The Most Awesome Fan Giveaways in Sports
The arrival of spring and with summer's official, sweaty start just around the corner, there's no doubt that sports fans are rejoicing now that Major League Baseball is back, the new NBA and NHL champs will soon be anointed and football season doesn't seem so far away.
When the initial buzz wears off, most of will settle in for the long haul—especially if your favorite MLB club is already DOA with another 100 games to play.
Wins and losses may ultimately be the most important part of any team sport, but they're be no means the boss of your fun this summer. And few leisurely activities hold the promise of making an average day great, like catching a game at the ballpark.
The experience is about the sum total, not the scoreboard (not that anyone will complain if a win serves as the cherry on top of your good time).
While sunshine, family, friends, insanely marked-up beers and overpriced, but delicious, ballpark food are all awesome on their own merit, there's just something extra special about "Promo Night."
Sure...that free hat from "Hat Day" may never fit quite right and tends to dissolve when exposed to anything, but it's value isn't measured by traditional means.
Ball clubs know that promotional giveaways turn a sparsely attended weeknight game into sellout verging on a riot. And it seems that the free goodies get better each year.
These are the most awesome fan giveaways in sports.
Who: Arizona Diamondbacks
When: August 2, 2014
Zombies are so hot right now. In recent years a lot of baseball teams have embraced the American public’s ever-growing obsession with the undead, scheduling promotional zombie nights at the ballpark.
This year the Diamondbacks are taking it up a notch by offering the only thing people love more than zombies: Free stuff. Specifically, free stuff in the form of a zombie bobblehead.
Who: St. Louis Cardinals Memphis Redbirds
When: August 1, 2014 and August 8, 2014
You just can’t go wrong with a beer stein giveaway. People love beer and they love free stuff, so giving them free stuff they can put beer in…well it’s just a really fantastic idea.
The Cardinals are giving away a 1964 World Series beer stein to the first 25,000 fans (21 and older) on Aug. 1. A week later their minor league Redbirds have their giveaway, but only to 2,000 fans—so get there early.
Who: Chicago Blackhawks
When: March 23, 2014
If you're so fortunate to be a lifelong fan of a Stanley Cup winning team, as in...hoisted that cup in your lifetime...then you simply can't take such an awesome moment for granted.
Success, by any measure, is notoriously fleeting; and winning the pinnacle of professional hockey is one of the toughest achievements in sports. Winning two Stanley Cups in three years, as the Blackhawks did, is special.
The gaudy pennant is a monument to a team that could very well look completely different by the time next season's trade deadline has come and gone. You live in Chicago and that's a city perfect for big, flashy pendants
Ryan Howard & Crazy Hot Dog Vendor Bobblehead
Who: Reading Phillies
When: Opening Night 2012
Even if this ridiculous amalgamation of Ryan Howard and a psychotic hot dog vendor wasn't based on a Reading Phillies character that is completely befitting of such a homage, this bobblehead duo would have been amazing.
In fact, I think that if this bobblehead had been designed without any basis in reality, it would have been even better.
More bobbleheads should pair star athletes with completely random people and things—like the San Francisco's Tim Lincecum with Mr. Peanut. Perhaps, Mr. Peanut is brushing Lincecum's hair.
The possibilities are endless...
Who: Toledo Mud Hens
When: July 12, 2014
Maybe you had to have come of age during Michael Jackson’s golden age to really appreciate the value of a sequin glove, but anyone who did has to appreciate its glory. This July the minor league Mud Hens are giving away sequin gloves on '80s and '90s concert theme night at the park.
After the game fans will be treated to fireworks and receive an auto parts coupon upon exiting the ballpark! That sounds like one helluva a night. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that—certainly not in Toledo.
One Billion Dollars
Who: Warren Buffet and Quicken Loans
When: March 2014
Listen. We all know that nobody won a billion dollars during March Madness and that nobody ever actually even had a prayer of winning a billion dollars during March Madness.
It was still fun though and it got more people talking about basketball, which is never a bad thing, even if it’s just a big (massively failed) scam to lure people back to the graveyard known as Yahoo! mail.
Spending a little time fantasizing about all the ways you'd spend a billion dollars is, in my opinion, time well spent.
