Giveaway Review: Opening Day Nationals Sunglasses (Grade: B)

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The first 25,000 fans who arrived on Opening Day received a pair of white Nationals sunglasses and a red carrying case.

The Washington Nationals played their home opener on Thursday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 41,650. The first 25,000 fans to arrive at Nationals Park received a pair of white Nationals sunglasses and a durable red carrying case.

The irony of a sunglasses giveaway for a game that would be delayed for 1 hour and 25 minutes was not lost on many witty fans on social media.  When the sun reemerged from the storm clouds, fans began to unzip the Curly W glasses cases and slide on their new shades.

 

 

This Nationals promotion is deserving of praise for its originality. Over the last six years of attending Nationals games and promotional events, I have come across just one other pair of Nationals promotional sunglasses. That pair of red glasses was distributed at NatsFest in 2014 when the team was promoting its presence on social media.

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The marketers also did a good job differentiating themselves from the other teams around the league who mostly distributed Opening Day schedule magnets and, in a few cases, rally towels. Originality was also preserved while maintaing a high level of utility which was lost on many fans last season with the distribution of Opening Day tins.

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The Toronto Blue Jays were one of a few teams who did not distribute a schedule magnet on Opening Day.

Many fans already have a preferred pair of sunglasses which will undoubtedly relegate this new pair to a solid backup position (see: Jose Lobaton). They will, however, get a lot of wear from this writer who won’t turn down an opportunity to represent the Nationals!  
Grade: B

Giveaway Review: Jordan Zimmermann No-Hitter Bobblehead (Grade: A)

The first 25,000 fans who entered Nationals Park on Friday received the final “great moment in Nationals history” bobblehead featuring Jordan Zimmermann celebrating his 2014 no-hitter.

The evening took on an added level of significance because it is widely expected that Zimmermann will become a free agent during the offseason and sign with a different team.  Friday night was likely his last home start for the Nationals.

Even though the Nationals were teetering just two games from elimination, 31,019 fans showed up on a rainy evening to cheer on their beloved pitcher one more time and claim a bobblehead.

Fans appreciated the significance of the evening and enthusiastically Tweeted photos of the giveaway.

The familiar red bobblehead box depicts Zimmermann standing on the grass with his arms in the air as he celebrates the final out of the September 28, 2014 no-hitter.  The box, like the other 10-year anniversary bobbleheads, also has a short description of the moment.

“With the National League East title already clinched and home field advantage in the NL postseason securely in tow, the Nationals entered the final day of the regular season looking to get their work in and salute the nearly 2.6 million fans who watched them play over the course of the year.  But Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann had bigger plans.  Along with catcher, Wilson Ramos, Zimmermann stayed on the field for all 27 outs that day, completing the finest pitching performance of his career and the first no-hitter by a member of the Nationals.  As left fielder Steven Souzza Jr. secured the final out of the afternoon with an incredible diving catch, Zimmermann raised his arms skyward celebrating one of the greatest moments in team history.”

The bobblehead portrays that moment.  Zimmermann stands on a grassy platform in his home red jersey and white pants with his arms stretched to the sky.  A photograph of a crowd on its feet and Danny Espinosa watching the catch makes up the background of the bobblehead stand.  The back of the gray bobblehead stand says, “2015 Nationals 10th Anniversary” and “NO-HITTER 9.28.14.”

The night seemingly celebrated much more than the no-hitter.  A video montage featuring his first game in 2009 with the Nationals also played on NATSHD.

Unfortunately, hopes of another no-hitter were dashed after just 1.1 innings and he was tagged with the loss after he was unceremoniously lifted from the game for a pinch hitter.  Many seemed bothered that their wasn’t a more fitting close to his potential last game with the Nationals.

Fans, however, will always carry the memory of his incredible game and will have the bobblehead as a constant reminder of the time the normally reserved pitcher from Auburndale, Wisconsin pitched the greatest game of his career.

Grade: A

Giveaway Review: Nationals Earbuds (Grade: C)

The first 20,000 fans at Nationals Park on Saturday night received Nationals earbuds courtesy of T-Mobile.
The first 20,000 fans at Nationals Park on Saturday night received Nationals earbuds courtesy of T-Mobile.

