming Giants baseball passions while maintaining their MiLB ties.

The Giants organization and Giants Enterprises have worked together for years with running enthusiasts to create this experience all season long, and 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary.

“The race series has grown to four races servicing over 30K run/walkers each year in four markets,” said Kennedy. “In 2019, however, we look to debut the first-ever, inside-the-park full marathon event on the warning track of Oracle Park.”

The organization knows its races do a great job of connecting like-minded individuals in the Bay Area, boasting a 40-percent retention rate from year to year with word-of-mouth expression being the forerunner of advertising in the running community.

“We are the leader in the MLB,” said Kennedy. “We haven’t found another sports team with a series of races across four different markets impacting people and 30,000 runners.”

Even the races’ main corporate sponsorship takes after their baseball and active brand. Alaska Airlines sponsors the races and serves as the official airline of the Giants, along with its other health and wellness endeavors.

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Alaska Airlines most prominently sponsors the MLS’s Portland Timbers and is involved in the Pacific Northwest’s sports demographic too.

Nailing down a strong and trusted brand with its audience and potential audiences is vital moving forward for Giants Enterprises; to the group, it’s all about making the most sense to consumers.

“They [Alaska Airlines] are a strong partner with Giants baseball,” said Kennedy. “They help move Giants fans across America and participate in health and wellness.”

However, the Giants are not the only health and wellness-oriented ball club, as the Pittsburgh Pirates are hosting their “Pirates Home Run 5K/10K” in April 2019.

Certainly, Giants Enterprises did not create the baseball community involvement, but its ideas have served as a catalyst for other organizations to dive into the active engagement lifestyle, which is heavily important to consumers.

Aaron is a Front Office Sports Account Manager for Varsity Partners. He attends UNC Charlotte, loves spending time in the Appalachian mountains, and has interned with IMG-Learfield and ESPN 730. He can be reached at aaron@frntofficesport.com

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MLB Grit Invitational Aims to Help Foster Women’s Baseball at Youth Level

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More than 60 teenage women will take the field at the Texas Rangers Globe Life Park this weekend as part of the MLB Grit invitational.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball have partnered to host the high school invitational for girls who play baseball, bringing the players together for games, development and speakers. MLB Grit is building on the league’s other keystone women’s baseball events: The Trailblazer Series and Breakthrough Series.

Play begins Friday at Globe Life Park and finishes with games at Rangers MLB Youth Academy on Sunday.

MLB Grit is tournament style and will have a lot more gameplay than other the other two events, said Kim Ng, MLB senior vice president of baseball and softball development.

Ng said the league hopes to further develop a strong international community in women’s baseball.

“Right now, we’re seeing individual girls on boys baseball teams at the high school level,” Ng said. “It’s not just bubbling, this sport has had women involved for some time now. I think it’s starting to open some eyes. Youth participation in baseball has been part of Commissioner Manfred’s platform and agenda, and it’s important to us.

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“In a lot of ways, this is an underserved group and we want to provide some opportunities. It’s not a large group, but very vocal and we felt it was important to give some attention and put some attention to it.”

The MLB Grit roster includes participants from 21 states, Washington D.C., Canada and Puerto Rico, including five players from national teams. Team USA is represented by Ashton Lansdell and Emily Tsujikawa; Team Puerto Rico by Eva Cristina Torres Vega and Canada by Allison Schroeder and Liz Gilder.

Canada and Puerto Rico will each have eight players in Dallas.

Coaching the girls on the field this weekend will be a range of former big leaguers and women’s national team members, ranging from former MLB infielder Homer Bush and former MLB pitcher Marvin Freeman to eight current and former members of the USA Baseball Women’s National Team, including Malaika Underwood, Tamara Holmes, Donna Mills, Shelby Estocado, Meggie Meidlinger, Alex Oglesby, Ila Borders and A.J. Hamilton.

Also in attendance will be Robin Wallace, a former MLB scout and member of the Women’s National Team and current associate coordinator of baseball development with MLB.

Ng said along with Trailblazers and Breakthrough series, MLB Grit has potential to be another signature event for women’s baseball, and the league representatives will continue to have an open mind moving forward in how to continue furthering the sport.

