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Taking The Bananas Show On The Road

FFE S2 3 | Bananas On The Road

 

The famous cliché quote still stands true – what got us here won’t get us there. With the coronavirus impacting the majority of businesses across every industry, it’s time to chart a new path, try new things, innovate, experiment. Enjoying considerable success over the years, the Bananas are not satisfied with doing the same thing every single year for the rest of their lives. What else is out there? How can they do things differently? In this episode, Jared Orton takes you on a journey, giving you a front row seat to the Bananas show and what they’re doing in 2020, the coming years, and into the future.

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Taking The Bananas Show On The Road

Welcome to the show. If you are brand new here or if you’ve tuned-in for a while and are wondering what’s the format, what’s this all about, we are totally changing gears. We’re taking you on a journey of our business, giving you a front row seat to what the Bananas are doing in 2020, the coming years, and into the future. I would encourage you, if you haven’t to go back to the vision episode, where I laid out where we’re going in 2025, which is crazy to think about, but we’ve laid out this vision of where this thing is going to go in the future. We’ve been in existence for five years as I’ve shared. Our first season was 2016 and we’ve completed our fifth season.

Coronavirus impacted that, but still all things included, we’ve done five seasons here. Now, it’s time to chart a new path, test, innovate, try new things, experiment and hopefully fail a couple of times too but hopefully, make it successful. The famous cliché quote that still stands true is, “What got us here won’t get us there.” The things that we’ve been doing for the past years are not going to get us to our desired future state in the next years because we’re going to get the same results that we’ve gotten every single year, which are fine.

We’re fine with the business that we have and we have been somewhat successful. We feel like we do a pretty good job here, but we’re not satisfied with doing that every single year for the rest of our lives. We want to find out what else is out there? What can we push? What can we change? How can we do things differently? That brings us to this episode. If you follow us on social media, The Bananas in general, we announced that we are taking the Bananas on the road for the cleverly named One City World Tour. If you follow Jesse Cole on LinkedIn or Instagram or read his book, people compare him to PT Barnum. One of his big heroes is PT Barnum. He loved The Greatest Showman. It’s his thing.

Bananas On The Road

One of the famous quotes from P.T. Barnum is, “Something terrible happens without promotion, nothing.” Jesse loved the promotion. He loves the new, the craziness, the announcements. He loves to throw stuff against the wall and see how people respond. In proper PT Barnum fashion, we are taking this Bananas Circus on the road. That’s what I’m going to get into and share with you all the thought process that went into this, why we are doing this, the how and the what, the unknown, the marketing strategy, the sales strategy, and lay it all out there for you because it is incredibly exciting. To not give too much into detail, we’ve been touring cities, calling people, checking in with different stadiums. We did get back from a site visit, and there is a lot of excitement on our team. We are ready to move forward with that and make that one city our place to be.

The Vision

Without further ado, let me get into all this. If you read our previous episode where we’re laying out the vision, you’ll know that one of the vision pieces is in 2025, we want to be in eight different cities performing on the road, in total between the road show and the stadium show, performing in front of 200,000, 250,000 people. That’s going to take some work. That’s going to take us re-inventing, re-imagining, re-engineering our operation, our sales strategy, our marketing, our content. To do that, we can’t do them at Grayson Stadium. Part of that vision is extending the season and not having an off-season. You probably saw where we were doing the Thanksgiving game, Fansgiving. I filmed a video in the Atlantic Ocean off Tybee Island on a banana boat wearing a pilgrim costume, with our video team that almost fell in the ocean. There were lots of innocent beachgoers taking videos, wondering why there was a pilgrim in the Atlantic Ocean at 10:00 in the morning on a Tuesday in Tybee Island.

One of the strong foundational rules of a vision is it's got to be risky, but it can't be stupid. Click To Tweet

Nonetheless, we’re going to have a Thanksgiving game. In the future, we’ll probably have an Octoberfest game and a Halloween-night game where people are dressed up in costumes. What about a Christmas game or a New Year’s Eve game that finishes around midnight? We’re working on an idea for St. Patrick’s games and Spring games and a Spring series. All that is going to lead up to this idea of us going on the road, taking this circus on the road to cities around the country, starting hopefully locally, regionally, Southeast-ish because it doesn’t make sense to travel too far, and taking this show to a city that may or may not have baseball. To give you the state of the industry, baseball is in a major flux. The Coronavirus has impacted fans being in parks and the World Series is finishing up. There were a few fans that were able to go to the World Series games and championship games but other than that, no fans in baseball parks.