The Washington Nationals brought back an unusual giveaway on Saturday, September 5.  The first 20,000 fans at Nationals Park received a set of Nationals earbuds courtesy of T-Mobile.

The T-Mobile headphones giveaway in 2013 was enormously popular and fans lauded how stylish they were on Twitter.  The over-the-ear headphones had a large “Curly W” on one ear and a script Nationals logo on the other ear.  The headphones were also expandable so they easily fit most fans.

Saturday’s giveaway generated very little traffic on Twitter.  The earbuds had two “Curly W” logos, but they were quite heavy.  The white wires are about twice as thick as iPhone earbuds.  These earbuds also lack a microphone which precludes fans from permanently swapping out their current earbuds.

Many people choose to use headphones instead of earbuds because they have trouble getting earbuds to stay in place.  It was almost impossible to fit these earbuds in my ear and to get them to stay in place when I ran or walked.  A stadium employee that I met had the earbuds wrapped around his ears, but told me that he couldn’t get them to stay in place either.

Nationals Earbuds

It was a great idea to follow up on the popular 2013 headphones giveaway with a similar product.  These earbuds, however, will probably remain inside my nightstand until my iPhone earbuds finally break.

Grade: C

Chia Werth (Watch it Grow)

The first 20,000 fans who showed up at Nationals Park on Wednesday, August 5 to see the Washington Nationals face the Arizona Diamondbacks received Jayson Werth Chia Pets.  The giveaway gained national attention from news outlets like ESPN and it quickly became a must have item.  Fans started lining up as early as 4:00 p.m. to get their hands on what Valerie Camillo, the Nationals chief marketing officer, called a “unique item worth the effort.”

Starting Sunday, we will begin growing the tera cotta planter and we will post daily pictures here for your amusement.

Werth Chia Pet

Werth Chia on Day 0
Werth Chia on Day 0
Werth Chia on Day 1
Werth Chia on Day 1
Werth Chia on Day 2
Werth Chia on Day 2
Werth Chia Day 3
Werth Chia on Day 3
Werth Chia on Day 4
Werth Chia on Day 4
Werth Chia on Day 5
Werth Chia on Day 5
Werth Chia on Day 6
Werth Chia on Day 6
Werth Chia on Day 7
Werth Chia on Day 7
Werth Chia on Day 8
Werth Chia on Day 8
Werth Chia on Day 9
Werth Chia on Day 9
Werth Chia on Day 10
Werth Chia on Day 10
Werth Chia on Day 11
Werth Chia on Day 11
Werth Chia on Day 12
Werth Chia on Day 12
Werth Chia on Day 13
Werth Chia on Day 13
Werth Chia on Day 14
Werth Chia on Day 14
Werth Chia on Day 15
Werth Chia on Day 15

Giveaway Review: Nationals T-shirt (Grade: B+)

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The “Curly W” is prominently displayed on the 2015 American University T-shirt giveawy.

The first 25,000 fans who entered Nationals Park on Friday received a free Washington Nationals T-shirt courtesy of a prominent team sponsor–American University (AU).

I was surprised to learn about the partnership between the Washington Nationals and an area university when an agreement was first announced in 2012.  At the time, I was an undergraduate student at The George Washington University and my only exposure to ads for my school were those in the newspaper and on television.  Advertising to 3 million fans at Nationals Park over the course of a season seemed more exciting and effective.

AU proudly describes its target market in a press release calling D.C. baseball fans, “smarter than average, upwardly mobile, politically and socially vocal.”  “In other words,” it states, “Nationals fans are wonks.”

In previous years, the AU T-shirt giveaway had a Nationals logo on the front of the shirt and the neologism “wonk” in much bigger print on the back of the shirt.  In 2012, Dan Steinberg, writer for the DC Sports Bog, poked fun at the use of the word on the shirts calling it cliche

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“Wonk” appears much less prominently and in much smaller print this year.  The text is also relegated to the right sleeve of the shirt.  A large “Curly W” logo is displayed more prominently this year than it did in previous years and is around twice the size of the AU logo printed on the back of the shirt.

