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Ten Cent Beer
Can marketing be too effective?
Ask the 1974 Cleveland Indians.
In an effort to drum up attendance for a game against the Texas Rangers, the Indians ran a promotion:
An 8-ounce cup of Stroh’s beer for just 10 cents.
As the game (and the drinking) went on, fans became more and more unruly. (The accounts of misbehavior get pretty wild.) With the score tied at 5 in the ninth inning, the crowd rushed the field, leaving players to run for safety. The umpires ordered Cleveland to forfeit the game, giving the win to Texas.
Promotions Can Turn on a Dime
It wasn’t the first time Cleveland ran a promotion offering discounted beer for fans. But this time around, Cleveland failed to consider an important bit of context.
Less than week earlier, Cleveland and the Rangers saw a bench-clearing brawl during a game in Texas. Rangers fans threw food and beer at Cleveland players as they returned to the dugout. When asked about the brawl and the upcoming rematch on Cleveland’s turf, the Rangers coach antagonized Cleveland fans:
“They won’t have enough fans there to worry about.”
By the time the game started, 25,000+ fans were in the stadium – more than double the number Cleveland had planned on. The stage was set for a carbonated crisis of epic proportions.
The incident offers two big takeaways for marketing teams.
The first is to have a plan for extreme success. It’s actually a lot like crisis preparation. Think about what challenges could arise if too many people participate or there’s too much coverage. Could servers get overloaded? Established media relationships strained?
The second takeaway is to constantly consider the context around any campaign you’re launching. Cleveland’s promotions team had multiple chances to see the risks of offering excessively cheap alcohol to feuding fans. But they pushed ahead with the promotion, and chaos ensued.