Marking the marketers: Worst. Promotion. Ever. Surely? D.

One of these things is not like the others, see if you can spot it:

Baseball, long summer evenings, America’s pass time, cracker jack, social bonding, seventh inning stretch, beer, relaxation, the crack of a sharply hit ball, nostalgic Kevin Costner movies, hot dogs, quality coffins with professional embalming.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Trick question, they all go together! At least, according to the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs of Allentown Pennsylvania, who want you to know that:

One deserving fan will earn all of the essentials for a free funeral or a memorial service on [the hilariously misnamed -ed] “Celebration of Life” night presented by Reichel Funeral Home when the IronPigs host the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Tuesday, August 20 at Coca-Cola Park. The total funeral package is valued at nearly $10,000, marking the most valuable giveaway in IronPigs history.

And these guys should know, because according to the great wiki, Forbes rated them the second most valuable minor league franchise in America. So there.

But what, you ask, does this fabulous and expensive prize include? Well:

  • A casket.
  • Professional services of funeral director and staff.
  • Body removal and preparation (embalming or cremation).
  • Use of facilities and services for viewing (visitation/wake), funeral ceremony, Memorial Service and graveside services.
  • Vehicle to transfer remains to Funeral Home along with Hearse for cemetery transfer.

I swear I’m not making this up.

I can’t figure out who’s idea this was. Did someone working for the baseball team get it into their head that a warm evening of sitting under the floodlights, rooting for the home team, beer in hand, was a natural fit with contemplation of one’s own personal death, bodily decay, and the dispersal of one’s estate (“Let’s go Steelpigs!”)? I mean, maybe some customers would come to the game because the dollar value of the prize is so high, but I’m not sure I’d bet on them coming again a second time after this. Or did someone at the funeral home get to thinking that an event two steps up from a state carnival might help cultivate an image for dignified care and the sensitive handling of deep personal loss and mourning.


Can we save it?

Maybe for fans that are extremely, um… die-hard, you can try to make a case. There’s a lot of research on “terror management theory” which says that the human ability to be aware of the  inevitability of our own final demise causes pain and despair that we work hard to avoid. We do this by thinking of our self as part of something bigger and enduring – be that something metaphysical (e.g., God and an afterlife), physical (e.g., living on through kids and descendants), or even social (e.g., being part of a nation or other meaningful group). If you’re the kind of person who regards baseball as a quasi-eternal verity of the good life  (see, e.g., nostalgic Kevin Costner movies), then a reminder of death could lead you to endorse baseball harder, and the funeral home could benefit through  baseball lending death some kind of deeper shades of meaning. Maybe.

This seems to be what they’re going for with their “game of life” tag on the promotion – building a nexus of death anxiety with affirmation of life, and tying that in with baseball and the particular brand of funeral home. That’s not, in itself, a terrible idea.

Even so, the funeral home better hope that there are a high percentage of fans who feel this way, and who are willing to buy this framing, because they’re probably losing ground with the rest of the crowd. It makes even less sense for the team, as the fans who are hard core enough for this to conceivably work on probably already have season tickets, and were going to be at the game anyway – so why risk alienating everyone else?


Bottom line: There’s enough of an outside chance at intelligence that I won’t fail it. That and it made me laugh. D.


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