WMU News

Sports marketing maestro Mike Veeck comes to WMU

Oct. 1, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Sports executive Mike Veeck, who has used a hog named Kevin Bacon to deliver baseballs to the home-plate umpire and hired a Benedictine nun to give backrubs at the game, will share his experiences with the Kalamazoo community during a Wednesday, Oct. 3, visit to Western Michigan University.

Veeck comes to WMU as a presenter for the Haworth College of Business Leadership Lecture series to discuss "Promotions: The Ones That Work Occasionally Draw People; The Ones That Don't Make Good Stories." His presentation is set for 4 p.m. in the Brown Auditorium of Schneider Hall and is free and open to the public. During his campus visit, Veeck also will critique sports marketing projects being done by WMU students.

The 25-year marketing veteran has used gimmicks--quite successfully--to bolster public interest in the five minor league baseball teams he co-owns: the Charleston RiverDogs, Hudson Valley Renegades, Sioux Falls Canaries, St. Paul Saints and the Fort Myers Miracle. In the past, Veeck has hired mimes to re-enact plays on the field, erected a barber chair in the bleachers for those wanting a haircut during the game, and once proclaimed an evening as "Lawyer Appreciation Night," with attorneys having to pay double.

The South Carolina resident also is a motivational speaker whose philosophy of fun draws praise from sports fans and business leaders.

"There are some customer service experts who can't say enough about Mike Veeck," says Dr. Andrew A. Brogowicz, chairperson of the Department of Marketing. "Many of the major league sporting venues are having trouble getting people out to games, attendance is down and there are talks of eliminating complete franchises. At the same time, Veeck has a number of minor league teams setting attendance records."

One of his biggest successes has been in Minnesota where his St. Paul Saints regularly fill the stadium's 6,300 seats. Although the major league Twins are just a few miles away, the waiting list for Saints' season tickets is more than 1,200 names long. When single-game tickets went on sale before the 2001 season, fans were camped out in line two days in advance.

Veeck's success is, in part, hereditary. His father was baseball hall of famer Bill Veeck, the sports marketing pioneer and club owner known for drawing crowds to see the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns.

Media contact: Gail Towns, 616 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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