Just when you thought the Manti Te’o story and its fallout couldn’t get any more absurd, we present to you the Florence Freedom.
Who are the Florence Freedom you ask?
They're an Independent baseball team that plays in the Frontier League, which is mostly made up of teams from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and that general area. The Freedom are actually based out of Florence, KY, so that means they log some decent miles on the road.
And what is their contribution to the Te'o saga?
Well, you see, the Freedom are already planning on cashing in on the bizarre story by announcing plans for a special Manti Te'o's Girlfriend Bobblehead Night, which will take place at their May 23 home game against the Schaumburg Boomers.
Yes, that's right, a Lennay Kekua bobblehead — or name her as you wish, I suppose — will be given to the first 1,000 fans through the gate on that evening. But if that wasn't enough, the team also encourages fans to buy seats in section 115, which will be blocked off and reserved for those who would like to bring along an imaginary friend, girlfriend, spouse, or whatever else you can think of. And there will even be a pretend kiss cam.
Seriously. They went the whole nine yards on this one.
Here are more details from the Freedom's press release:
On Thursday, May 23 the Freedom will be giving away the Manti Te'o Girlfriend Bobblehead to the first 1000 fans through the gates.
"This will be the best kind of bobblehead a fan could get," Freedom General Manager Josh Anderson said. "Because now fans can make the bobblehead out to be whatever they want it to be."
Yes Freedom fans, the boxes will be empty. But that's where fan imagination can run wild and individual unique stories about what the bobblehead should really look like can begin.
To add to the imaginary fun, section 115 will be blocked and reserved only for fans to sit with their imaginary friends, girlfriends/boyfriends or spouses. There will also be a make pretend kiss cam, air guitar contest and an imaginary food fight outside the Airheads Kids Zone.
They aren't kidding, folks. This is real promotion and I'm sure it's about to be met with a lot of questions and a mixed reaction due to the sensitive nature of the story and people in general.
So that begs the question: Is this really smart marketing, or is it simply too much and too soon?
Well, I'm writing about it and people are already talking about it, so yeah, without question it's a solid marketing idea. As for the second part of the question, it's a maybe and no for me. I mean, very few things are completely off limits these days, so if you're confident you know where the line is, take a shot. And with everybody competing for the next great idea or even just a little bit of buzz, you have to strike first and while the iron is hot.
That's exactly what the Freedom have done. And now it'll be interesting to see, first and foremost, how they react to the reaction, and whether or not they back down in any way. And beyond that, it'll be interesting to see just how relevant the story remains four months down the road.
Early on, it would seem to have pretty decent staying because it feels like there are several more twists and turns awaiting us in the coming weeks, perhaps even months. But we tend to move on to the next thing quickly. Just ask Oprah and Lance Armstrong how that can go, not that the latter was complaining.
Big BLS H/N: Unsportsmanlike Conduct