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Bobbleheads: A Story of Promotional Products Delivering Measurable ROI by Jeff Jacobs

September 23, 2013

Successful promotional products are all about developing brand affinity—an emotional connection made with a brand through the magic of 3-D advertising. But calculating the ROI of using promotional products compared to other marketing tools or tactics often presents a challenge for brand management. For example, a statement like, “This creative giveaway resulted in this specific sales result,” is a calculation all too frequently unavailable.

Enter the mighty Bobblehead, or even better yet, the calculable ROI of the powerful resin figure.

A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed the top 11 MLB bobblehead giveaways, and ROI (calculated as increased attendance) topped out with a startling increase of nearly 50 percent. Of the nearly 3 million bobbleheads that will be given away at stadiums this year, none are more popular than the Ken Griffey Jr. character for the Seattle Mariners. Some 46,000 fans were hoping to get one of the only 20,000 made. Even better—attendance was up over 48 percent for the Saturday giveaway as measured against previous Saturday games.

While other factors (like the opponent) can make a difference, it’s clear that giveaways like these bobbleheads, featuring current stars, past stars, announcers, etc., drive fans into the ballpark. The Kansas City Royals, arguably a little short on talent, are certainly not short on creativity. They’ve even used condiments as bobblehead designs. (For the record, relish beat out ketchup and mustard, with an increase of 17.5 percent in attendance.) And if you think about it, it makes sense. Baseball is, after all, about fun. And promotional products like bobbleheads can help bring the fun.

QCA founding-member BDA is a big player in the bobblehead space. BDA’s CEO Jay Deutsch, in a recent interview with Big League Stew, said that bobbleheads have gone way beyond being considered a “trend”—they are big business. In addition to creating bobbleheads for customers in Major League Baseball, BDA counts major brands like Coca-Cola and Target as customers, as well as the NFL.

“The modern bobble has been around for more than six decades, so they are definitely here to stay in one form or another,” said Deutsch. “Over the past few years in particular, their popularity has really hit a high point that I don’t foresee diminishing anytime soon.” Deutsch recounts ball clubs reporting fans lining up outside the ballpark hours before giveaway games to try and ensure they receive a bobble. Fans are so bobble-crazed that it’s not unusual for ball clubs to offer “guaranteed giveaway” programs so fans can secure their bobbleheads with the purchase of a ticket package. And finally, Deutsch mentions that the emergence of social media has increased the overall excitement surrounding giveaways as ball clubs are leveraging networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and others to create excitement around the bobblehead giveaways and encourage fan engagement. BDA reports an increase in bobblehead requests this year topping 1.7 million, up 200,000 from the previous year. Big business indeed.

So while being able to calculate a specific ROI for many promotional products is difficult, there are case studies and situations like this one that that show, very clearly, how success can be measured. For Major League Baseball Clubs, that’s increased attendance, earlier ticket purchases and/or driving package ticket purchases and higher fan engagement online, which creates greater brand awareness and affinity—lots of good things that make promotional products a winning part of an integrated marketing strategy.

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