When it comes to the Los Angeles Dodgers' performance on the field this season, it’s been a disappointment; the team is playing barely above .500.
But if you take attendance, the Dodgers are clear winners, leading the majors with an average 46,088 attendance. As it turns out, the biggest draw for fans has nothing to do with who’s playing on the field.
When looking at the most-attended Dodger games of the season – excluding Opening Day – they all have one thing in common: Something is being given away, whether it be a zip-up hooded sweatshirt, a mother’s day clutch, or the most popular item of all, a bobblehead.
“The bobbleheads are worth more than a ticket,” Tony Manrique exclaimed a few weeks ago, as he walked through a turnstile on the upper deck of Dodger Stadium after picking up his bobblehead honoring ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
The cheapest seats on Stubhub for the Kershaw bobblehead night were $32, more than five times what tickets went for the night before even though the opponent remained the same (the Philadelphia Phillies).
When the Dodgers offered a package selling just tickets to games where bobbleheads were given out, it sold more than every other package combined. The popularity of the giveaway isn't surprising to Stephanie Rosil, who stood on the upper deck of the stadium with her Kershaw bobblehead still safely in its box.
“Everyone collects them," said Rosil. "It’s like bringing a little player home. Who wouldn’t want to take Kershaw home with them?”
Like many fans, Rosil says she chooses which game to go to months in advance based solely on the giveaway.
“If you come to a game you pay the money, you pay for parking, you might as well get something that you like,” said Rosil.
Dodgers look beyond baseball to attract fans
Major League clubs handed out 2.59 million bobbleheads in 2013, twice as many as they did five years ago, according to Sports Business Journal.
No team gives away as many bobbleheads as the Dodgers. David Siegel, vice president of ticket sales, says when it comes to getting people in seats, giveaways are as close to a sure thing as there is in baseball.
“Regardless of how popular the team is, there could be as much as a 15,000-20,000 seat bump depending on what we’re giving away,” said Siegel.
Siegel won’t disclose how much the Dodgers spend on giveaways, which get more elaborate every year. Some of the cost is defrayed by sponsorships. Regardless, he says the money is well-spent.
The Dodgers field the most expensive sports team in the world, but a roster of stars provides no guarantee of winning. Siegel says that means the Dodgers try to to think beyond baseball.
“Obviously, we are tied to that and this is our core business, but we want people to come out here regardless of how the team is playing,” said Siegel.
The toy in the box of crackerjacks
The key to the giveaways is uniqueness: There are only 50,000 or so made, you can’t buy them in the shop, and like the little toy buried in the crackerjack box, there’s no underestimating the value of free prizes. There’s also the nostalgia factor, says Irving Rein, a professor of communications at Northwestern and author of the book "The Elusive Fan: Reinventing Sports in a Crowded Marketplace."
"It almost reminds me of a carnival, getting the Kewpie doll," said Rein. “I think it invokes memories. Those giveaways mark relationships. You can say 'I remember three years ago when I took Jimmy to the game for the first time and we got this bobblehead doll.' You can look at the bobblehead in the house and it ties up the brand identity.”
The person credited with inventing sports souvenirs is Danny Goodman, a marketing executive who was hired by the Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley soon after the team moved to Los Angeles. Dodgers team historian Mark Langill says under Goodman, the team hosted batting glove and cap nights in the 1960’s.
"And it’s just evolved over the years," said Langill. "As people are drawn more to watching the game on television it’s important for teams to say, 'Let’s get the people out here.' Nowadays you don’t hear people say they want to see the Phillies or the Giants. It’s 'I want to go Hello Kitty Night.' They don’t care who we play, what time, or what day of the week it is.”
The rise of the bobblehead craze
Ceramic bobbleheads have been sold at ballparks for decades, but before the late 1990’s usually the only figurines available were historic or simply a generic version for each team. There were fears that featuring one active player would be bad for clubhouse chemistry.