From a marketing perspective, AU pleases fans who added another Nationals shirt to their dressers while simultaneously making impressions with thousands of middle school and high school age children who will undoubtedly wear these shirts in hallways of their schools.

The design of the only Nationals T-shirt giveaway of the season is not nearly as impressive as other shirt giveaways around the league.  Fans at 13 Friday Mets home games, for example, have received shirts with more exciting designs like retired numbers and player silhouettes.

The Mets had 13 T-shirt giveaways this season.
The New York Mets had 13 T-shirt giveaways this season.

The T-shirt gets bonus points for being extremely easy to wave during the salute to the military.

Grade: B+

Giveaway Review: Ryan Zimmerman Bobblehead (Grade: A)

Nats Gallery Blog will periodically review the 2015 Washington Nationals promotions and giveaways.  The promotional schedule was released the second week of February and it generated lots of publicity.  We still believe that there is still plenty to discuss and we will give the promotions and giveaways letter grades (A-F) based on three criteria–excitement, originality and satisfaction.

The Nationals are celebrating the tenth anniversary of baseball’s return to Washington with 10-year anniversary themed promotions all season long.  In addition to the monthly 10-Year Tuesday giveaways that fans can store in their Opening Day commemorative tins, the Nationals will also be distributing five different bobbleheads celebrating great moments in Nationals history.

Bobblehead giveaways can make fans do some pretty crazy things–like go to Nationals Park in the middle of a rainstorm.  The rainstorm, which pushed back Thursday night’s start time by 1 hour and 55 minutes, could not deter 35,465 fans from flocking through the center field gate to snag a soggy Ryan Zimmerman bobblehead.  Fans received their bobbleheads from guest services representatives and sprinted for cover under the concourse or inside the team store.  Nationals relief pitchers Aaron Barrett and Taylor Hill had some fun in the rain and they greeted Nationals fans in “Curly W” raincoats at the entrance.

Aaron Barrett and Taylor Hill handed out bobbleheads before Thursday night's game. (Nationals Facebook)
Aaron Barrett and Taylor Hill handed out bobbleheads before Thursday night’s game. (Nationals Facebook)

Fans were soaked, but they were so happy with the giveaway that they were still content.

The Nationals’ first draft pick in 2005 had his likeness used for bobblehead giveaways in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

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Thursday’s giveaway is probably the most special Zimmeraman bobblehead because it represents a great moment in Nationals history–his walk-off home run to end the first game ever at Nationals Park.  The bobblehead box recalls that special moment.

On Sunday evening, March 30, 2008, the baseball world turned its attention to southeast Washington, D.C., as Nationals Park opened its doors for the first time.  The nationally televised contest was a low scoring affair, as the Nationals and visiting Atlanta Braves entered the bottom of the ninth with the score knotted, 2-2.  With two outs and nobody on, Ryan Zimmerman–Mr. Walk Off himself–christened the Red Porch seats with a game ending home run.  As the capacity crowd roared, Zimmerman pumped his fist as he rounded the first-base bag before meeting his jubilant teammates at the plate.  Home sweet home, indeed.

Fans who may not have seen video of Zimmerman’s walk-off home got to re-live the moment on NatHD.

Ryan Zimmerman's March 30, 2008 walk-off home run was shown on NatsHD
Ryan Zimmerman’s March 30, 2008 walk-off home run was shown on NatsHD.

The Zimmerman bobblehead generated a tremendous amount of excitement.  It was given out to some fans in between innings on Tuesday night and it also made a cameo appearance with MASN broadcaster F.P. Santangelo during the Wednesday telecast.

The enthusiasm carried into Friday morning and not only because the game extended past midnight.  Fans shared pictures of the newest addition to their bobblehead collections.  Some even have fancy homes!

Grade: A

Giveaway Review: Commemorative Coin (Grade: B+)

The first 10,000 fans in attendance at Tuesday night’s game received a commemorative coin.
The first 10,000 fans in attendance at Tuesday night’s game received a commemorative coin.