Who: Chicago Cubs
For once the Cubs are doing something smart. They’ve been abysmal for awhile and will likely continue to be abysmal for the foreseeable future. The best way to forget about the present is to get lost in nostalgia about the past.
This season they’ve got four classic toy giveaways that will remind fans of a simpler time. A time when the Cubs were still terrible, but at least gas was cheaper and Justin Bieber hadn’t yet been born. Those were the days, weren’t they?
Who: Los Angeles Dodgers
When: April 8, 2014
I am by no means a Dodgers fan, but there is simply no denying the awesomeness of this giveaway. Team gear like this costs a fortune—even for the cheap knockoff stuff—which is why the best you’re going to do most seasons is a T-shirt.
Although it is a little unfortunate that the hoodies come only in medium and extra large, but beggars can't be choosers! And I'm definitely a beggar.
Who: Various Teams
What: Schedule Magnets
When: Various Dates
They might not be as flashy as some of the other giveaways on this list, but schedule magnet giveaways are the underrated gem of any and every promotional calendar. They’re functional and get more use than 99 percent of takeaway items.
Think about it. Awesome as it may be, how much use is the average person going to get out of a beard hat? Not much. Whereas the magnet is there to answer your scheduling questions every time you head to the fridge for a beer.
It's one of those things that you don't realize how amazing and helpful it really is until you don't have one.
Who: Various Teams
Bobbleheads rule and are worth the headache of navigating the sweaty, human slurry that amasses outside the stadium when an especially sweet one is given away.
And for those especially enterprising baseball fans, there's always a market for rare or unique bobbleheads in the sports memorabilia business.
Each year MLB clubs honor some of their greats—or greatest historic moments—with a bobblehead promo. This season is no exception; the Chicago Cubs gave away a Babe Ruth "Called Shot" bobblehead (have to admire the fact the Cubbies are promoting a moment that came at their expense) and the Minnesota Twins are giving away a Harmon Killebrew 1965 All-Star bobblehead at the end of June.
Who: San Francisco Giants
When: August 30 & 31, 2014
Hats are pretty popular promotional giveaways for baseball teams, but usually it’s standard stuff like ball caps or batting helmets—and sometimes fedoras. The Giants take the idea to whole new and much more absurd level (in a good way).
Hilarious hats are lightning in a bottle—remove one from it's natural environment and those around you probably like you a little less than before. Fortunately, a baseball game is just such a place; where you can prance around in your Giants R2D2 hat freely and without fear of reprisal.
(Replica) Championship Rings
Who: Various Teams
What: Replica (Championship Rings)
When: Various Dates
One of the best parts about winning a championship is that (in most cases) you get a big spectacle of ring—which is convenient for gratuitously flashing around any athlete/colleague who never won one himself.
Outside the context of the sports fan, getting your hands on a replica championship ring may seem like an exercise in sad, vicarious living. However, you can't deny that, for just a moment, you might just feel like you were more than just a fan.
Better still? Lording that ring over anyone you know who pulls for a rival.
Who: Seattle Mariners
When: April 25, 2014
Much like the Dodgers, the Mariners have a very solid calendar of promotional giveaways this season. The epic beard hats are definitely the highlight—so much for saving the best for last.
It was first done a year prior and looks like the giveaway could become an annual event in Seattle. Let’s just hope they don’t make an annual tradition of Macklemore bobblehead night, which is a thing that’s happening in July.
Don Newcombe Brooklyn Jersey
Who: Los Angeles Dodgers
When: July 1, 2014
The Dodgers have, hands down, the best promotions in baseball right now. Their calendar is jam-packed with hoodies, bobbleheads, helmets, hats and even portable speakers! That being said, the Don Newcombe jersey is the definitive highlight.
Because history and tradition are such a part of the game, there’s no other league that pays homage to past stars like MLB. Often times it’s with goofy bobbleheads, which is totally fine, but this vintage jersey giveaway takes it to another level.
Who: New Orleans Zephyrs
When: June 20, 2014
Let’s get real here. There are few things in the world, be it the real world or fictional world, more awesomely amazing than a light saber. Someone within the minor league Zephyrs organization gets it.
That same person obviously knows about supply and demand.
Light sabers will only be given out to the first 1,000 fans, which is just smart. It’s enough to create a buzz, but not enough to water down the light-saber brand. Just imagine how jealous the 1,001 fan (and everyone who enters after) is going to be.