Business

Minnesota Twins Hope to Lure Fans by Selling Custom 1991 World Series Products

David Berding | Getty Images
  • The Minnesota Twins will leverage the 30th anniversary of the 1991 World Series team by selling a limited amount of customized products in-stadium only.
  • The items include retro backpacks that cost $150. The promotion could net the Twins $50,000.

The Minnesota Twins consider it an energy moment, designed to keep fans engaged in their product during a down year while celebrating one of the better times in franchise history.

And it also resembles a promotion used by McDonald's.

The Twins are leveraging the 30th anniversary of the 1991 World Series team by selling a limited amount of customized products at an upcoming home game. The items include retro backpacks that cost $150. The promotion is restricted to in-stadium purchases only. The Twins and Major League Baseball hope it will drive engagement around the club in a losing season.

"It's leaning into something that's old and making it feel new again so that the younger generation that we struggle to reach is interested in coming to the ballpark," Heather Hinkel, Twins vice president of brand marketing, told CNBC.

Using the McDonald's approach

The 1991 Twins, led by outfielder Kirby Puckett and pitcher Jack Morris, won a seven-game World Series against the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 27, 1991. It was the franchise's second World Series in the Minnesota era.

But in 2021, the Twins are 17 games removed from first place in MLB's AL Central Division. So competing for a third title this year is a longshot. But, with 81 home games to sell, the club needs ways to entice fans to continue attending games at Target Field.

Outfielder Kirby Puckett #34 of the Minnesota Twins leads the cheers during the celebration after winning Game Seven of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves at the Metrodome on October 27, 1991 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Focus on Sport | Getty Images
Outfielder Kirby Puckett #34 of the Minnesota Twins leads the cheers during the celebration after winning Game Seven of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves at the Metrodome on October 27, 1991 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It's betting a marketing concept that emulates one used by McDonald's can help.

The fast-food empire used hip-hop star Travis Scott's name, image and likeness to help increase sales and engagement around custom meals. And Scott became the first entertainer to be featured on McDonald's menu since NBA icon Michael Jordan (McJordan meal) in 1992. Scott also created vintage merchandise around the promotion.

The Twins imitated the move on the local level, aligning with entertainer and Minnesota native DJ Skee to design items around the 1991 championship promotion. Skee, whose real name is Scott Keeney, attended the 1991 World Series games and has a personal attachment to the MLB moment.

"It's a way for us to speak to not only our core avid Twins fans, but younger fans who are a little more casual," Hinkel said of partnering with Keeney.

The Twins used Winning Streak Sports and Canada-based Herschel Supply Co. to manufacture the custom items. They include 150 heritage banners, dynasty banners and pennants ranging from $45 to $75. The team will also sell 110 backpacks for $150 each. The Twins are estimated to bring in around $50,000 should the items sell out.

"We're always interested in sales and want to sell out, but I think we're looking at the bigger picture – did we create buzz and drive people to the stadium," Hinkel responded. "Were we able to drive engagement around a product launch?"

Source: The Minnesota Twins

Like McDonald's did with Scott, the Twins gave Keeney complete control over the promotional design and capitalized on his social media following to create interest around the game. The Twins said they expect more than 25,000 fans (capacity is approximately 39,500) for Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"You're leveraging social commerce," Winning Streak Sports' CEO, Chris Lencheski, said. "It's different from e-commerce because social commerce is exactly what McDonald's did with Travis Scott.

"We've made enough already that just with the season ticket subscription base; there will be interest. And DJ Skee – his social media following (Fluid Fan) may have nothing to do with the Twins, they just like who he is or what he stands for and they want this because he's a part of it," Lencheski added.

Lencheski, a sports business professor at Columbia University, said the promotion leverages scarcity around 1991 World Series items and the collectibles space, which has been active this year, especially for baseball items.

In 2021, a rare Babe Ruth baseball card sold for a record $6 million, and a 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card sold for $5.2 million. Keeney was also a part of the action. He paid $1.1 million for MLB star Mike Trout's rookie card.

"The collectibles market is blowing up," Lencheski said. "And it's not just sports cards and NFTs, it's just about everything that's collectible and crosses over in music and sports entertainment and has some level of collectability."

If the promotion is effective, Lencheski predicts more MLB teams could use the concept to drive in-stadium offerings and gain late-season revenue in a down year.

Meka White Morris, Minnesota Twins chief revenue officer
Source: The Minnesota Twins
Meka White Morris, Minnesota Twins chief revenue officer

Quick checkup on business

The NFL season is on the horizon, so the Twins have less than a month to leverage their local market with more offerings like this. Since the team is near the bottom of the standings, fans could start to tune out. The Vikings will also command attention and spending from consumers.

Former Oakland Athletics Executive Vice President Andy Dolich said non-playoff-contending MLB teams will use discounted tickets and postgame firework displays in the final weeks to lure spectators.

"Late-season promotions are extremely valuable as long as it's done strategically," said Dolich. "If you're just throwing a promotion out there, fans are going to determine – just like anything else they buy – if it's valuable."

"And you have to look at the risk-reward," Lencheski added. "You're taking a game, that right now, every available seat that's unsold is a bigger risk economic profile to the negative. So, the little bit of risk taken by the Twins in producing energy around a game that involves a well-known entertainer – it's a healthy amount of risk."

The Twins are averaging roughly 14,500 fans this season, which ranks 19th in MLB attendance. The latest figure tied to the team's annual revenue is about $111 million, according to Forbes. New corporate partners added in 2021 make up 25% of total sponsorship accounts and companies including Geico, Ecolab and 3M Co. commenced agreements with the team this year.

On Aug. 5, the Twins named Meka White Morris chief revenue officer. Morris, a former Tappit executive, has worked for teams including the Raiders, Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers.

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