The Story Behind the Massive Success of the Savannah Bananas

If you’ve browsed social media recently there’s a decent chance you’ve seen a video of the Savannah Bananas. Everything from hitters doing the splits, to dancing grandmas, to flaming bats – nothing is off-limits.

Even ESPN has jumped on the train, featuring the team in a number of videos and even streaming some of their games through their WatchESPN platform.

So, how did a collegiate summer baseball team capture the attention of their local community and the nation? MarketScale went behind the scenes in 2018 to hear how the team has grown into a juggernaut in the southeast.

And if you want to build a “Fans First” culture in your business or community, check out our online learning course with Jesse Cole where he teaches you how to convert customers or visitors into fans.

 

Episode 1

Nothing says summer in America like our National Pastime.

Terence Mann (played by James Earl Jones) may have said it best in the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.” 

And while baseball is a part of our past, the game faces challenges. In an accelerating world, a slowing pace of game is losing the attention of younger and older fans alike. If baseball is to retain its crown as the national pastime, it’s going to need new energy and increased engagement with its fans.

Enter the Savannah Bananas.

Owner Jesse Cole is making people fall in love with the game of baseball again one inning at a time with promotions not found anywhere else in the sport, delivering one sell-out after another. Summer nights at the Bananas’ Grayson Stadium are nothing short of magical, with the perfect fusion of good college baseball, and unmatched ‘fans first’ experiences.

 

Episode 2

While the world is speeding up, baseball is slowing down, and the Savannah Bananas are determined to provide the best fan experience anywhere in the world. MarketScale followed the team during their weeklong lead-up to Opening Day 2018 to see how the Bananas sellout games in a town where baseball has failed for decades. If you haven’t watched episode one, you can catch up on all the action right here.

Opening day is a rebirth in baseball. A clean slate. A fresh start. For the Savannah Bananas, a team still trying to endear themselves to the community in just their third year of operation, a first impression is more important than a win or loss. They cannot afford to play in front of empty stands.

Opening Day has not come for the Savannah Bananas quite yet, but for the front office and staff, the season has already begun. Just minutes before gates open for Fan Fest, the first major event of the year, questions remain to be answered.

 

Episode 3

On opening day, the Savannah Bananas’ front office staff is running out of time. More than 4,000 fans stand outside the gates hours before first pitch. The supporters have high expectations not only for the team, but the entertainment production that has been promised to them. The Bananas welcome their in-state rival, the Macon Bacon, to Grayson Stadium for the first game of the 2018 season and energy at the park is high among spectators, players and staffers.

Before the game, Team Owner Jesse Cole must make sure every corner of 92-year-old Grayson Stadium is presentable and in working order. Electrical issues, a lack of signage and loose wiring are all evident throughout his preliminary walk-through of the park just hours before gates open.

The Challenges

The heat is on Cole and Director of Fun Tyler Gray, who are working together for the first time on a game day. Other workers are feeling the heat physically though, as temperatures push triple digits. The concession stand kitchens are even hotter.

While Cole and his staff are focused on providing a ‘fans first’ experience, Director of First Impressions Keke Coles is dealt the tough task of managing a team that cannot efficiently function in the heat. Before the first pitch is thrown, an ambulance is needed to assist a kitchen worker who has passed out because of the extraordinary temperatures in the kitchen.

Team president Jared Orton steps up to assist the shorthanded kitchen staff in order to meet the demand of an all-you-can-eat food line. The time to first pitch continues to dwindle, and Jesse must make sure the pre-game entertainment schedule goes as planned amidst the safety and logistical challenges.

Fan Excitement

When the game begins, the staff must continue with its game plan amidst the tumultuous circumstances. Fans have been promised free food and an entertaining show, which does not allow for stumbles from Cole and his crew. A lack of two-way radios only makes this a more difficult challenge.

Baseball conjures a feeling of leisure and relaxation among fans. A ballpark is a place to relax and enjoy summer evenings. For a baseball staff however, there is no time to waste. In a short summer season, the Savannah Bananas’ front office is in a constant race against the clock that does not stop at first pitch.

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