Some social media teams, like those of KFC or Wendy's, are clever when it comes to humor.

The social media people for the Montgomery Biscuits, a AA minor league team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays, have proven themselves more daft than deft. A promo this week was apparently an attempt to get millennials to come to the field on Saturday.

The approach the Biscuits took was to insult anyone in the age group, many of whom are in their 20s to mid-30s. And it seems to have backfired in a big way.

The promotion, done on Twitter, starts with an invitation that could be taken as anything but sincerely inviting.

Ah, how clever. Pick up a number of tired tropes and stereotypes, pack them together, and expect that you'll entice a group of people to turn out for a promotional event -- and pay anywhere from $9 to $15 for the privilege. There may be no crying in baseball, but there is apparently plenty of room for wincing.

In one sense, the promotion was a limited success. The team's tweets typically get anywhere from zero to two comments and several retweets. This one ran into the hundreds. Many of the comments were scathing, and wittier than what the social media team had managed.

Challenge the team? Its Twitter gurus knew exactly what to do: double down with the abrasion.

And then came more responses.

There were people who thought the messages were funny and a tongue-in-cheek promotion. Then again, they may have been the ones who'd normally respond to the team's tweets.

Humor is difficult to use in marketing because people can have wildly divergent senses of what is funny. Making it work requires a sense of how the group you're trying to reach will react. Self-deprecation can work well, as can a funny retort to a competitor.

The minute you make the target audience the butt of the jokes, however, you're in dangerous territory. People might laugh if they consider you part of their group, so someone allowed to make inside jokes. If not, you gamble that you can use as scathing and yet light a touch as a Don Rickles. Which you aren't and won't be.

To be fair, you can't just blame the social media group. The entire marketing department of the team had to sign off on the entire promotion, suggesting that they all should have been placed on the disabled list.

The sad part is that the team could have created a promotion for millennials with tongue in cheek rather than sticking out toward the audience. Each jab could have been matched with a real benefit. Deep ticket price discounts -- or, better yet, free entry -- for all who had to carry heavy school loans. Set up an actual avocado toast stand (because lots of people love the dish). Do selfie-stations before or after the game to let people take pictures with the players.

The whole point should have been to broaden the demographic and get millennials to start coming to games. Give them a taste of what they might find fun. But that would mean seeing the potential fans as people, not a punchline.

Published on: Jul 13, 2018
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