The San Francisco Giants are known for a versatile and talented roster, with each player contributing to the team’s success. And thanks to game analytics and calculated coaching, the club’s 107 wins marked the best record in Major League Baseball this season.
Now, the Giants’ innovation, strategy, and special events team members are using the same blueprint, remaining calculated and versatile as the Giants fight to get into the National League Championship Series.
Faham Zakariaei, the Senior Director of Promotions & Special Events Marketing for the San Francisco Giants, oversees an array of projects designed to enhance the fan experience – everything from theme nights, to special edition jersey launches, to the performance of the national anthem.
“We’ll do fun promotions and fun campaigns, but they really have some sort of connection back to Northern California, or the Bay Area, or specifically San Francisco,” Zakariaei explains. “…We were kind of the first team to do a Star Wars special event back in 2010.”
We sat down with Zakariaei to hear about his strategies for getting fans out to games, gauging consumer feedback in a tumultuous time, and how his team is strategizing and marketing for an electric playoff run.
Creating a ‘Fan Council’ to Connect with the Consumer
In marketing and special events, the focus of innovation is all about the customer. Gathering consumer feedback lets a team know what fans are enjoying — and why.
To take consumer feedback to new heights, Zakariaei pointed to a new program the Giants have rolled out in recent seasons that uses a focus group-like model to connect with fans.
“Our analytics team actually undertook this project of putting together something called the Fan Council,” Zakariaei explained. “And so we now have, I think, 700 Giants fans that are in this database. Whenever we have questions about whether or not a certain product or idea or concept is worthy, or we want to gather feedback on something…we immediately go back to the Fan Council.”
The Fan Council is highly interactive, and encourages fans to participate in everything from ticketing and concessions feedback, to choosing the logo of the program. Zakariaei sees it as a way to grow the base of passionate fans.
“We know the die-hards are going to be here regardless, right?” Zakariaei says. “So win or lose, Red Sox fans are going to be there, Giants fans are going to be there. Baseball is unusual… for instance, the ratings aren’t as strong as football or basketball, but the things that we have control of, such as fans in our market, or potential fans in our market, are things that we want to gravitate towards.”
Planning for a ‘Playoff Push’
For baseball fans, there’s no bigger month than October. With the Giants back in the playoffs after a five-year hiatus, Zakariaei and his team are fully focused on energizing fans during the franchise’s busiest part of the season.
The Giants are making use of their recently launched “ambassador influencer program,” which partners with local companies to identify social media influencers who can help promote the team. Zakariaei said the program will be instrumental in the team’s playoff push.
“We’re working with [our ambassador team] to send them these playoff packs…[which contain] consumer products, just to get them excited and posting about the Giants. So, technically, the program is already underway. We do have some budget for it, but I think this has kind of been pilot season for us, in hopes of expanding the program next season.”
Zakariaei is spearheading the Giants’ playoff preparations, which started in mid-September after the team became the first MLB franchise to secure a 2021 playoff berth. Zakariaei oversees everything from the national anthem to planning pregame first pitches, to inviting celebrities and big-name guests to the ballpark. Getting creative with the strategy behind a playoff push is key to generating buzz.
“To get that [planning] done in essentially one month’s time, it requires finding the vendors, negotiating deals, coming up with the right ideas, having our creative team put together renderings of what those ideas are,” Zakariaei says. “If we are fortunate enough to play baseball in October, and knock on wood, move along in October, it’s about the execution of those ideas.”
New Season, Fresh Ideas, and Fresh Jerseys
In 17 years of working on special events for the Giants, Zakariaei has juggled many different creative projects.
This season was no different. The Giants and Major League Baseball unveiled a new City Connect jersey in partnership with Nike that embraced San Francisco in its design and energized fans everywhere.
“For us, we’ve been working on these kinds of projects for so long, we were like, ‘Oh, here we go, another Golden Gate Bridge icon, another fog icon,’ we feel like there’s more to this city,” Zakariaei said of the design process. “But Nike wanted to embrace that. And we felt like they came up with a pretty cool design… [from there,] there’s kind of like a committee of us that worked pretty closely on the actual launch of City Connect.”
After receiving the design from Nike and coordinating with retailers for the launch of the jersey, Zakariaei said that strategizing its release and marketing it to fans became a focal point of his role.
“We identified a good number of influencers to basically support our City Connect launch,” Zakariaei said. “It ended up being a very, very successful program for us.
(Featured image courtesy of SF Giants, Credit: Frank Franklin II/AP)