April Fools was no joke for the Premier Lacrosse League this year, as the fledgling professional lacrosse league turned a prank into profit.
The league, which recently announced an expansion to seven teams heading into its second season, announced the arrival of the PLL’s “eighth” team on April 1st: Beans Lacrosse Club.
The PLL packaged the prank team as they would an actual league team: logo, slogan, site launch, merchandise, press release, ‘State of the League’ announcement from co-founder Paul Rabil on YouTube, and more. Social media completed the prank – Beans team accounts, graphics for player announcements, league content, and fake Bean-centric trade deals were created.
All told, the PLL sold the joke in more than one way. As a result, April 1st marked the highest ecommerce store traffic day in league history by over 30%.
The merchandise sales were a huge success. The PLL added eight Beans-branded items to its online store – the same merch rollout as it did for the launch of the actual expansion team, the Waterdogs, which was announced in January 2020. 1,600 Beans merchandise items and $50,000 worth of Beans merchandise were sold in 24 hours.
Merchandise is still selling today – although not at the same rate it did on April Fools.
“$50,000 in sales in 24 hours is definitely a high point for us in the first quarter,” PLL COO Andrew Sinnenberg said. “And it compared favorably, if not better, than Waterdogs on a single day basis, but not over time. This was unique, and this was fun, but this was a bit of a one-off.”
“But I think it shows that we’re looking to get creative with our, our promotions, our campaigns and do things we haven’t done before – offer products we’ve never had before,” he said.
And while the idea started as a way to engage the PLL’s audience, it turned into a way to make some money while many of the league’s typical offseason revenue streams are on pause – including the PLL academy camps and training clinics.
“We didn’t have a good comparison for what would happen on that day, “Sinnenberg said. “I think we all hoped it would be successful. I think we thought it could be. But it definitely surpassed our internal expectations.”
The PLL probably crushed a few fan’s hopes and dreams when they acknowledged Beans LC as an April Fools joke later that night. However, the team’s Instagram and Twitter pages are still followed by more than 10,000 total users, and the league has continued to publish content on the Beans accounts.
Beans LC has also become a part of the league’s new social media campaign: the ‘Stay At-Home Trickshot Challenge.” Created by a pair of players, Tyler Warner (Whipsnakes LC) and Ben Reeves (Waterdogs LC), the campaign aims to educate the public on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by encouraging social distancing and at-home activity through user-generated trickshot content.
“It’s a climate that’s not overly positive, but we were hoping to be able to take advantage of folks being on their phone and hopefully bring a little levity to the day,“ Sinnenberg said. “And I think that came across in terms of traffic to the store. There was a huge spike. People were interested. People just got excited about it, people got really into it, and it shows on engagement, but it also shows just in terms of how people were buying merch.”
The interest could be attributed to the fact that the idea came from the league’s fan polling for their seventh expansion team.
“We heard every name under the moon, but Beans Lacrosse Club was actually a name that got a ton of momentum at the end of 2019,” Sinnenberg said. “And so Paul [Rabil] and Tyler [Steinhardt, PLL director of marketing] were batting ideas around for what we could do for April Fools – what could be interesting, what would resonate, what would play into the narrative of what we’ve been doing? And they came up with the idea of Beans Lacrosse Club [because] it threaded the needle and toed the line of something that’s like in the realm of possibility as a team, but obviously very tongue in cheek when you look at the branding and the logo.”
It could also be attributed to the league’s commitment to the joke.
“For us, it was really important to make sure we were doing all the little things right,” Sinnenberg said. “It wasn’t just the press release, but it was, how would the PLL normally rollout in your team?
Normal is hard to come by in most other aspects of life right now, but particularly in sports. The league’s April Fools approach highlights the creative ways it’s trying to engage fans and keep the league alive until a play resumes, which was originally scheduled to start at the end of May in Boston, can begin. The league has not yet announced a change to that expected start date.
Somewhat overshadowed by the success of Beans LC, the league ran a jersey week promotion where any jersey purchased from the PLL site would come with a personalized video message from the player – a way to keep both fans and athletes actively engaged with the league. The league has added virtual instructional content for its PLL Academy audience and is in the early stages of launching a PLL Connect platform for its Academy email subscribers, which will connect fans with players online for training, group coaching sessions, and workouts.
The pilot for PLL Connect is expected to launch “over the next week or so,” Sinnenberg said.
“The undercurrents all of these are similar to what a lot of folks are doing – trying to be able to engage with fans now that are engaging with content probably more than they normally are,” Sinnenberg added. “So how do we take advantage of that? What are the offerings we can have that play to that? How can we take advantage of our players who might have a little more downtime to engage with fans? And so those are just kind of a few of the ways we’re starting to approach what we do next.”