Each month Bernie Mullin, Chairman & CEO of the Aspire Group, will answer questions from our readers. If you have a question for Bernie, send it to info@sportsmarketingreport.com.


What do you feel is the biggest advantage that minor sports teams have when they are competing with a major sports team in the same market and how would you suggest they use that to their advantage?


Biggest advantage for minor league teams without a doubt is the accessibility to players and coaches.

In the old IHL Denver Grizzlies we maximized this with every player picking out a young fan and throwing out a signed hat or t shirt as they skated onto the ice. Plus non-dressed players signing autographs on the concourse during intermission every game. And all players coming to the club area post game to meet and greet fans (we gave the players free food and drink in the club).

We also used our players extensively in school assembly programs for grade and middle schools with the students receiving a coupon for two free youth admissions when accompanied by a paid adult. The coupon was good for one specific game, not any future game, and this drives urgency. The program was called "hockey is a great lesson for life" with the major messages of:
- you have to set goals (set a purpose)
- "it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog" (passion and commitment and consistency)
- "hard work beats talent, if talent doesn't work" ( you gotta work at it purposefully with good practice = Malcolm Gladwells 10,000 hours to become an expert).

The school program involved our mascot and our radio voice and was full scripted with video and interaction. So it was easy and fun for the players. The 25 Grizzlies players each spoke to one school a month over a 4 week period (during pre- season and the first week of the season) so all told we reached 100 schools and 25,000 kids. We had about 5,000 coupons redeemed with over 15,000 kids, siblings and parents showing up for the first five home games in our history in the Grizzlies first Turner Cup winning year. Redemption rate was so high for a then unknown team because the kids had connected with the player and mascot.

Players were compensated with grocery coupons ($50 per appearance) from the program sponsor (King Soopers which is owned by Krogers).


If you had to pick one go-to technique for teams to increase group sales what would it be?

- Improving group sales.

- Tie together the promotional theme for the game, a targeted deal that resonates with that group, a giveaway item and/or an experience/event. Eg. Patriotic Night (God and Country)

- Modern Family Plan Night = minimum of 2 plans purchased (ticket, food and drink) at say $39.99 and as many extra plans as you want at $19.99 each. So it's completely flexible based on family size and accommodates the kids.

- Giveaway item or post- game Christian concert.

- Group targets: youth hockey, family and community/ school groups and churches.