The flip side of that is Minor League Baseball, the 160 Minor League teams that are associated with all these Major League teams, the agreement between Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball is no more. I hate saying there is no Minor League Baseball, but there is no Minor League Baseball right now. Major League Baseball is trying to figure out how they’re going to take over control and re-do all of what we know as Minor League Baseball. Part of that is they have said there are 40 teams, 40 cities and 40 stadiums that will not exist as a traditional Minor League Baseball team in 2021, which is a dramatic decrease from 160 down to 120. It’s a 25%, 20% decrease in teams. What that’s doing is similar to Grayson Stadium here in Savannah. There are going to be stadiums and there are stadiums in the Southeast and across the country that don’t have baseball.

They have not had baseball. Minor League Baseball left that city, left that stadium, went somewhere else, got a new stadium, just like what happened in Savannah. There are stadiums across the country and across the Southeast that have that situation. It’s going to keep happening in the future because of this big dramatic seismic shift that is happening across Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball. I hate saying we want to take advantage of an opportunity. I don’t enjoy seeing industries shrink like that and say that we’re going to take advantage of that opportunity. There are hardworking people that are losing their jobs and losing their business to no fault of their own. It’s due to this business negotiation on the parts of Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.

The One City World Tour

We’re definitely seeing this opportunity and saying, “Let’s take our Bananas experience. What would it take to bring that to a city that doesn’t have baseball right now or hasn’t had baseball in a couple of years or might be losing their team?” This idea has been in the works for a couple of years, and now it seems like the appropriate opportunity to take the show on the road. As I mentioned, and as you saw, if you watch the announcement video, we are calling this the One City World Tour. Most of our announcements are jokes and funny but that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go to one city and we’re going to call it the World Tour. We are going to take this approach of bringing our Banana Ballgame, which is the fastest game in baseball.

It’s got our ten crazy rules of fans catching foul balls for outs, no batters can step out, no mound visits, no bunting, no walks, one-on-one battles at the end. Our crazy Banana Ballgame, our show, our characters, our PA announcer, Shark, our band, our Nanas, our dance team, our first-base dance coach, all our characters, all of our show are going to the city. We’ve been in the process of identifying which cities might make sense in our region. We’re going to announce as we narrow it down to five cities, what those cities are. We’re going to make an announcement hopefully, right after the election, on what city we are going to.

FFE S2 3 | Bananas On The Road
Bananas On The Road: It’s our moral obligation to bring joy, fun, happiness, and belonging to more people, especially in cities and stadiums where baseball has been taken away from them through no fault of their own.

 

The strategy behind this is that we’ve got to identify a city. We’ve got to go and make our visits. We’ve got to figure out which ones make sense. We’ve got to figure out which capacity makes sense. We’ve got to figure out, “Is this city viable? What’s the situation there?” We’ve got to put the announcement together. We’ve got to film the videos. We’ve got to get video footage from that city. We’ve got to make the announcement and put this out to a community who has no idea who we are. They have no idea who Savannah Bananas are. There is a ton of pressure and a ton of work that’s got to be done. We don’t know if it’s going to work. That’s the part of the process of this show is sharing with your, “Here’s what we’re going through and here’s what we’re trying and you can follow along.” I’ll tell you straight up, “Here’s what’s working and here’s what’s not working.” I’m not going to say it’s a huge bet and a huge risk, but it’s risky.

As part of our vision, when we laid this out and when we read The Vision Driven Leader by Michael Hyatt, one of the strong foundational rules of the vision is it’s got to be risky, but it can’t be stupid. I don’t think we’re being stupid here, but we’re taking a risk. We’re doing something that teams have not done in a long time. You might say, “The Globetrotters are doing this.” We’re going to be similar to the Globetrotters or to a WWE traveling style sports show, but these games are not going to be scripted. This will be real baseball. We’re going to scout, hire, contract and sign what we’re going to call professional baseball players. We’re going to bring them to this city and they’re going to play our game of Banana Ball. There will be the high jinks, the entertainment, the fun, but it’s going to be legitimate baseball that we’re going to bring to the city. The risk on this is that we’ve got to field all the players, send the team and the people out there. We’ve got to take the risk on getting all of our characters.

This is probably a $50,000-plus investment to try to get this thing on the road. The test is worth that, because if we can prove this concept that we can go to a city, they will fall in love with us. We can sell the tickets, move the inventory, sell out a night, sell out night two, then keep going to more and more cities as a proof of concept. We think the risk is totally there. That’s the layout that we’ve got to figure out. We’re going to be in this thing $50,000, $60,000. How can we manage our expenses and build partnerships with people? How can we find a stadium that’s going to give us the opportunity to sell enough tickets? Hopefully 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 on night one to be able to sell this thing out, make sure we cover ourselves and generate some income for that stadium operator, some food and beverage and things like that, then build our ticket revenue to cover all these expenses.

