Brian Williams’ six-month suspension without pay from NBC News on Feb. 10 was widely received with grave disappointment, or finger-wagging rage from news skeptics, but some took it with a sense of humor.
Twitter erupted with #BrianWilliamsRemembers in which the hashtag connected tweets with wild claims of seeing a meteor wipe out dinosaurs or seeing the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Someone made a brilliant photoshop.
But best of all, a minor league baseball team planned a promo night.
The Akron RubberDucks – already boasting the best name in Minor League Baseball – boosted its reputation with me as they announced “Brian Williams’ Pants-On-Fire Night”.
The RubberDucks (Double-A, Cleveland Indians) planned the promotion on April 27, otherwise known as National Tell a Story Day.
The experience begins as the fan walks into Canal Park. In light of Williams’ suspension, Akron will give away suspenders to the first 100 fans through the turnstiles.
To start the game, anyone named Brian Williams in attendance is welcome to throw out the first pitch.
Where Akron really roasts Williams is between the innings.
The team will hold an on-field contest including a round of “Two Truths and a Lie” – which Akron will call “Two Truths & a Brian Williams” for the night. To recognize National Tell a Story Day, a fan named Brian Williams will read tall tales. A pair of pants, which belong to one of the other Brian Williams, will be burned for a “pants on fire” ceremony in acknowledgement of the childhood rhyme “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”
It doesn’t end there.
Another opportunity gives fans the chance to audition for the recently-vacated job at NBC. The fan must create a tape on the video board practicing being a news anchor, which the RubberDucks will then sent off to NBC, after the fans pick a favorite.
It’s promotions like these which show how wrong Rodger Sherman was when he penned his SB Nation column essentially calling for the cease-promo in minor league ballparks across the country.
Nights like these, with the novelty and humor in the event, drive fans to the ballpark. It’s not only enjoyable for the fan to see a creative and clever jab at a disgraced public figure, it’s also a great business model to put people in the seats and operate an economically-healthy club.
For people who don’t follow the intricate and complex minor league systems and prospect rankings, this gives that fan the opportunity to enjoy a baseball game for more than just the game. It appeals to a wider demographic, puts the team in the headlines, gets free articles written about it (like this one), increases brand awareness and ultimately sells tickets.
A witty event makes for a business-savvy promotion at minimal costs.
The price of a ticket, beer and hot dog are minimal anyway – but the event came at a much higher cost for Brian Williams.
Sam Fortier is a displaced New Englander living in New York as a freshman at Syracuse University. He likes baseball, crunchy peanut butter and using the word “wicked” as an adjective. He’s not a fan of purposefully misspelt business names (“Kathy’s Kut & Kurl”) or grammatical error’s. You can read him here every Monday, follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.