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Volume 23 No. 29
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2018 MLB game-day giveaways

As Major League Baseball clubs wrestled last season with the challenges of attracting fans to ballparks, their reliance on non-baseball brands to do the trick — and, of course, bobbleheads — continued to grow.

For the seventh year in a row, MLB teams were more likely to use a bobblehead to lure fans to the ballpark than any other promotional item. Nearly 7 percent of the games included such a giveaway, the highest ratio since at least 2006, according to Sports Business Journal’s 13th annual review of team promotional calendars. And because more than 100 games across the league included a tie-in with an entertainment brand like Marvel, “Star Wars” or “Game of Thrones,” chances are the bobblehead you see on your co-worker’s desk looks nothing like the one you got a decade ago. 

Across the league, attendance was down 4 percent compared to 2017, with 17 clubs seeing a year-over-year decline.

Here are highlights from the nearly 2,000 game-day giveaways and promotions offered last season by MLB clubs.

The league’s 30 clubs combined to offer a record 790 limited-seating, themed ticket packages in 2018, up 6 percent from 2017 and nearly four times as many over just three seasons ago. Partnering with local colleges was most common. Eighteen teams combined to host 125 special-ticket college-themed packages last season, up from 16 clubs hosting 75 such games in 2017. These deals typically cost $35-$45 a person and included a team-school co-branded cap, while a portion of the purchase was donated to the college. The Rangers were the most active in the space, hosting 17 schools. The club offered a total of 28,500 such tickets, or the equivalent of what the Rangers averaged for their 13 Friday night games last season.