Faith-Based Marketing Draws Crowds

Discussion
Jul 22, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It’s been said that faith can move mountains. It’s certainly been proven that it can draw crowds.

According to a report in USA Today, minor league baseball teams are drawing larger than normal crowds with “Faith Night” events. A recent event at the Class A Hagerstown
(Md.) Suns game drew a crowd of 3,785 fans. The team normally draws about 2,500 fans for the average game.

The marketing event included the “Bob and Larry” characters from the popular animated Christian VeggieTales franchise.

“Baseball, faith and Americana, it’s a perfect fit,” says C.J. Johnson, director of marketing for the Suns.

Bob Shank of Hagerstown brought his daughters to the “Faith Night” event. “The girls are here for Bob and Larry,” said Mr. Shank.

He was there because, “Anytime there is an opportunity to speak the Gospel, it’s a good thing.”

The Class AAA Nashville Sounds have incorporated a regular schedule of “Faith Night” promotions into the team’s schedule since 2002.

Last season, the team ran seven “Faith Nights” with three including the give-away of bobble-head dolls – Samson, Noah and Moses.

This season, other bobble-head giveaways have been added to the promotion including Queen Esther, John the Baptist and Daniel and the Lions.

While many believers are drawn to “Faith Nights,” others less religiously inclined are also taken into account when the events are planned.

Brent High, the vice president of the Nashville Sounds, said, “We make a concerted effort to protect that fan who doesn’t want to be involved. We want this to be fun. We don’t
want this to be an in-your-face event.”

Moderator’s Comment: With retailers running events such as singles-nights in stores, do you see an opportunity for these same businesses to sponsor promotions
such as “Faith Nights” to build consumer awareness, loyalty and, ultimately, sales?

George Anderson – Moderator

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11 Comments on "Faith-Based Marketing Draws Crowds"


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Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 7 months ago
Discretion and care should be the watchwords here. The essence of retail is separating the consumer from her pocket book in a way that meets a need. Delivering “faith” should have little to do with that. Entertainment, such as minor league baseball, has the side effect of drawing a large number of people together at one time. Their primary interest is in consuming the entertainment. Offering other items to interest the consumer is a regular thing. Music, fireworks, stupid mascot races….not everyone likes them or finds them of value. Faith Night seems to marginally fit into that scheme. But at a retail location, one that does not already cater to the faith-based niche? I can see Christian Family Bookstores doing this, and it would make incredible sense. But Wal-Mart? Where’s the legitimacy, moral or otherwise, in sponsoring such an event? Which denomination would be chosen? Retailers have equity in their name. This equity is in large part an explanation of why they are still in business. Any partnership, of any kind, offers a chance to… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

There are some retailers that, when opening a new location, or at other special times, run direct mail invitations to people who are members of certain charitable organizations. The members are told that if they shop on a certain evening, x% of the purchases will go to the charity, assuming they show the post card.

The retailer might be gaining new customers or reinforcing old customers and the charity gets an event and some income.

I have a feeling that this model could be used with religious organizations without incurring undue problems.

Lisa Everitt
Guest
Lisa Everitt
15 years 7 months ago

I agree with scanner that it’s a good vector for group sales and family nights out — and VeggieTales, though nominally Christian, appeal to kids across the spectrum. Who could fail to love a dancing cucumber?

My hometown MLB team, the Colorado Rockies, hosts bunches of church groups, if the lists they scroll on the scoreboard are any indication. I’m in favor — the Rocks need all the prayers they can get!

Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
15 years 7 months ago
Holding “faith-based” promotions is just as bad of an idea for retailers as it is for minor-league baseball teams. There is a strong propensity in this country for people to identify themselves as being part of particular groups (and I suppose I’m no exception), but any time a for-profit entity (retailer, theme park, ball team) chooses to highlight such groups and promote to such groups, they alienate anyone who is not part of those groups. And let’s be clear: by “faith-based,” we’re not talking about Jews, Catholics, Mormons, or Wiccans — we’re talking about Protestant Christians who identify themselves as Evangelical. Can you imagine a retailer holding a night just for Jews, just for Catholics, just for Mormons, or just for Wiccans? Or Buddhists, Hindus, Bahai-ists (sorry, I don’t know the right term), or Muslims? Of course, things can get entertaining if the retailer, theme park, or ball team book two different groups at the same time. Several years ago, Denver’s Six Flags Elitch Gardens had Gay Pride Day on the same day it had… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 7 months ago

