On the Road: Day One of the Promotional Seminar in Louisville
While I may be stretching the definition of “On the Road” by labeling this an “On the Road” post, I was indeed out of the office and hence “On the Road” this past week, visiting the city of Louisville for the annual industry event that is the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar. Perhaps you aware of this event, either through attending it yourself or through reading my coverage over the years (I attended from 2008-2011 before taking last year off because I was in a bad mood).
Regardless, the premise is simple:
Minor League Baseball teams all operate within their own markets and, hence, don’t compete with one another. Therefore, the industry is big on idea sharing and the Promotional Seminar represents an opportunity to do just this. I sense a redundancy attack coming, so rather than succumb I’m just going to quote from my recently published MiLB.com piece:
The Promotional Seminar is a well-structured event, with the agenda divided into three main components: Presentations (in which one speaker presents to all attendees), Power Sessions (moderated panel discussions in front of all attendees) and Group Therapy (categorically divided small group discussions running concurrently with one another).
I’d ask that you please read this aforementioned MiLB.com piece, but as for this blog post it’s going to be a bit more ramshackle and (inevitably) me-centric. Also, it’s going to be chronological and it will only focus on Day One of the seminar.
Tuesday, September 24
After sleeping my way through two flights (the Charlotte airport, I hardly knew ye), I arrived in Louisville a little after noon and proceeded to high tail it to (or more accurately, take a cab to) the downtown Galt House Hotel. This hotel, which can safely be categorized as a behemoth, features two buildings connected by a street-spanning pedestrian walkway. Here’s the view from down the block because, apparently, that’s the photo I could muster.
At 3 o’clock I was scheduled to moderate a Group Therapy discussion, entitled “If You Book Them, Will They Come: What Touring Acts Drive Attendance and Why?” I tried my best to put together an outfit in which I looked business casual chic but instead doofusness resulted. It usually does.
Overall I thought this went well, although the conversation didn’t flow as fast and furiously as it had in the session that took place just prior to mine (“How to Promote a Promotion” moderated by Jen Borowski of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans). Later a few people told me that it had been a tad awkward that several touring performers were in the room, making it so that those working for front offices were hesitant to talk openly about their booking strategies (or lack thereof).
On an industry-wide level one can find many different viewpoints regarding touring performers (which include everyone from the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo show to Reggy the Purple Party Dude to Utility Man Ben to Fur Circus to Louisville’s own Zooperstars! posse). Some teams swear by ‘em, saying that whether fans explicitly come to see them or not they leave the ballpark with indelible memories that will certainly influence their willingness to spring for tickets again. Other teams say that touring perforomers don’t justify the cost, as promotional budgets are limited and its cheaper to develop and promote entertainment in-house.
I understand both views, and don’t think that they are necessarily mutually exclusive. In some alternate reality in which I controlled a promo budget, I’d prioritize in-house talent but nonetheless be adamant about booking 2-3 touring performers a year as its nearly impossible to rival the entertainment that can be provided by road-hardened pros. (Best case scenario, of course, is that sponsorship can be found for the touring act in question so that it doesn’t have to come out of the promo budget at all.)
Digression complete, it was time to proceed past the Trade Show (which represents a chance for exhibitors to re-establish connections and gain some name recognition before the gargantuan free-for-all that is the Winter Meetings) and into the Grand Ballroom.
If there’s one image that, year to year, defines the Promo Seminar it would be this: a bunch of people in a hotel ballroom listening to a speech. I think I’m now starting to understand why my coverage of this event generates virtually no interest whatsoever outside of the industry. (Or in it, for that matter. Why am I writing this?)
Highlights of this truncated Tuesday afternoon portion included Amy Venuto’s impassioned (my notes say “evangelical”) talk on “season seat holder membership programs” as well as Nashville Sounds GM Brad Tammen’s talk on getting the most out of dilapidated facilities. This latter presentation seemed cathartic more than anything else, as Tammen shared the many trials and travails he has experienced while operating in Greer Stadium (flooded front offices and collapsed entrance ways are a way of life).
A welcoming cocktail reception followed, and while I’m all for boozing it up with the industry I had to make a quick exit as earlier in the week I had made arranged to meet with longtime reader Stevo, a score-keeping savant and “semi-retired punk/metal atavist” who lives in Louisville. Before making our way to a local eatery, Stevo pointed out a few points of interest. Such as this:
While the downtown Louisville Slugger Museum includes a working factory, Stevo pointed out that the majority of the company’s output is actually produced in this far less scenic environment. This makes sense because while the museum is a great place to visit (I was there on Friday), it seems unlikely that it alone could handle the demands that come as a result of being the world’s number one wooden bat provider.
Stop two was duPont Manual High School, established in 1892 as an all-male institution and now a co-ed magnet school serving grades 9-12. It is one of Louisville’s most iconic buildings and, more important for our baseball-centric purposes: Pee-Wee Reese went there!