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Volume 21 No. 2
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MiLB looks to #FoodFight for a feast of data

Minor League Baseball’s new #FoodFight online promotion looks like a fun bracket contest designed to highlight a lighthearted element of the affiliated minors. But beneath the frivolity is a meaningful level of analytics designed to assist the primary business lines of the participating clubs.

#FoodFight places signature food items from 64 clubs in a competition in which fans vote for their favorites. Following up on similar efforts to determine the pre-eminent team names and mascots in Minor League Baseball, #FoodFight will run through June 6 and give a sweepstakes winner a trip for four to the winning team’s ballpark.

Charleston’s Pickle Dog
Previous contests have yielded data for participating teams, but MiLB will take it to another level this time. MLB Advanced Media, Minor League Baseball’s partner in the Baseball Internet Rights Co., will collect voters’ names and email addresses online and will send them to the clubs who got their votes. Similar data collection will happen around Twitter-based voting for #FoodFight.

When fans complete the online voting, they are given ticketing links to the clubs they voted for, something that the previous online promotions did not include. Many of the participating clubs also are offering discounts for voting for their item, a further effort aimed at driving attendance and increasing per caps.

“We’re hoping there are a lot of learnings that can be had from this,” said Martin Keely, MLBAM senior vice president of partner solutions. “We see this as a big intersection of all the interest out there in social media, food, and the things that make minor league baseball truly unique.”

Beyond the data mining, #FoodFight is positioned as a significant marketing effort around one of the most notable elements of Minor League Baseball.

“Operators used to treat [food and beverage] as an amenity, but now this shows how menus can be used as a huge reason to come to the ballpark,” said John Schumacher, food and beverage director for the The Goldklang Group, owners of the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs and Fort Myers (Fla.) Miracle, both in the competition.

Charlotte treats fans to Fried Moon Pies.
Schumacher said the RiverDogs sell about 20 “pickle dogs” at each game and will likely double that figure as a result of #FoodFight. An unusual entrant in the “Hogs ’n’ Dogs” portion of the bracket, the pickle dog uses a hollowed-out pickle as the hot dog’s bun.

Half of the entrants in #FoodFight handle their concessions internally, 15 percent use Ovations, 8 percent Centerplate, 8 percent Professional Sports Catering, 5 percent Aramark, and 14 percent other vendors.

Mascot Mania, a contest won last year by Orbit of the Class AAA Albuquerque (N.M.) Isotopes, drew 410,000 votes, a total expected to be surpassed for #FoodFight.

The bracket contest extends what has been a record-setting start to the 2013 season for Minor League Baseball’s digital operations. set a single-month record in April with 98.7 million page views. The minors’ updated mobile application, now buttressed by additional live video, also is generating about 14 million page views every two weeks, more than the 10 million it had for the entire 2012 season.