Nats Gallery Blog will periodically review the 2015 Washington Nationals promotions and giveaways.  The promotional schedule was released the second week of February and it generated lots of publicity.  We still believe that there is still plenty to discuss and we will give the promotions and giveaways letter grades (A-F) based on three criteria–excitement, originality and satisfaction.

The Nationals are celebrating the tenth anniversary of baseball’s return to Washington with 10-year anniversary themed promotions all season long.  In addition to the monthly 10-Year Tuesday giveaways that fans can store in their Opening Day commemorative tins, the Nationals will also be distributing five different bobbleheads celebrating great moments in Nationals history.

“The National Pastime In The Nation’s Capital”

The first 10,000 fans who attended Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays received a 10-Year Tuesday commemorative coin.  The front of the coin has the familiar 10-year anniversary logo.  The back of the coin has an engraving of the Capitol dome.  The, scaffolding-free, dome is set inside a baseball diamond lined with crossed baseball bats.  “The National Pastime In The Nation’s Capital” is engraved around the edge of the back of the coin.

Coins are certainly not the most conventional collectible for baseball fans.  They are available through MLB Shop, but they are generally sold as part of an expensive framed “photo mint.”  The Nationals team store also sells “authentic” coins which contain dirt from Nationals Park.

This photo mint is available through MLB Shop for $119.99.
This photo mint is available through MLB Shop for $119.99.

Challenge coins are often carried by soldiers and they are thought to promote a feeling of membership.  The Seattle Mariners were the only other team to have a coin giveaway this season and they combined the giveaway with their “Armed Services Day” promotion.  That coin is shaped like Washington State.  The team’s logo is engraved on the front of the coin and the names of the service branches are engraved on the back of the coin.

The Seattle Mariners were the only other team to distribute coins this season.
The Seattle Mariners were the only other team to distribute coins this season.

Although the coin distributed at Nationals Park lacks any military tribute, it serves a purpose similar to a military challenge coin because it boosts morale and promotes a feeling of membership among fans.  The fanbase in Washington is still taking shape, but this giveaway can help fans feel like they are part of an important history.

The coins were not very visible after fans entered the park which is understandable.  Fans were probably concerned about losing them or getting them wet so they probably put them in their pockets.  Only a few fans posted photos of the coins on Twitter which makes it difficult to judge excitement.  Nevertheless, the fans who posted pictures seemed pleased with the giveaway.

Grade: B+

Giveaway Review: Livan Hernandez Bobblehead (Grade: A)

The first 25,000 fans in attendance at Monday's game received a Livan Hernandez bobblehead.
The first 25,000 fans in attendance at Monday’s game received a Livan Hernandez bobblehead.

Nats Gallery Blog will periodically review the 2015 Washington Nationals promotions and giveaways.  The promotional schedule was released the second week of February and it generated lots of publicity.  We still believe that there is still plenty to discuss and we will give the promotions and giveaways letter grades (A-F) based on three criteria–excitement, originality and satisfaction.

The Nationals are celebrating the tenth anniversary of baseball’s return to Washington with 10-year anniversary themed promotions all season long.  In addition to the monthly 10-Year Tuesday giveaways that fans can store in their Opening Day commemorative tins, the Nationals will also be distributing five different bobbleheads celebrating great moments in Nationals history.

The first 25,000 fans at Monday’s game against the Miami Marlins received a Livan Hernandez inaugural game bobblehead.  The bobblehead portrays Hernandez in a grey road uniform throwing the first pitch (a strike) as he did on April 4, 2005 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.  The Nationals lost that game to the Phillies 8-4, but Hernandez’s pitch was significant because it was the first pitch thrown by a pitcher for a Washington franchise in 33 years.  For the newer Nationals fans, the significance of Hernandez’s moment is explained on the box and it was explained on NatsHD during the game.

Bobbleheads are a very popular giveaway item at professional sporting events especially at Nationals Park.  The Nationals distributed seven bobbleheads and a Jayson Werth garden gnome in 2014.  Jordan Zimmermann, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tyler Clippard were all fashioned into bobbleheads and distributed to fans as giveaways last season.  Only one bobblehead was of an indivudal who is not on the current Nationals roster—William Howard Taft (a racing president).  In 2013, all three bobbleheads were current Nationals—Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper and Davey Johnson.  Stephen Strasburg, Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman got the bobblehead treatment in 2012.

