My obsession with the Reds’ annual promotional schedule is mostly a byproduct of sentimentality, since I grew up during the Big Red Machine, which also happened to be the Halcyon Days of stadium giveaways. “Bat Day” meant kids received a full-size, candy-apple-red-painted Louisville Slugger adorned with a Pete Rose autograph stamp on the end. “Jersey Day” meant you got a genuine polyester double-knit pullover road gray replica with a number 8 on it. The helmets on “Helmet Day” might have been plastic, but at least they carried only the Cincinnati Reds logo rather than sharing space with the Chiquita Banana temptress or some other such tacky corporate branding as is currently de rigueur. Nonetheless, I gleefully comb through every year’s schedule upon its release with the hope of polishing some piece of promotional crap coal into a diamond. Let’s have a look-see at 2012 together, shall we?
Early April starts things off with the socks and underwear of Reds promotions in the preeminent practicality of a team calendar and a magnetic schedule. Sure, you’ll use them every day, but it’s hard to get worked up over them even if the magnet comes adorned with fan-favorite Brandon Phillips, whom they refer to as “Mr. Silver and Gold” (a strained reference to his slugger and glove awards, respectively). Quick side note to the Reds marketing department: The next time a fan spontaneously refers to him by that “nickname” will also be the first.
The team also happens to be in town for Easter Sunday this year and is giving away a “free candy tin” to kids 14 and under. While they haven’t yet posted a picture of the tin on the website, I presume it will tend towards a non-religious interpretation of the holiday unless perhaps they are holding back on the announcement of a Reds Ramadan Prayer Mat giveaway until closer to that holiday in late July. The only other promotions of note in April are a “Reds Fleece Blanket” presented by Duke Energy Retail, which is likely to transform into a Reds Fleece Handkerchief after a spin in your Duke Energy–powered dryer, and the “Kahn’s Kids Team Baseball Card Set” for the 14-and-under set, which ought to be given away to those 40-and-over if it were to accurately reflect the present day baseball card buying demographic.
With May’s arrival comes the first of this season’s four bobblehead giveaways. Bobbleheads have epitomized the ballpark giveaway since their re-emergence in 2001 and last year the marketing team knocked it out of the park with a combination Dusty Baker nodder/toothpick holder. Sadly, 2012 looks to be a particularly dismal crop featuring not one, not two, but three duplicates from previous seasons’ giveaways. This year’s Joey Votto purports to recognize his first Gold Glove award as opposed to the MVP celebration last year. Look for a bobble of him with his Silver Slugger in 2013 and of him brushing his teeth the year after that. The other repeats come in June and July in the forms of Sean Casey and Jay Bruce. It’s not until August when new arrival Johnny Cueto makes his appearance. It is tantalizingly described as depicting his “signature windup.” This one serves as a bit of a personal talisman as I confess to having flooded the “fan favorite” bobblehead elections over the last couple of years with votes for Johnny to no avail. And indeed, the Reds haven’t always been particularly prescient when it comes to picking out subjects for the bobbles often favoring sizzle over substance, which is especially dismaying for a club that relentlessly plugs its own sense of tradition. The likes of Wily Mo Pena, Felipe Lopez, and Edinson Volquez have all been commemorated while we are yet to see Jose Rijo, Vada Pinson, or Ken Griffey Sr. immortalized. Heck, even a Billy Bates bobble would be more exciting than the predictable Barry Larkin bobblehead version 3.0 next year.
A couple of other fairly unique promotions over the summer include a “Scott Rolen Rawlings Gold Glove Award Replica Trophy” to be given away in late May, which can serve the dual purpose of celebrating Rolen’s historic awesomeness with the leather and also remind kids that, as was the case with Scott in 2011, you too can miss nearly two-thirds of your designated work time in a given year and still be rewarded with accolades. Kids 14 and under can also look forward to a “Mr. Redlegs Great Adventure Storybook” coming in August. Perhaps we can infer from the fact that it’s being given away at a Cubs game that the book will be a cautionary tale for youngsters against such sins as vanity, futility, and hubris. The remainder of the summer schedule is mostly a cobbled together collection of vaguely useful but fairly uninspired commodities in the vein of lawn flags, grilling tool sets, and a “soft-sided” cooler. Get your tickets early and often folks.
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