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Acknowledging the affect the work stoppage has had on merchandise sales, MLB Properties is planning several retail initiatives with the aim of "thanking fans for their loyalty," while also "spurring consumer interest." Among those is a promotion dubbed "Fan Appreciation Weeks," in which fans will be given the chance to receive a free gift with a minimum purchase of MLB licensed merchandise, including Minor League and Negro League merchandise. The minimum dollar amount will be determined by each club, but Melinda Klaber, Retail Merchandising Manager for MLB Properties, estimates it will probably be around $25. The "gift-with-purchase" will be a significant number Limited Edition "Fotoballs" featuring the 125th Anniversary logo, with some signed by Brooks Robinson. Klaber says the gift-purchase promotion is still in its preliminary stages, with certain aspects, including advertising messages, to be developed. But the kick-off is set for Friday, November 25, and will last two weeks. That Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving -- is traditionally the highest grossing retail sales day of the year. Klaber expects all 28 teams to take part. At an estimated potential gross of $50,000 per club, "Fan Appreciation Weeks" could bring in $1.4 million. The ad campaign to be launched in conjunction with the promotion -- presently projected to be print ads in each club's local newspaper paid for by MLB Properties -- will likely focus more on the "fan appreciation" idea than any direct reference to the strike. But MLB Public Relations Manager Jim Small sums up the motivation: "Baseball is still alive and kicking. The game will go on." MLB Properties is also suggesting the clubs embark on other retail initiatives, such as ticket give-aways, and sweepstakes with prizes such as throw-out-the-first pitch, or be a batboy/batgirl-for-a-day (THE DAILY).
Amtrak "is so exasperated by being the butt" of Jay Leno's jokes on NBC's "Tonight Show" that it has decided to "yank" about $2M in advertising from NBC (WASHINGTON POST, 10/14)....Enviromint has been licensed by MLB to mint a limited edition of 5,714 pure silver half pound medallions, commemorating Nolan Ryan's strikeout record. A 24-karat gold select version has also been minted and restricted to 324 pieces in honor of Ryan's career wins (Enviromint). ....Universal Electronics will launch the Sports Clicker -- a one-for-all TV/VCR/Cable box remote in the shape of a football. The NFL-licensed and themed remote device will be available for the holidays. The company hopes to follow with remotes licensed by MLB, NBA and the NHL (BRANDWEEK, 10/10 issue)....ESPN and Tommy Boy Music join in a new marketing venture for a new 15-song album, "ESPN Presents Jock Rock." The CD/cassette consists of sports anthems, chants and cheers frequently heard at ballparks and arenas (BRANDWEEK, 10/10 issue)....After nearly two years of delays, Nike Inc. has decided to go-ahead on construction of a $13.5M superstore in Boston. The store will be located just a few doors away from "a similar but smaller concept store" run by Reebok (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/13)....Joining the ranks of the other three pro sports, the NHL is "readying a grassroots roller hockey program that will roll out next summer in a handful of markets." The NHL roller hockey tournament will be held at between five and eight NHL cities next summer, with player appearances and local team support. The venture is being compared to the NBA's successful "Hoop-it-Up" 3-on-3 tournament (BRANDWEEK, 10/10 issue).
The baseball strike and the "near-lockout" in hockey are causing "big problems for the sports card and T-shirt industries. And unless something happens quickly in one or both sports, the season to be jolly could be anything but." Some sports retailers admit if the work stoppages continue, "Christmas is going to hurt." Everyone agrees the labor strife "is causing short-term problems, but industry officials say it's too early to tell what will happen to the market in the long run" (Jim Byers, TORONTO STAR, 10/14).
Dr. Tom Pashby, "an internationally respected expert in hockey equipment safety," is calling for a performance standard for pucks. Some pucks made in China have been breaking and other imports, such as the Russian puck, have been known to contain metal fragments. Pashby tested six pucks at Canadian Standards Association (CSA) labs, one from China and the others from Russian, Canada and the Czech Republic. The TORONTO STAR x-rayed the pucks Pashby used and no metal fragments were found in any of them, however an air bubble or softer rubber in the middle was found in a puck from the Czech Republic. Pashby said that if a CSA standard is set, factories around the world would have "surprise visits at unannounced intervals to have pucks pulled off the assembly line for testing" (Lois Kalchman, TORONTO STAR, 10/14).