The beauty of this is if we can sell out night one, then when we get to night two, and we learned this from the concert industry. Anytime a concert can sell out night one and have back-to-back nights in the same stadium and the same venue, the exponential growth on the revenue side and the profit side is incredible. We’re going to put some emphasis and the dedicated strategy on selling out night one, so we can get to night two and start pushing the envelope on adding fans to the ballpark. What we’re doing is we’re in the process of mapping out this marketing and attention strategy, creating the videos. We’re going to launch that video for that city when we make that announcement. Immediately, we’re going to be pushing out stuff to the media on an ongoing basis, chamber, business, community, city.

We’ve got to get the word out that this Savannah Bananas are coming to this city. We can’t be getting on the phone and calling people and saying, “The Savannah Bananas are coming to your city. We want to talk to you about doing tickets,” and they are lost at who we are and what we’re going to do. The effort is to do all the pre-work, get the content created, get the announcements, get the marketing pages, get the website bill, get everything in place so that when we go live to this city, everyone knows we’re coming and everyone’s ready for us to come and be a part of that event. The flipside of that is when we make the announcement, a key point of our sales strategy and marketing strategy, we’ll only be selling tickets privately to fundraising groups, nonprofits, schools, little leagues, businesses, any hospitality group outing. At the same time, we’re going to put our priority list available to the public.

When we make the announcement, you’ll see, “We’re coming to this city. We’re coming on March 26, 27,” whatever it is. People can join our waiting list. We’re going to be pushing that for probably 2 to 3 months, which seems crazy. We’re not selling tickets for 2 to 3 months. The goal is if we need to sell 4,000 or 5,000 tickets, hopefully we do 75% of that through groups and hospitality packages. Businesses taking care of customers, employees, clients, fundraising groups taking care of donors, or schools taking care of their people, all these groups and outings coming to the park, taking care of 75% of those tickets. We will be ongoing building this list of people who are interested in buying tickets.

It's part of our vision to take the Bananas experience to more people. Click To Tweet

For 2 or 3 months, we’ll say, “Join the list.” We’ll be building that hype and that demand so that on a certain date, probably mid-January or 1st of February 2021, we’ll build a big enough waiting list, a big enough campaign list so that there are less tickets available than actual number of people on this list. Let’s say there are 2,000, 3,000 4,000 people on this list, but only 1,000 tickets are available. We will communicate that to that list and say, “There’s so much demand. There are 3,000 or 4,000 people on this list. There are less than 1,000 tickets available. The tickets go on sale at 9:00 tomorrow morning. You need to act fast to make sure you get these tickets.” We’ll put those tickets on sale and then announce that to the list. Hopefully, within 24 hours, all of night one will have been sold out and we’ll be able to announce, “By popular demand, night two is available. The tickets won’t last long. Night one already sold out. Here’s night two. Get them while they last.” That will be it.

That’s the perfect scenario for us going to a city selling out night one, guaranteeing ourselves night two and being able to put everything into action. Is it going to happen like that? I have no idea. That’s the fun and beauty of us doing this show in conjunction with us testing and trying and experimenting on all these new things. Our ticketing team is excited about it. We’re adding two people to our ticket experience team. We’re bulking up on the Savannah side and effort to allow 1 to 2 of our current ticket experience team members to start going out on the road and making a big push to calling on the businesses, community leaders and groups in that city for us to be able to go on the road and sell out that night one. Ultimately, we’re going to have a full road team that is totally dedicated to the multiple cities that we’re going to every single season. We’ll have a full Savannah team dedicated to all of our fans, clients and leaders here in Savannah and taking care of their ticket experiences that way.

That’s the ticketing and marketing side. The real interest here is like, “How are you going to get the players? You guys are this college summer league team. You can’t take college players on the road. How are you getting the players?” That’s a fun one. There are a few examples I want to give you to think about as we start talking about this. One is if you’ve ever watched the Netflix one-episode documentary, The Battered Bastards of Baseball. It’s about the Portland Mavericks, a Minor League Baseball team in the ‘70s in Portland, Oregon. They were run by a gentleman named Bing Russell. He is famous for being the sheriff on the TV show Bonanza. His son was a bit more famous in some lower-end films, maybe some higher-end films. Kurt Russell is the actor and he played baseball as well.

Bing Russell is an actor and he’s got some money. He loves baseball and he loves the New York Yankees. He finds out that this team comes available in Portland, Oregon. It’s a similar story. The AAA team left and there was no Minor League team that was going to fit there. They had no fans. It was a super disaster. They said Portland, Oregon is not fit for baseball anymore. Here comes Bing Russell who has a theater background and also has a baseball background. He says, “I’m going to put a professional baseball team in Portland, Oregon, but I’m not going to do it with the Major League Baseball teams.” He fields his own professional baseball team of the misfit toys of baseball.