The Dodgers' rivals, The San Francisco Giants, are credited with hosting the first modern bobblehead giveaway in 1999, handing out 35,000 plastic Willie Mays statues.
The Dodgers hosted their first bobblehead nights in 2001 with three team legends: Tommy Lasorda, Kirk Gibson, and Fernando Valenzuela.
Langill says it wasn’t until a bobblehead promotion five years ago featuring a popular active player, Manny Ramirez, that he truly saw the power of the giveaway.
"It was a Wednesday afternoon game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and normally at that type of game you’d be lucky to get 20,000 people," said Langill. "It was just packed. And that really shows you the impact of the right promotion at the right time. It doesn’t matter if you play the game at six in the morning on a Tuesday, people are going to want their prize.”
There have been some notable misses over the years, including a baseball giveaway in 1995 that sold out Dodger Stadium -- The game had to be suspended when fans threw their free baseballs on the field as a protest to then manager Tommy Lasorda and right fielder Raul Mondesi being ejected from the game for arguing a call.
It was the first National League game to be forfeited in 41 years. And all because of a giveaway gone wrong.
The sheer number of places where Ebola is popping up — in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — puts a strain on medical workers. They're still trying to control the outbreak that began in February.
The Obama administration says it will boost enforcement efforts — and try to dispel beliefs among migrants that new U.S. policies allow them to enter the country illegally.
In Oregon, organizers of a program that lets inmates of a maximum-security prison run with regular citizens say the goal is to provide a sense of purpose, and normalcy.
President Petro Poroshenko announced the weeklong halt to the fighting, but there was no indication whether pro-Russia rebels would follow suit.
Maybe it's because summer is almost here, or maybe it's because the Amazon Fire phone did not blow anyone's mind this week, but Yo has officially blown up. The App, which through the right lens could almost be considered tech industry self-parody, works like this: You and your friends sign up, and then with a click of the button trade one singular message. "Yo." And that's it. It's reportedly raised $1 million in funding, and it's already cracked the top five apps in Apple's App Store.
Here's the other way Yo has blown up: it has also had its security flaws exposed. Three students told TechCrunch today that they were able to mine the app for user phone numbers. Other developers seem to have backed that up, also saying that Yo can allow non "yo" messages to be sent.
But hold on. If this sounds truly scary to you, then you might need a reality check. Security flaws in popular apps are a serious issue, no question. But..."major security flaws" ? Ehhh. Just remember: getting random people's phone numbers and sending people messages that don't consist of the word "yo" is something you can do with a phone book. Any 7th grader with a taste for prank calls knows that.
I asked one of our Marketplace Tech regulars, Chester Wisniewski of Sophos, to characterize just how big of a deal the yo hack was, and he quoted the Bard. "Much ado about nothing." What Wisniewski did say was that Yo's security flaws are demonstrative of a larger problem: the low barrier to entry in the app universe for thrown-together software that doesn't have proper security. That's a bigger challenge for the app world, and Yo is a pretty low-priority example.
So until this particular issue turns into something more serious--like access to your credit card data, or delivering your phone a virus--remember that like apps, not all "hacks" are created equal. Anyone still worried about this should look at the app permissions screen:
This narrative can change of course, but it's not time to go Chicken Little on Yo just yet. If you want to see a list of app/web hacks that you should pay more attention to, look below:
6 notable tech hacks
The social media managing program briefly shut down after a "security issue" which caused bizarre tweets to show up in users' feeds. Twitter user @Firoxl, who uncovered the issue, later tweeted to CNN that his discovery "was some sort of accident."
A group called KDMS Team took credit for defacing the website of the popular messaging app. The group left a message that simply appeared to raise awareness about Palestine, saying "Palestinian people has [sic] the right to live in peace." WhatsApp said in a statement that "no user data was lost or compromised" while their website had been hijacked.
