Marketing Lessons Learned from the Savannah Bananas
Confession: I Don’t Like Baseball.
It might sound crazy, but I’m just one of those people who doesn’t love the sport.
So, it might surprise you to hear that I flew to Savannah, GA and planned an entire trip around a baseball game!
Yes, that’s right, I traveled to Savannah, Georgia, to see the Savannah Bananas play and also got a tour before the game.
Now, the Bananas aren’t your typical baseball team. They’ve reinvented the baseball experience and have attracted millions of fans from all over the globe – and even people like me who don’t even like baseball consider themselves fans!
Why did I go?
I want to see and learn from what they are doing to create a stellar and memorable experience. I want to get inspiration for how to take a stale industry (sorry MLB) and make it irresistible. I want to look outside of the typical marketing rhetoric and discover ways to stand out as a brand.
I believe that the best people in their roles, look outside of the typical inspiration. Anyone in marketing can read a marketing book and can learn a ton. But, if you can look at a different industry and pick up on high-level insight, you just might learn a thing or two. Their problems look different, but ultimately everyone wants to make customers feel seen, valued, and respected. They might be structured differently, but every organization has a team to nurture and engage. The possibilities are endless if you look for inspiration any, and every, where you go.
That’s why I went to the Savannah Bananas game!
Here are a few of my big takeaways from attending a Savannah Bananas game in person:
Keep it easy. Be Different
The Bananas tickets are affordable (around $20/ticket), and they include open seating and unlimited free food for all the basics (alcohol and premium snack options were available to buy, but the free selection was enough for most people!). That’s unheard of! When you go to any sports event, you go in expecting to spend an arm and a leg for snacks and beverages. What have the Bananas done? They’ve made it a great experience for anyone and everyone – and they’re taking away a negative association people have with sports events.
It makes me think through, what are some negative associations people have with working with marketing teams? Or for XYZ client? Is there a way to do things completely different from what everyone else is doing, still make a profit, and give the customer a wow experience from the moment they step foot in our own “stadiums?”
All Generations Involved
The team has a whole crew of characters who perform throughout the game, including the Nana Bananas (a cheerleading team of grandmas), the Man-nanas (a dad-bod cheerleading team), a dance team of younger girls called the Splits, the team themselves who are in their college years, and more. Wherever you looked, you saw a wide variety of generations involved, and that reflected into the crowd as well. It was a huge range of folks on so many levels.
Quirky & Memorable
The man in the yellow tux is pretty notorious around Grayson Stadium. Jesse Cole has embraced the yellow outfit and acts much like the ring leader of the evening. I remember first meeting him at a marketing conference of all things, wearing his yellow tux. It was so weird, it was memorable.
The Savannah Bananas have a weird name, and they’ve leaned into it. From the names of their cheerleading teams to the Banana Beer to the “Vanana” VW bus out front, they’ve embraced the quirkiness of what they are doing and have leaned all in.
The Savannah Bananas have fun. It’s contagious. People obviously want to be part of it, if they can get a non-baseball fan like me to fly across the country to experience a game. They have millions of fans on social media, over 1500 players wanting to come to play for them, sold-out games every night (and months in advance too!), and a packed stadium. They all have fun, and they invite the fans into the fun too.
The organization behind the team is actually called Fans First Entertainment, and they talk about that quite a bit. From the complimentary food to the dance breaks between innings, to the engagement with the team, the concept of making it a great experience for the fans is paramount. At the end of the night, they all come out in front of the stadium and gather in a big circle, they sing “stand by me,” and close out the night. BUT, they do all of that with the fans who are still milling around. It’s a nice way to close out the night together.
As a brand, we should all want to be so contagious in what we’re doing that people are taking notice. We lean into the unique things that we’re good at. We’re not all going to run around in yellow banana suits, but we all have unique angles that make us memorable. Lean into that. We all should be looking at what we can do to streamline the process and experience, making it better for everyone involved and building more loyalty. And, whether we’re a baseball team with a fruity name, or we’re out doing ______________ day in and day out, we ALL should be fans first. If you need a reminder of that, just think of the Savannah Bananas and their mission to be all about the fans, the baseball is just their way to get to that goal.