In true theater fashion, he does a casting call. He does a big marketing push, gets it all out in the national newspapers and national sports press. He hosts a casting call for his new Portland Mavericks baseball team. You’ll see in the documentary, people come from all over the world, all over the country to try to play for this Portland baseball team. There’s going to be some inspiration from that for us having a casting call, an open tryout where we can have people come from all over the country to come to Savannah, to play for the Savannah Bananas, and potentially sign a professional contract to play with us for the spring and go on the road for our One City World Tour. The other side of it that is interesting is The Ultimate Fighter. I don’t know if this show even still exists. It was on FX or USA. It was a true reality show of guys and gals. I think it was only guys, but they were competing in a weekly challenge to become a UFC fighter, to earn a UFC card to be able to fight on the UFC circuit.

It followed their journey, their training and their path. They all were in this gym together. They were all living together. It was reality TV style but also there was drama and competitiveness. At some point, someone was going to earn a professional contract for the UFC. We want to take all that together and combine it and make it this interesting drama and competitiveness fit for TV show that these players are going to come to try out for the Savannah Bananas. Some of them are going to sign legitimate professional contract. We are going to pay them to play baseball for the Savannah Bananas. Isn’t that everyone’s dream?

FFE S2 3 | Bananas On The Road
Bananas On The Road: Anytime a concert can sell out night one and have back-to-back nights in the same stadium, the exponential growth on the revenue side and the profit side is incredible.

 

The third part of this is the Harlem Globetrotters. We tested our own version of the Washington Generals. It’s going to be competitive. Both teams are going to have the chance to win. We fielded our own Washington Generals team. The Savannah Party Animals, which is a blue-collar, off-the-cuff, a rough-around-the-edges team. They wear cutoff uniforms, pink, green, neon, all neon colors, black shirts, black pants, black socks. They’ve got coolers, chains, sunglasses. They come in and pick-up trucks, super ragtag like that villain that we’re playing against. We tested the Party Animals, had a team fill and they played against our Bananas. We’re going to have this protagonist-antagonist type of feud going on where it’s the Savannah Bananas are coming to town, but we’re also bringing the villain, the Party Animals.

As these guys are trying out, they’re going to be fit for their team. There’s going to be a set group of guys who make the Savannah Bananas. The rest of them, not the B team but the villain team. The rest of them will make the Savannah Party Animals team. We’ll have two teams of 15 or 16 guys, and we will head out on the road to this city and bring this show to that stadium. I can’t wait to see who shows up to these tryouts. For our Breakfast Bowl, with baseball players not being able to play as much, we had Minor League guys, former independent guys, current Minor League guys, current independent guys, Bananas alumni, guys who had played for us that past season, local players, guys flying in from New York, from Nebraska. It was a cool group of people put together by Berry Aldridge here on our staff. I think we’re going to be able to have the same idea where this is happening in March 2021.

This is before baseball season starts. There are going to be guys who are unsigned, who didn’t make the draft, who got released by their team, who might have had an injury that they’re working back from. This is going to be their one more chance to play competitive, organized baseball, and get paid for it. It’s crazy to think about that this is where we’re going to be at in the next 5, 6 months. All this is going to happen quickly, but getting the city, the agreement, the terms and conditions nailed down, getting the finances laid out, and getting these tickets on sale are going to be a slew of huge things that we’ve got to nail. We’re then going to get to the tryouts and the content. We’re going to blink and we’re going to be packing up the bus, packing up the TV equipment and heading out on the road.

It’s part of our vision of taking the Bananas game, taking the Bananas experience to more people. It’s our moral obligation that we bring this joy, fun, happiness and belonging to more people, especially in cities and stadiums that baseball has been taken away from them for no fault of their own, no fault of the fans. They just weren’t provided the experience that they deserve. That’s what’s going to be brought to their city and I’m excited to see what people suggest. I’m sure we’re going to get crazy ones like New York and Los Angeles and, “Come to my city. Come to the United Kingdom. Come to Australia.” At some point, maybe in ten years, we’ll do a real world tour. Maybe we’d go to Canada, to Japan. Maybe we’ll play against the Korean baseball team.

Those things would be nuts, but this is our first test to taking this show on the road. In future episodes, I’ll update you on where we’re going once we settle on the city, what the sales process is, how it’s being responded to, the things we’re learning, the things we’re not learning, the things that are giving us crazy headaches, and the things that are working. I’m excited on taking this show on the road. If you guys have questions about this, things that we’re testing, trying, thinking about, get in touch with us. If you want us to come to your city, let us know. If you’ve got a stadium or a city that doesn’t have baseball, let us know those things too. We’ll keep updating you in future episodes on how this process works. Thank you for reading. We are taking the show on the road. Take care. Have a great day.

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Jared Orton

Jared Orton

Because of a relentless focus on entertainment and ticket sales, the Royals were fortunate to see tremendous growth in attendance and revenue during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Jared is now taking those experiences, along with the experiences of Fans First Entertainment, to develop a value-packed, non-stop, entertainment experience for Savannah fans. Jared currently lives in Savannah with his wife, Kelsey.
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