Funniest Bad Sports Promotional Ideas
There is funny good, and then there is funny bad—and often with creative sports promotions, there is a glorious place where both collide.
I commend sports marketing departments for the creativity, I do. But you really have to wonder what anyone was thinking with these particular gems.
For example, we should know by now that the general human population cannot be trusted to not act a fool when record demolition or complimentary hardhats are involved.
Some minor league baseball teams are really nailing the hilarity—with Seinfeld-inspired themes and entire nights built on insulting Alex Rodriguez—but sometimes even funny promotions can go wrong.
With these promotions, you must ask yourself, just how funny is it? And in addition, how correspondingly bad is it?
The answer we’re going for on both questions is: Extremely. Let’s see how this shakes out.
Honorable Mention: Read the Fine Print
This is not funny. This is sad, and wrong.
West Chester University student Jack Lavery thought he had won $10,000 during a halftime promotion at a basketball game. He sunk a layup, free throw and three-pointer in under 25 seconds.
Too bad the fine print supposedly stipulated that he had to make all three in a row. Lavery initially missed the three ball but was successful on his second attempt.
Total bummer. Do you know how much bee..., er, books 10 grand could buy a college student?!
Honorable Mention: White Sox Rain Ponchos
Also not funny. Serious comment: There is nothing funny about the Ku Klux Klan.
Someone might have mentioned that to whoever in the Chicago White Sox organization approved the pointy white poncho giveaway at the ballpark.
The Sox were definitely just trying to be helpful—handing out free ponchos to fans with rain in the forecast—but still. Come on.
Hot Dog Jerseys
In July 2013, the Toledo Mud Hens wore jerseys with hot dogs on them—in honor of hot dog night at the ballpark, of course.
This is funny on its own, but hilarious because Jose Valverde (having just been demoted from the parent Detroit Tigers) was on the mound.
This is bad because…it’s Jose Valverde in a hot dog jersey.
Disco Demolition Night
Ahh, Disco Demolition Night. A timeless wonder.
Blowing up a crate of disco records on a baseball field is probably not the way to avoid chaos.
Even so, the Chicago White Sox ran a promotion in July 1979 when the Sox were hosting the Tigers for a doubleheader. Said promotion stipulated that fans who brought a disco record to the game (for destruction) would gain entry for 98 cents.
The promotion was initially a huge success, with the first game sold out and thousands of fans waiting outside, according to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Vettel.
But after the initial explosion, fans (shockingly) ran amok. People sprinted onto the field, burned things and just generally caused a riot. There were 37 arrests, and the White Sox had to forfeit the second game.
Milwaukee Bucks Pingpong Balls
Following the 2013-14 NBA season—one in which the Milwaukee Bucks finished with the worst record in the league—the team ran a promotion presumably to cheer fans up.
According to Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine, “select fans” were sent a pingpong ball in the mail with the Bucks logo and a card that read, “Own the future. Win the lottery.”
Sadly, they did not. Poor Bucks fans.
On the bright side, they did get Jabari Parker at No. 2.
Dodgers Ball Night
You know, it’s sad that you can’t just count on people to not act like complete imbeciles. But you can’t. And sports marketing professionals should know that by now.
Let’s take the Los Angeles Dodgers, for instance. In 1995, the team decided to give out souvenir balls to fans as a promotional item.
Unfortunately, fans grew angry when their right fielder and manager were ejected for arguing a call at home plate, according to the Los Angeles Times' Chris Baker. They expressed their frustration by throwing baseballs onto the field. Real mature.
More unfortunately, the Dodgers were down 2-1 when this lunacy occurred, and they were forced to forfeit the game.
George Costanza Night
Anything involving George Costanza is generally pretty hilarious.
The Fort Myers Miracle, a minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, ran a promotion in 2003, the premise of which was to do everything exactly the opposite of the norm. If you don't understand the connection, watch this immediately.
According to espnW, this apparently meant putting road uniforms on the home team, running the scoreboard from the ninth inning down to the first and—here’s the kicker—paying fans to attend the game.
This might’ve been one of the most clever promotions ever, but I can’t say it’s a good idea to pay fans to attend games.
Giants Car Dealership
This one's not so much funny as it is bad.