Although the Nationals haven’t featured a non-roster player other than a mascot in recent memory, it actually is not too uncommon for former players to be honored with bobbleheads.  Bobbleheads of Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Randy Johnson will be distributed this season to fans in St. Louis and Arizona.

Other important players who made important contributions to their teams, but fell short of Hall of Fame careers, will be given the same honors as Hall of Famers this season.  The Milwaukee Brewers honored Rob Deer earlier this season with a bobblehead.  Deer is portrayed celebrating his famous game-tying home run which helped give the Brewers their twelfth straight win to start the 1987 series.  The Houston Astros, who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Astrodome, distributed Jimmy Wynn bobbleheads at a game earlier in the season.  In many ways, it seems like the Hernandez bobblehead has as similar significance.  Hernandez was a journeyman who spent just a fraction of his career with the Nationals, but, nevertheless, is engrained in the team’s history.

The Brewers honored Rob Deer with a bobblehead earlier in the season.
The Brewers honored Rob Deer with a bobblehead earlier in the season.

Nationals fans had fun tweeting about the giveaway.  Fans enthusiastically tweeted pictures of their bobbleheads.  Other fans pleaded with friends at the games to save them one.  There were also more sentimental messages shared. One fan said that Hernandez helped get him “hooked on the team.”

LivanHernandez bobblehead: check. Messy funnel cake : check. Desibomb: check Curly W: check 😁😁😁 👏🏻 #Nationals @Nationals

— Erica Boswell (@EricaBoswell) May 5, 2015

I tell you, LivanHernandez was one of my favorite #Nats ever and helped me get hooked on the team. Call it the BartoloColon effect too…

— Mike Tedeschi(@miket3887) May 4, 2015

The Nationals made the giveaway even more exciting for some fans by having a special guest assist with the distribution.  Rookie relief pitcher Sammy Solis stood alongside the guest services representatives and handed bobbleheads out to entering fans.  One fan enthusiastically shared a picture of Solis.

Only one thing was missing from Monday’s promotion–Livan Hernandez.  Hernandez spent time with the Nationals as recently as 2014 when he accompanied the Nationals to spring training.  He did not really have an official title and instead told players that he would assist them with whatever they needed.  It would have been exciting to see Hernandez throw out the ceremonial first pitch (instead of the two federal employees), but it was still a terrific night.

Grade: A

Giveaway Review: Rally Towel (Grade: B+)

Nationals guest services representatives distribute rally towels before the game on April 8, 2015
Nationals guest services representatives distribute rally towels before the game on April 8, 2015

Nats Gallery Blog will periodically review the 2015 Washington Nationals promotions and giveaways.  The promotional schedule was released the second week of February and it generated lots of publicity.  It would be hard for any media outlet to pass up a story on a Jayson Werth Chia Pet!  We still believe that there is still plenty to discuss and we will give the promotions and giveaways letter grades (A-F) based on three criteria–excitement, originality and satisfaction.

All fans in attendance at yesterday’s 2-1 victory over the New York Mets received a rally towel presented by Norfolk Southern.

Red Natiionals rally towel from yesterday's game
Red Nationals rally towel from yesterday’s game

Rally towels are a giveaway that Nationals fans have received most recently during the 2012 and 2014 playoff games.  Who could forget the red #Nattitude towels twirling amid the chaos that erupted after Jayson Werth’s walk off home run in game 4 of the National League Division Series that forced a game 5?

A Nationals email to season ticket holders in 2014 generated a mini frenzy when it was announced the rally towels were white and that fans should wear “plenty of Curly W’s throughout the Postseason.”  Fans preferred the red towels from the 2012 NLDS.  They also wanted more specific directions from the Nationals regarding how they could dress to support the team during the 2014 NLDS.  They received their cue from utility player Kevin Frandsen who told a radio audience that fans should “just wear red.”

