Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I was recently invited to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day, which, as baseball fans know, is a great honor. Granted, it was opening day of a local stickball league in a small town just outside of Dubuque, but an honor nonetheless. Walking out on that field on a warm summer day to throw an underhanded slow pitch to a first grader brought back fond memories. As I looked out at the dozens of faces in the stands, I caught sight of a father and his son enjoying the afternoon. They were hard to miss, actually. Each sported a giant “We’re #1” foam finger, matching baseball jerseys with their names featured prominently above the logo of the local Gas-n-Go, and baseball caps from Joe’s Tackle Shop with a fish leaping off the brim.

The sight of head-to-toe father-son branding instantly transported me back in time—back to the day I went to my first baseball game with my own father. I can still smell the peanuts, taste the hot dogs, hear the crack of the bat and feel the soft fabric of the thousands of baseball key chains we gave out that day. My Dad knew that baseball was America’s pastime. He also understood an essential fact about most people…they love free gifts. So, he followed Rule #1, put his name on a fun, useful keepsake and headed to the stadium with my brother and I in tow. After all, he couldn’t pass out two thousand key chains by himself.

Today we call them take-aways, which essentially means a free gift that reminds the recipient of the event at which they received it. So, whether you are throwing a company picnic, hosting a team-building workshop or planning your company’s next sales meeting, don’t forget to give away something to commemorate the event. It also helps if the gift is practical and can be used in the recipient’s daily life. That way, whether they are taking a memo or opening their car door, they will remember the day. Take-aways are an effective way to inspire company loyalty while simultaneously promoting your products or services to the outside world. Everybody wins.

Speaking of winning, I have to go buy a lotto ticket; the jackpot is up to 44 million and I’m feeling lucky. Remember, “You can’t win if you’re not in the game.”