Though the security breach only appeared to affect one unlucky user, Spotify decided it wasn't taking any chances. It pushed out a new version of the app to Android users that prompted users to uninstall the previous version, and asked users to re-enter their login details. As for the one user who was hacked, the company blog said "this did not include any password, financial or payment information."Via Wikimedia Commons
Pinterest couldn't catch a break--it was hacked twice in the span of four months. The first time, users reported spam images of women in underwear, usually accompanying a weight loss spam message. The second time around, users' feeds were littered with messages advertising a strange Asian fruit purported to burn fat. Pinterest put affected accounts into safe mode, and encouraged its users to use "unique and strong passwords" to prevent another episode.
2014 got off to an auspicious start for Skype when it became the latest victim of a hack attack from the Syrian Electronic Army. Skype's Twitter and Facebook pages, along with its company blog, were hijacked with identical messages calling for an end to government spying. The messages were quickly removed, and Skype tweeted the following day that no user information had been compromised.
Via Wikimedia Commons
Out of all the hacks on this list, Snapchat probably got hit the worst. Early in January 2014, hackers exploited a security flaw in the app's "Find Friends" function that was used to download the usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and later posted the data online. Though the company had previously acknowledged that this was possible, they later released an updated version of the app that came with an option to opt out of Find Friends.
Young adults who grew up in foster care are at higher risk for medical and mental health problems, but often don't have insurance. A little-known provision in the Affordable Care Act helps.
Breweries have been providing farmers with free or discounted grain to feed their animals for centuries. But a proposed FDA rule intended to make food safer could disrupt that relationship.
Here's an extended look at the Marketplace Datebook for the week of June 23:
On Monday, the National Association of Realtors tells us how many existing homes were sold in May.
But hey, what about new homes? You only have to wait until Tuesday. That's when the Commerce Department gives us those numbers.
Then of course you have to fill your house with appliances. On Wednesday the Commerce Department reports on durable goods orders, including appliances.
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology discusses the future of human space exploration.
Next, let's go back in time and stand in a supermarket checkout line in Troy, Ohio. Come on, it'll be fun. Hear that beeping sound? Forty years ago on June 26 a pack of Wrigley's gum made history when it became the first purchase scanned using a bar code.
Thursday is National Chocolate Pudding Day. Seriously, I'm not making this up. Someone else did.
On Friday, fashion designer Vera Wang turns 65. She's famous for those gorgeous wedding gowns.
And since it's summer it's time to get out of the house. "Transformers: Age of Extinction" explodes onto the big screen.
President Obama announced that he's prepared to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq. Analysts join guest host Audie Cornish to discuss some of the biggest political stories of the week.
When jobs are tough to find and salaries remain stagnant, sometimes people turn to something else to make ends meet. Maybe they start playing poker, or stripping or even selling Tupperware under the table to pay their bills — not necessarily illegal, but not necessarily mainstream.
According to Edgar Feige, economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, unreported income totals $2 trillion in the U.S. That includes illegal activities like drug dealing, but it also includes side jobs like nannies and eBay sellers.
We want to hear stories of the little and big things you did for money in this gray area. Email us or leave a comment.
Dan Szematowicz, Senior Producer of Marketplace Weekend, shares his story of how he pulled through leaner times early in his career:
A group of friends and I went to the local casino for an evening of shenanigans and tomfoolery. Next thing I know, I’m sitting at a poker table playing VERY low stakes Texas hold’em.
Over the next few hours, the stack of chips in front of me grew. Beginner’s luck, right?
I enjoyed the game, so I went back the next weekend. Same result. I studied the game, constantly practiced and steadily moved up in stakes. After a few months, I was making significantly more money from playing poker than I was from my more respectable job. That extra money allowed me to bridge the gap between what I was pulling down from my entry-level radio job, and the bills that needed to be paid. In turn, that gave me the feeling of security that I needed to concentrate on growing my radio career.
Kwolek, a DuPont scientist, invented the remarkable fibers — lightweight, flexible and five times stronger than steel — that are used around the world in bulletproof body armor.
At least 51.2 million people are now living under forced displacement, a U.N. agency says. If all of them were put into one country, it would be the 26th largest in the world.
