Why the Nats are giving away 175,000 bobbleheads

(Via @dcuniverse)
(Via @dcuniverse)

Last season, the Nats had three bobblehead giveaways, featuring a total of 45,000 bobbleheads. These promotions were held on a Saturday, a Sunday and a Saturday.

This season, as mentioned here last week, the Nats are having seven bobblehead giveaways, featuring a total of 175,000 bobbleheads. That’s nearly a 300 percent increase in bobbleheadedness. Plus, they’re giving away another 25,000 Jayson Werth gnomes. The eight figurine dates will be held on a Monday, a Tuesday, a Thursday, a Friday, a Saturday and three Sundays.

In other words, much has changed over the last year. And because I probably care too much about bobbleheads, I had a brief conversation about all this with John Guagliano, the team’s VP of marketing and broadcasting.

Guagliano told me that the team’s maximum bobblehead output came in 2007, when there were four giveaways, featuring a total of 85,000 Racing Presidents bobbleheads. And he explained why the numbers went up so dramatically this season, how the team chooses which players to feature, why the weeknight giveaways have been added, and just about everything else I could think of to ask.

Here’s a rough Q&A. My own questions have kind of been paraphrased.

So why such a dramatic increase in bobbleheads?

It’s because of best practices. We talk to other teams, we get internal league data, we look at the popularity on the games that we have them, and it was definitely our number one promotion. So we felt like honestly, if we could make it happen, we should. As far as the offseason goes, it was just a major priority.

I’m sure you saw the crazy lines for the bobblehead games last year. Do you think that goes away with 25,000 bobbleheads instead of 15,000?

That’s our goal. Honestly, that’s our goal. Our fan base increased, so we needed to increase the number of items. You get fans in the park early, and hopefully they’ll enjoy their day, spend some more time. Some people get to see batting practice for the first time because they’re coming early. That’s never a bad thing: it definitely builds your brand and your affinity for the team, which is important. Our goal is to give as many items out as we can. Going from 15,000 to 25,000 is a pretty good jump.

Last year I think all the bobblehead days were on weekends, and this year it’s just about every day of the week. Why did you decide to spread it out like that?

It’s all about giving fans value. Sometimes the value is based on the opponent; sometimes the value is based on what else you put in there. And that’s something that’s very important to us as an organization, is what kind of added value we can give to our fans. It’s the entire game experience: how they’re treated, if they get a giveaway item, the food, the service, the whole thing.

How do you decide which players to feature?

Some of it has to do with performance the year before, and then we look at the players’ overall popularity: how their jerseys, or their name and number tees keys, are selling.

This is the second year in a row you’ve done a Bryce Harper bobblehead, right? Is that unusual?

Not really. We’ve done quite a few Ryan Zimmermans. It’s just about popularity. That’s what it comes down to. If we were doing two or three, that’s a different story, but when you’re doing as many as we are, it comes down to popularity.

And the Taft one, was that planned as soon as he arrived?

The Taft one kind of came in late. We wanted to incorporate one of our mascots, and when we introduced him last year we did get a bunch of fan comments — are you going to do a bobblehead? So it was top of mind. But we knew we wanted to do a mascot.

How about the Jayson Werth garden gnome, how did you decide to do that and why is it Werth?

That was actually the easy part, deciding which player. I mean, look at Jayson’s beard. Jayson is very popular with our fans, and we wanted to get him involved one way or the other with our promotional plan, and this seemed like the perfect fit for him. [As for the gnome], we’re always looking for what’s the next bobblehead, what’s the next great thing that fans want. We’ve talked to some teams that had great success with it, so we figured we’d try it.

What kind of feedback do you get about bobblehead days?

It’s quite a sight when you look out and people are lined all the way up Half Street. It’s a good feeling, honestly, from where we’ve come to where we are.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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