In 2013, when the Seattle Seahawks shut out the New York Giants in Week 15, 12 people suddenly became a lot richer.
According to The News Tribune's Alexis Krell, anyone who purchased a car from a Washington car dealership in the days leading up to the game was entered into a drawing.
If the Seahawks blanked the Giants, then 12 winners would be awarded $35,000. Oops.
The dealership claimed to be happy with the result, referencing its insurance for the promotion.
I’m not sure. I’d like to see a video of the owners watching the game clock wind down and see if they look happy. Just saying.
Apparently, the Charleston Riverdogs decided it would be funny to have a “0” next to its official attendance for a game in 2002.
Now an affiliate of the New York Yankees, at the time the Riverdogs were the Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
The team padlocked doors to the stadium, keeping paying customers outside until the game was declared after the fifth inning.
A Night of Rods and Premature Fireworks
The Rockland Boulders are an independent baseball team in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball.
And it is also very much against the use of steroids, as evidenced by its “A Night of Rods” in August 2013.
Features of the promotion included free parking for anyone driving a hot rod and free pretzel rods for all.
Problem was, there was also a fireworks display scheduled to go off at the end of the game, but it went off during the ninth inning instead.
Blackhawks Hardhat Night
At a sporting event where it’s not especially unusual for fans to spontaneously throw hats onto the playing surface, perhaps giving them all hardhats isn’t the best idea?
Unfortunately for the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews chose that particular night in 2009 to score three goals in one game.
This resulted in, you guessed it, a whole mess of hardhats on the ice.
*Note: The hardhats actually rained down on a goal that was later deemed not a goal, but Toews later scored a third goal anyway.
McDonald’s Leftover Wings
According to The Wall Street Journal's Julie Jargon, McDonald’s bought a whole mess (50 million pounds to be exact) of wings for its Mighty Wings promotion in the fall of 2013.
The problem was McDonald’s didn’t sell enough wings during the limited-time promotion and was left with 10 million pounds of leftovers.
Not to worry. The plan was to roll out another promotion and offload the frozen product at a discount. Yum.
Joe Maddon Gnome
It turns out a bespectacled gnome is even creepier than a regular gnome. Good to know.
That is all.
Salute to Indoor Plumbing
The West Virginia Power is a Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but in 2007, the team was under the Milwaukee Brewers.
In May that year, the Power ran a promotion called “Salute to Indoor Plumbing.” According to Dan Steinberg at The Washington Post, the team originally wanted to close down the restrooms for a few innings and put in additional porta-potties for fans to use.
Shockingly, there were health-code issues with that, so they scrapped it. They did not scrap the promotion entirely, however.
Apparently they held a plunger race and a poo toss. Yep, a poo toss—poo made of smashed up brownies, that is, but still.
Brewers Dirty Shirts
Sometimes an idea is good, but the execution is bad. This is what we have with the Milwaukee Brewers' player-specific T-shirts.
Behold, intergalactic Scooter Gennett, dirty Carlos Gomez and chef Jean Segura.
It’s creative, but come on. Gomez’s looks like he spilled a jar of Prego on it.
The Altoona Curve, a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, ran several “Awful Nights” in the 2000s.
Benjamin Hill told of his experience to MiLB.com in 2007.
On that particular night, stadium employees sang bad karaoke during the pregame warmups. The opposing team’s players were announced along with their baby pictures and the home team’s players were announced as if they were animals—Jason Bowers was “Jason Boa,” for example.
During the game, each player’s “failure average” was announced, as opposed to his batting average. There was a cold Spam eating contest(?) and a tighty-whitey launch into the crowd.
Coming up with events for “Awful Night” would be sort of fun, I think.
Cougars Love David Wright
In 2013, when CougarLife.com (which is exactly what it sounds like), voted David Wright as one of baseball’s “hottest cubs,” someone from the New York Mets decided to capitalize on the publicity.
Deadspin got ahold of all the emails between the Mets and CougarLife, the first of which involved a Mets staff person seeking the website’s assistance in getting Wright voted onto the All-Star team.
CougarLife was into it, but apparently the initial staff person didn’t get this approved properly and the idea was nixed.