Nationals rally towel from the 2012 NLDS
Nationals rally towel from the 2012 NLDS
Nationals rally towel from the 2014 NLDS
Nationals rally towel from the 2014 NLDS

The crowd at last night’s game was much smaller than either of playoff series, but a 56 minute rain delay meant that the most passionate fans were the ones remaining at Nationals Park after the storm moved out of the area.  Fans who took cover in the concourse relocated to the field level seats and they used their rally towels to dry off their new expensive seats.  They were treated to an exciting game, highlighted by a Ryan Zimmerman home run to left field, and they waved their wet towels pretty much all night long.

The smaller turnout at last night’s game can have repercussions.  Fewer fans walked through the gates to get the red towel with the white logo meaning that fewer fans will have them at future games.  It would be nice to hear that the marketing team intends to distribute the extra towels to fans at future games.  Perhaps they can reward an entire section as a random act of nattitude.

This rally towel was distributed on opening day by the Seattle Mariners
This rally towel was distributed on opening day by the Seattle Mariners

One criticism of the giveaway was that it lacked pizzazz.  The towel is relatively plain compared to other rally towels given out this week.  The Detroit Tigers rally towel looks exciting to wave and they have a cool slogan–“Tigers fans lets hear you roar.”  The Mariners rally towel also has an original design.  Their towel paid tribute to “King” Felix Hernandez with its large K and opening day bunting.

Fans were certainly satisfied with the giveaway and last night’s victory gave rally towel waving fans another reason to be happy.

Grade: B+

Giveaway Review: Opening Day Commemorative Collectors Tin (Grade: C)

Nats Gallery Blog will periodically review the 2015 Washington Nationals promotions and giveaways.  The promotional schedule was released the second week of February and it generated lots of publicity.  It would be hard for any media outlet to pass up a story on a Jayson Werth Chia Pet!  We still believe that there is still plenty to discuss and we will give the promotions and giveaways letter grades (A-F) based on three criteria–excitement, originality and satisfaction.

The first 25,000 fans who attended Opening Day yesterday received a commemorative tin.  The tin which commemorated the Nationals tenth season in Washington is pretty simple.  It has “2015 Collectors Edition” and “Washington Nationals” engraved on its long sides and a commemorative logo on the lid.  The tin came wrapped in a colorful paper cover that advertises the 10-Year Tuesday giveaway games.

washington-nationals-commemorative-tin

The timing of the giveaway was perplexing.  Nationals fans may be surprised to discover that caps are not actually common giveaways on Opening Day.  Actually, the most common giveaway yesterday around the league were magnetic schedules.  Fans at ten other ballparks received the schedules.  Tigers fans were treated to rally towels.  Mariners fans went home with a “K Cloth” and a magnetic schedule.  Yankees fans and Reds fans went home empty handed.

This promotion could have easily been timed better if the thought behind this promotion was that children would be the tins as lunch boxes.  The Tampa Bay Rays, for example, are distributing tin lunch boxes to children 14 and under on a weekend when more children will be in attendance.

Fan enthusiasm did not exactly spill onto social media.  Those who commented did so with sarcasm and indifference.  One tweet read, “OK, the #Nats opening day giveaway, a commemorative tin, is like being handed a lunch bucket when you enter the stadium. #toobig.”  Another read, “#Nats in danger of losing on Commemorative Tin Night. Tsk tsk tsk #MLBOpeningDay.”  There were no photos of fans showing off their tins in selfies and no true positive comments.  Fans did not wave their commemorative tins during the games like they do their caps during the veterans salute.  In general, it did not seem like the Nationals were fully vested in the success of this rather ordinary giveaway.

Fans at the ballpark seemed uncertain about how they would use their new tins.  It could be a handle-less lunch box or a ticket storage container (for those who still use paper tickets).  Another fan I spoke with said he would store is 10-Year Tuesday promotions in the box.

Some credit should be given to Valerie Camillo–the chief revenue and marketing officer for the Washington Nationals–and the rest of the marketing team for coming up with an original promotion.  Unfortunately, the originality of the promotion was not coupled with enough innovation or excitment to make this a truly “out of the ballpark” promotion.

Grade: C