Yo is an app that does nothing but let you send a voice message to your contacts saying "Yo." Is it worth the $1 million investors seem to think it is?
You don't question them. You don't doubt them. You hear them so often, you wouldn't know they are lies. Here are five historical "facts" that aren't true. Never were. And now you'll know.
Medicare data show a pattern of problematic payments to doctors with a history of disciplinary action. Yet state medical boards don't usually look at billing as a trigger for investigations.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's comments add to criticisms that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hasn't done enough to bridge sectarian rifts. The cleric also says ISIS militants must be expelled.
A pain clinic is a strange place to think about economics.
And to be honest, I wasn’t at the time. I was thinking of myself. My abdomen, freshly scarred from two surgeries to remove endometriosis. My pants, which didn’t fit. The pain and numbness that ran down my right leg. My hand, which wouldn’t hold a pen. I’m a reporter. I have to hold a pen.
The GW Pain Center was on my road back.
The waiting room was full of people with their own pain. Diabetics who’d lost a limb. Older men and women in wheelchairs. Restless kids dragged along, too loud for the small, tense space. Veterans willing themselves to walk a few steps, knowing a punishing set of parallel bars and weights was just inside the clinic doors.
We were not always kind to one another. How can you prioritize one person’s pain over another? Is my set of stairs worth more than your heavy purse? Does your 7 on the 1-10 scale look anything like mine?
Ruth Graham wrote a spectacular story in the Boston Globe about how pain, and our subjective responses to it, can exacerbate inequality. I feel like I saw this a million times over. The skeptical eyebrow at a patient, sometimes me. Were they seeking drugs? Really hurting? How do you know?
I’ve been thinking about pain a lot as we build our new show, Marketplace Weekend. In part because my experience was so formative to who I am now, both physically and emotionally. But more because of pain’s subjective nature. And the necessity to recognize that no matter what you’re experiencing, someone else is living a different experience. Even if you can’t quite grasp it.
But you can ask. And that, to me, is the essence of reporting.
How are you? What was that like? Tell me how it felt.
The author Leslie Jamison wrote a gorgeous and searing book, "The Empathy Exams." I recommend the whole thing, but the first essay, on her time making money as a medical actor, just nails this. “Empathy isn’t just listening,” she writes, “it’s asking the questions that need to be listened to.”
Or even if I’m stumbling around and stabbing at the wrong questions.
“Empathy requires knowing you know nothing.”
That’s how it is with money, too. It pushes you, shapes you. Your 1-10 scale of losing a job is utterly different from mine. That framed first dollar over the bar? Tell me why it’s special.
Our show certainly won’t be perfect, and there will be times when we know nothing. But we’ll aim to ask, with humor, curiosity, and, I hope, empathy.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced the largest federal credit card settlement over discrimination in U.S. history. GE Capital Retail Bank, now known as Synchrony Financial, was ordered to pay $228.5 million in refunds to customers.
The CFPB says the bank told credit card customers certain services were free when they were not; signing people up and charging them without their consent, and even charging people who weren’t eligible to receive the service.
The largest chunk of the settlement ($169 million) is over allegations GE Capital Retail Bank declined to offer debt relief to people if they asked for service in Spanish, or if they had mailing addresses in Puerto Rico.
“These kinds of practices are amazingly common,” says Jill Fisch, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania. “Historically credit cards have been an area where the credit card companies are able to identify lower income and less educated consumers and take advantage of them and we’ve seen that over many years.”
GE Capital self-reported the incidents and says it regrets its error. In April, Bank of America paid $727 million over similar practices, and over the past two years American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Discover have all been ordered to refund customers more than $700 million dollars total.
More on the news that NATO is accusing Russia of giving money to anti-fracking environmentalist groups. Plus, Detroit is implementing new pension plans for some of its residents, the implications of which have other states nervous. Also, Minessota will be the next state to offer businesses the option of classifying as b-corporations, a title which allows the equal prioritization of social missions and profit.