Once a year the Los Angeles Dodgers invite food bloggers like me to visit Dodger Stadium, sample the new menu items from the stadium's ever-improving concession stands, and take in a game. I've been lucky enough to be on the list twice now, and it's one of my favorite events of the year.
The food at Dodger Stadium, where Executive Chef Jason Tingley is in charge of all the kitchens, seems to get tastier and more interesting every season. This year we tried a hot dog Tingley created to honor Los Angeles's firefighters, topped with spicy cheese, jalapenos and Flaming Hot Cheetos; smoked chicken wings; Street Corn Nachos, topped with grilled fresh corn kernels; a really terrific pepperoni pizza. Tingley adds new items throughout the season - look out for that same pepperoni pizza with an actual Dodger Dog baked into the crust (yes, really).
But you know where my head is at these days - I'm thinking like a small business owner 24/7 because of Not Ketchup, my condiment business. So while I was tasting all this delicious food, I was thinking about bobbleheads.
And logo-imprinted barbecue tools, too.
David Siegel, the Dodgers' VP of ticket sales, showed us the many promotional items the Dodgers will give away to fans this season, including multiple bobbleheads, the barbecue tools pictured above, a pop-up laundry hamper, and several dozen more. High quality stuff, not throwaway trinkets. In all, the Dodgers will give away about 1.5 million promotional items this season.
And while he was talking, all I could think about were logistics - the same kinds of things that I have to deal (on a smaller scale) with when buying and distributing promotional items like t-shirts, hats, basting brushes, squeeze bottles and more for Not Ketchup.
- Where do they store 1.5 million promotional giveaway items? I order a small fraction of that amount and the boxes are taking over my living room, family room, bedroom and office. Is there a cavernous warehouse under the stands near the outfield? As it turns out - no. The Dodgers work with a promotional company that warehouses the items until they're needed on game day.
- What happens to leftover items? The Dodgers handle this the same way I do: They give them out throughout the year for community outreach and other fan events. I stick mine randomly into online orders - one of the advantages of ordering from the Not Ketchup website instead of Amazon.
- How many ideas do they consider before choosing the winners? I have an amazing promotional products guy, and Keith and I have looked at very long lists of possible Not Ketchup giveaways, including pens (boring), pads (maybe someday), barbecue tools (expensive), oven mitts (couldn't find good ones), wooden spoons (ditto), and more. The Dodgers marketing team says they consider more than 100 product ideas each year, ultimately choosing the things they think will resonate best with fans. (I suspect price has something to do with it as well - at least it does for me.)
The Dodgers also have to think about logistics I don't deal with. For example, they hand certain giveaway items to fans as they enter the stadium, and others on the way out. How do they decide? Items that are heavy, bulky, or could be used as a weapon wait until after the game. Safety first.
As I was leaving Dodger Stadium on a beautiful Monday night, it struck me that I may never again be able to enjoy a baseball game - or a trip to Disneyland, or a visit to the mall, or grocery shopping, or ANYTHING ELSE - without this business-oriented undercurrent of questions, ideas and analysis running through my head. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Just a different way of looking at the world.
Disclosure: The Dodgers invited my family and me as their guests for this event. All opinions and weird logistical musings are, of course, my own.