The MLB Grit weekend is also a time for many of the great stories of the girls who play high school baseball to be on a platform, Ng said.

READ MORE: Minor League Baseball Connects Women to Help ‘Lift’ Careers

“Just think about how they’re most likely the only girl playing on their high school team; that takes a lot of courage to be different, noticeably different,” she said. “This is a sport you can be different and it’s important to help them and provide them a place to be themselves.”

The weekend will also feature three speakers to help inspire the girls in attendance: Fox Sports Network Rangers reporter Emily Jones McCoy; Rangers Executive Vice President and General Counsel Katie Pothier; and Rangers Senior Software Developer Kim Eskew.

“For many of our youth events, we try to get speakers to come talk about different themes and obstacles they’ve overcome to really open the kids’ minds,” Ng said. “It gives them a perspective to see these people as role models in their careers or in terms of the adversity they faced and needed to overcome.

“This is a potential pipeline for us, so we’re introducing them to these women, influential women who have overcome a lot and associated with baseball and Major League Baseball.”

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Stadium Series PreGame Shows Off NHL Partnership Growth

NHL executives are excited about the growth of brand partners in a robust marketing calendar, exemplified by this year’s Stadium Series in Philadelphia.

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The NHL continues to build on its robust marketing calendar and the brand partner support behind the events, like this weekend’s Stadium Series.

Saturday’s game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field will be the league’s 26th outdoor game since 2008, which has provided brand partners a unique way to connect with fans, said Evin Dobson, NHL Group vice president of partnership marketing. This year’s Stadium Series will have 16 activating sponsors, up from 10 last year, at the PreGame festivities.

“Franchises like the Winter Classic and Stadium Series offer built-in collaboration and support with prominent league partners,” Dobson said. “They celebrate the nostalgia and take fans back to the sport’s roots of playing on frozen ponds and rivers — and the partners rally behind them as marketing platforms and touch the fans in ways not normally available.”

Part of this year’s activating partner growth is based on the overall growth of partnerships, as the league has added eight in the past 10 months.

“Looking at this year’s cast of partners, there’s a strong presence from the heavy activators that always show up and support,” Dobson said. “Then this year, there’s a couple new ones activating and reinforcing that these jewel events are a great moment to associate themselves with.”

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The Stadium Series title sponsor Coors Light will continue its activation, led by a responsibility station, promoting responsible drinking. There also will be its upcycled bar, which is made with used products including hockey pucks, sticks, nets and skate blades. Behind it are guest bartenders passing out Silver Bullets, including former Flyers star Jeremy Roenick.

Coors Light will also be one of several sponsors with “stick-in-hand” activations, allowing fans to practice their hockey skills.

Likewise, other established brand partners like Honda, Geico, Kraft-Heinz, Pepsi and Dunkin’ will be on site with activations. Others with stick activations include MassMutual’s hardest shot, New Amsterdam Vodka’s Bullseye Battle and NHL Network’s Target Practice into a stacked washer and dryer.

New partners, like Jagermeister, which is the official shot partner, will have its Shots on Goal tent, which includes a custom hockey shot stick —  much like the shot skis seen in bars across the country. The cold factor of the outdoor game plays well into the optimum chilled temperature of a Jagermeister shot, Dobson said, making it a playful partner.

Additionally, fellow new partner MGM Resorts will be hosting a luxury tailgating experience, which allows fans a reprieve from the cold in a “relaxing and inviting space” with games and giveaways.

Navy Federal Credit Union joins as the Official Military Appreciation Partner, also with a stick-in-hand activation and thematic highlights during the game.

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The NHL has continued to grow its partnership roster, but the strategy is not about the number, Dobson said. It is now pushing 40 partners overall in the U.S. and Canada, and the league’s partners are beginning to grab hold of the calendar of events. As Dobson said, many like to work six months or more in advance on plans for destination-based marketing platforms, programming promotions and engaging local constituencies.

The robust marketing calendar helps make the NHL a nearly year-round league, a macro business decision made more than a decade ago to help broaden and the partnerships, Dobson said.