I’m amazed by voices that caution “discretion and care” when contemplating Faith Nights in supermarkets that already feature Singles Nights with all the baggage of sexual predation, sexually-transmitted disease, and sexual abuse. I can envision the meeting now: “Gee, should we take a chance on a customer being offended by shopping next to a Christian; Or, should we expose our customers to the possible initiation of a sexual encounter that evolves into abuse and disease?” Tough decision. I can see the dilemma.

Singles Nights are shared experiences. Baby showers are shared experiences. Softball games are shared experiences. Writing off Faith Nights simply as shared experiences assigns them to a very broad category, but misses the point entirely. Faith goes home with the participants, impacts their families, influences their neighbors, and guides their lives. The real question is, “Should retailers reach out to serve customers with lifestyles of consistency and personal loyalty?” Tough decision. I can see the dilemma.

scott christensen
Guest
scott christensen
15 years 7 months ago

Mixing faith and economics is tough enough from many pulpits, let alone in the retail market. If the primary purpose of a faith night is to bring like-minded people together to share an evening in a Christian atmosphere, I am all for it.

But at what point will a retailer compromise sales for faith? Will beer or wine be pulled from the shelves? Violent video games and suggestive magazines? To use “faith” as a draw, yet fail to remove those items deemed offensive to those of faith, shows economics is what is driving the campaign.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

With the exception of specialist retailers who wear their beliefs on their fascias, I cannot see any justification or excuse for this at all. People choose their shops based on the products, prices and service on offer. Their beliefs should be private and not up for grabs. Nor should those who do not share their beliefs have to decide against going into a specific retail outlet on that basis. This discussion makes me nervous and I am beginning to feel afraid, very afraid.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 7 months ago

And here I thought faith-based marketing meant running television ads and praying that they actually work!

I’m with the others — baseball and other events are about bringing crowds together to share an experience. You have to put butts in seats, and finding a “theme” that a certain community identifies with to bring in incremental attendance is nothing new. There’s nothing faith-based about it. “Show us your tats” day, with a tattoo contest and free tongue piercings next to the beer taps might work just as well to bring in a (very) different crowd on another night.

Retailers are better served by understanding their communities and carrying appropriate products. The Mollie Stone’s supermarket near the Orthodox Jewish synagogue here has an extensive kosher section, for example.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

We found it interesting that the minor league teams in the article did not alter their beer sales during “Faith Night” events.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 7 months ago
Minor league baseball is a marvelous venue for this type of promotion. I can remember, even years ago as a kid, going to a major league baseball game on ‘Church Night’. It was simply a night at the ballpark where churches were offered special group rates and seated in group sections throughout the park. My own local minor league team does some of these same types of things that allow discounts on tickets with a church bulletin. They also provide ‘alcohol free’ sections at every game. While that isn’t a ‘faith-based’ promotion, it does allow for a ‘family’ atmosphere in some sections of the park. Now at retail, as mentioned, these types of promotions (faith-based) would require care and respect. Yet, I do see them as a potential promotional possibility. The problem is that many markets and consumers are antagonistic towards anything that could be considered ‘faith-based’ or of a religious slant of any kind – even to the most non-denominational extent. In my own area, these types of promotions might be very successful, however,… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

“should we take a chance on a customer being offended by shopping next to a Christian?” It is just this sort of attitude that engenders wars and feuds between individuals and groups with differing beliefs. Faith nights anywhere are unlikely to enlist new recruits – they are much more likely preaching to the converted who do not need to be quite so obvious or evangelical in the pursuit of their own interests. I do not want to choose either my stores or my entertainment based on the likelihood of being assailed with other people’s views and values. I do not deny them their rights to believe but I resent having to avoid certain places if I want to avoid being harassed. Choosing to avoid certain places and events does not amount to choice. Co-existing, however, is more than acceptable. Mark’s suggestion seems to show a clear and simple way in which every group or individual can be offered something that is acceptable within their own frame of reference.

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