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Bobbleheads target casual fans

On Saturday, July 25, the first 1,000 fans to enter Harvard Stadium will receive a Heather Mitts bobblehead as part of a promotional giveaway. Such giveaways are becoming common in Women’s Professional Soccer, with the Los Angeles Sol giving away a Marta bobblehead as part of a ticket package earlier in the season and the Chicago Red Stars giving away U.S. Women’s National Team bobbleheads.

While some more traditional fans might not care about promotional giveaways, the Mitts bobblehead is a marketing technique aimed more at retaining the casual fan looking for an overall experience, said Boston Breakers Director of Business Development Andy Crossley.

The key to retaining and developing fans, Crossley said, is to give them a great experience beyond the game being played. For as little as $15, fans can get autographs, promotional giveaways and enjoy other in-stadium perks, not just watch a soccer game.

“When we want to develop fans, we are always looking for ways to increase their perceived value of coming to a Breakers game and having the Breakers experience as opposed to simply saying, ‘how low do I have to go on the price of the ticket to get you to come?,’” Crossley said.

A high-profile giveaway such as a bobblehead definitely helps raise the perceived value, as many would assess the item at just as much as they may have paid for one of the cheaper tickets to the game. This is something controllable that sends people home happy and hopefully retains fans.

Each and every game is an opportunity to impress a given set of fans – surely some new to the game or league – and it may be the only opportunity. According to Crossley, promotions and off-field events are ways to ensure that fans have fun, because the product on the field can vary.

“There are two things that we can’t control,” he said. “One is whether the team is competitive overall over the course of the whole season and whether it is competitive on any given day of the week. Our team could go 19-1 and our team could have a season like the LA Sol is having this year and we could lose one game at home all year. That one game is going to be the only game that two or three thousand people in the stands attend.”

The other thing that cannot be controlled is the weather, he said, but providing a fun experience can make people forget about bad weather or a loss by the home team. So, what could be more fun than a receiving a bobblehead of one of the team’s superstars?

Heather Mitts will become immortalized as a bobblehead on Saturday, joining the likes of Marta and old WUSA and Philadelphia Charge teammates Marinette Pichon and Jenny Benson.Mitts certainly is not a no-name player, but with teammates such as Kelly Smith and Kristine Lilly, one might wonder exactly how she was selected to be the first WPS Breakers bobblehead.

“She is a legitimate star on the field, she is beautiful – world-renowned for being beautiful, but she also sort of lives in the stars lifestyle to a certain extent,” Crossley said.

Essentially, the decision to go with Mitts comes from her being known for her great play as wellas several different accomplishments off the field, including being an ESPN reporter and engaged to NFL quarterback A.J. Feely.

“She has that combination of talent and celebrity that is not easy to replicate,” he said.

For now, the Kelly Smith and Kristine Lilly bobbleheads will have to wait, but they may not be far from reality. Crossley is still trying to organize giving away a different bobblehead each year and letting the season ticket holders vote on who the bobblehead will be. It can be anyone from the current or former history of the Boston Breakers. Reception to the idea has received mixed reactions, but it’s not a bad idea.

The trend of bobblehead giveaways has done very well in minor league baseball, a sport that many league officials use as a barometer to compare WPS too. If these soccer bobbleheads can obtain similar success, they may continue to make a strong comeback at stadiums around the country.

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