Along with the partnership activation growth at the Stadium Series, the activation extensions are building across the board, like at the All-Star Game, which grew from 17 to 23 partnership activations this year in San Jose.

Right now, Dobson believes the growing number of strong brand partnerships signifies the strength of the NHL business.

“We focus on category exclusive rights that are delivering value and not diluting over time,” Dobson said. “We’re not focused on numbers. As long as partners give us positive feedback, we don’t think we have an over-saturation.”

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Charlotte Leaders Expect Significant Benefits From Hosting All-Star Game

Charlotte leaders expect to earn more than the estimated $100 million in economic impact, including global media exposure.

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Two years ago, Charlotte, North Carolina was supposed to host the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA suddenly switched the location to New Orleans, though, as a result of protests from a controversial legislative bill in North Carolina that restricted bathroom usage. Now, two years later, Charlotte is expecting more than $100 million in economic impact from this season’s All-Star Game, which is scheduled for this weekend.

“It’s been a long road,” said Laura White, director of communications at the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. “It’s been five years in the making and we’re excited to see it culminate finally.”

The CRVA CEO Tom Murray and Charlotte Hornets President Fred Whitfield co-chaired the executive planning committee for the All-Star Game.

Whitfield was a season-ticket holder during the original Hornets franchise and remembers the last time the city hosted an All-Star Game, in 1991. The Eastern Conference All-Star Game includes Hornets guard Kemba Walker as a starter. 

“Our city has experienced tremendous growth,” Whitfield said. “The game of basketball and the NBA has truly become a global game and expanded from a two-day event to a weeklong event.”

READ MORE: NBA All-Star Weekend Filled With Entertainment and Commerce

The economic impact estimates come in part from the results of New Orleans’ 2017 game, along with Orlando. White said the organization prefers not to release projections and instead favors the concrete numbers following an event, but with the two similar cities in the Southeast, there were solid, comparable numbers to work with.

SportsEconomics and Strategic Marketing Services found the 2012 All-Star game in Orlando resulted in a $95 million economic impact for Orange County. A study by LSU Economics & Policy Research Group found an $82.7 million impact for the 2017 New Orleans game, including $44.9 million in spending.

Last year’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles was projected to produce $116 million in economic impact.

The event will likely be the most impactful sporting event ever in Charlotte, and up there with its largest event — the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which generated an economic impact of $164 million.

White said the CRVA also defers to the hosting organization to project attendance, which the NBA is citing as upwards of 150,000 for the weekend. No matter the number of tourists coming to Charlotte for the game, both the CRVA’s Murray and Charlotte Mayor Vy Lyles said they hope the visitors experience true Southern hospitality.

“From day one of our planning, we’ve always wanted to ensure the All-Star Game felt the sense of Charlotte’s hospitality from the second it arrives,” Murray said.

While Charlotte hosts more than 40 Hornets games every season, White said the All-Star Game provides a larger set of challenges, in large part because so few tickets end up for sale. With that in mind, she pointed to all the ancillary events across the city, ranging from the extra celebrity games to the sponsorship activations to the restaurant and nightlife in Charlotte’s EpiCentre.

“It’s such a different animal,” White said. “We’ll feel it pretty wide.”

In terms of sponsorship activations, CRVA representatives are particularly enthused about Jordan’s takeover of the Mint Museum’s large gift shop. There are more than 160 events across the city.

READ MORE: Atlanta Is Ready for Positive Economic Impact During Super Bowl Week

One of the three factors considered when contemplating hosting major events — along with economic impact and media impressions — is supporting the hospitality industry. One in every nine jobs is in the hospitality industry, the fourth largest in Charlotte.

Murray was particularly adamant about the value of the media impressions, saying it will generate more than the organization could ever afford with traditional marketing. He cited 22 million TV viewers and more than a billion social media mentions, which helps raise the city’s profile for tourism and economic development for future years.

Mayor Lyles agreed.

“Fans from more than 200 countries will be tuning in to the kings of the NBA playing in Charlotte,” she said. “They’ll see our skyline lit red, blue and white because the NBA is putting us again on the center stage in a global sense.”

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