Marketing: Can sports equipment sell movie tickets?

In an attempt to create buzz for the early 2005 release of its movie “Church Ball,” Halestorm Entertainment has teamed up with LDS Living to offer an actual Church Ball-branded basketball (thanks to LDS Today and LDS Review for the heads up). According generic cialis 10mg to an Aug. 25 Deseret Morning News article, “hundreds of the tongue-in-cheek balls have been sold.”

If the ball is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, then either someone forgot to tell LDS Living’s marketing folks or they have a very dry sense of humor. Here’s how they position the product on their Web site:

“Designed for the most dedicated players and priced to make a great gift, this ball is also great for collectors. In celebration of the release of the first Church Ball„¢, the first run is a limited edition collector’s piece that will make a great addition to any sports memorabilia set. Comes in a beautiful display box that will look good on any shelf.”

But either way, the question for A Motley Vision is how effective this marketing stunt (and I’m a huge fan of marketing stunts) will be in generating ticket sales for “Church Ball.”

A few observations:

1. The target market for this product and the movie is huge. The church basketball meme has been ingrained (for good or ill — usually a mixture of both) in several generations of LDS men, especially those living in the Intermountain West. What will be interesting to see is if the target market responds. Mormon women constitute a huge percentage of the consumers of LDS products. The Church Ball basketball is being sold in LDS bookstores. Will men seek it out? Will their wives (many of whom may have mixed feelings about church basketball) buy it for them?

2. $24.95 is a high price for a novelty item. The trick is: will LDS consumers see the product as either a must-have novelty item or both a novelty item and a piece of sports equipment? If consumers look at the product, think “that’s kind of funny/cool” and then make the leap to either “that’s so funny/cool I have to have it” or “you know, I or so-and-so could use a new basketball, might as well get this one since it’s kind of funny/cool/unique” then it may sell fairly well. It becomes like the LDS version of Monopoly or the Book of Mormon version of Settlers of Catan.

If it’s one of those things where the concept gets a laugh or a “that’s cool” but that’s all, then, obviously, you’ll be able to pick one up in the discount bin four months from now.

3. Does the Church Ball basketball have any kitsch value (which would bring in a different type of LDS consumer)? I don’t know for sure. It comes across as a little too earnest. Plus, it’s a basketball — the core product (without the LDS customization) has no inherent kitsch-ness. In other words, it’s not a Book of Mormon action figure.

4. Even if the product fails, at the very least it will create some buzz for the movie. It already garnered the Deseret Morning News story. My guess is that it’ll have some good word-of-mouth on Utah college campuses as classes begin in the next couple of weeks. It’s a genius marketing idea because it’s a way to hype the movie without over-hyping. But is the hype coming too soon considering that the movie isn’t coming out until next yar? If the product gets a second wind at Christmas, probably not. If this story is the only significant media coverage between now and the movie release, then perhaps so.

5. Will the buzz lead to ticket sales? Probably. The more interesting question for me is how many of those who buy the product will go see the movie? I especially see this as being an issue with LDS men in their thirties and forties who might think the product is cool but have no interest in the movie. I could be wrong.

6. How long before someone in some stake somewhere claims that the Church Ball basketballs are ‘official’ equipment and what the Church wants us to use because they better represent the spirit in which the game is to be played — what with the rules on them and all?

7. Someone should buy one for Orson Scott Card.

2 thoughts on “Marketing: Can sports equipment sell movie tickets?”

  1. William, the best thing about the promotional campaign is that the balls are selling long before the filming even starts!

    According to the Desnews article, filming won’t begin until October, a month away from now, and just a few months before the release date. Perhaps it’s all a ploy just to sell the balls, and the movie won’t even be made. Can movies be invented and exploited for the sole purpose of selling balls?

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