How a Referral Led to Business with All 30 MLB Teams for a Bat Company
Getting a major sports league as a client is a dream for many a promotional products distributor. One Minnesota-based company that makes souvenir baseball bats started with just one team, its local Minnesota Twins, but now will sell licensed products in all 30 Major League Baseball parks.
Pillbox Bat Company, based in Winona, Minnesota, started out by wanting to create something more memorable than the standard mini bat that just featured a team color paint job.
"We can't help ourselves but come out with more unique ideas and things, like how to interpret, whether it be the artwork or the product itself," Pillbox co-founder Dan Watson told the West Central Tribune. "Fans are definitely used to souvenir bats like when I grew up going to Twins games in the Metrodome. You'd walk out with a navy blue bat with maybe a red Twins logo on it, and that was the extent of it."
New from the Pillbox Bat Company, Hall of Famer hand-painted collectible bats made in the USA! Visit https://t.co/xqJ9E2y1Lv to check out the selection! pic.twitter.com/SAko7uYTBm
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) January 29, 2022
The Pillbox design features multiple team designs, and incorporates more than just paint, coming in a variety of looks.
So, how did Pillbox go from local appeal to working across the league? It came from a referral from the Twins, actually.
According to the West Central Tribune, Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter wrote a letter of recommendation to the MLB, endorsing Pillbox and saying that "Fans are looking for something more handcrafted."
"That was his reason for wanting us to get licensing," Watson said. "The industry and sports fans in general have been kind of gravitating towards that art more."
Now Pillbox is working on designs for all 30 MLB teams to be ready for Opening Day on March 30.
.@JakeCave8, @Ryan_Jeffers8, @BertBlyleven28, & @CoryProvus had a blast touring Pillbox Bat Co. They even got to finish painting some limited edition bats for #TwinsFest! pic.twitter.com/2hEANKeal5
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) January 23, 2020
"From the consumer standpoint, it is really cool," Watson said. "From our standpoint, it is really cool as well, so I think everybody's just kind of waiting to see what happens. It comes down to what are the fans going to be drawn to."
End-users are always looking for something new and exciting. It can be as simple as just tweaking a classic design, or offering just a little bit of extra decorative spark.
But beyond the attention to detail and creativity, this is a story of the importance of relationships in the promotional products industry. Obviously, having the owner of a major sports franchise as a friend helps, but every distributor across every sales vertical can see that referrals are valuable. If you do right by your customers, they'll tell their friends, and that can lead to big things.
Brendan Menapace is the senior digital editor for Promo Marketing. While writing and editing stories come naturally to him, writing his own bio does not.