Peanuts, Cracker Jax, and vodka…
If you’re a fan of the Lansing Lugnuts, the latter might not be your first choice during a night out at the park, but thanks to an innovative partnership between the team and a local distillery, you can get your vodka cran with a splash of LUG, the Lugnuts’ new co-branded vodka.
With co-branded beers so last year, Tyler Parsons, the Lugnuts’ GM decided to take the team’s alcohol game to the next level, while making it a community affair.
For this, Parsons used what he had learned during his tenure as the General Manager for the Johnson City Cardinals where the team had created a co-branded beer and applied it to the Lugnuts, just this time with a different kind of libation.
“While I was at Johnson City, we were one of the first teams to do co-branded beer. We made a beer called Cardinal Park Red Ale,” said Parsons. “I had the chance to see how that went from a branded beer to an extension of our brand completely and how it picked up steam and was attractive to our fan base.”
Walking around outside one day, he realized that there was a distillery not but 90 ft from the stadium in which the Lugnuts play. The rest is history according to him.
“They (Lugnuts) had a great relationship already set in place with those guys (the distillery) and I went over and sat down with Rick Wyble and said, ‘Hey, I have a crazy idea to co-brand a spirit.’”
Given the proximity of the distillery to the stadium, the idea was to create something that the team could sell inside during games, while also supporting a local business and deepening the team’s ties to its community.
“I left it open-ended in terms of figuring out what was hot right now. We obviously wanted to use it inside the stadium but we also wanted to make it a local community partnership,” said Parsons.
“The idea was to find some creative ways to utilize both brands and make it an extension of the Lugnuts that would allow us to do something creative from a branding standpoint.” – Tyler Parsons
Wyble and the distillery were sold. The only thing that needed to be ironed out were all the legal details.
“He (Wyble) was totally on board and we started going through the legal steps to make sure it was even legal,” said Parsons. “Once we got the green light and went through the corporate paperwork we began working on the label. That had to be approved by the state and federal government and here we are today.”
For now, LUG will be available at Cooley Law School Stadium at point of sale concession locations that sell spirits and sold wholesale through the distillery.
Parsons hopes that at some point the team will be able to sell actual bottles at the stadium, but there are few more legal hoops to jump through before that becomes a possibility.
“We are currently in the process of exploring the possibility of selling them at our stadium as well, but there are some varying laws in Michigan regarding open carry so we are still looking to see if that even would be possible.”
“The plan is for us to buy the majority of the quantity they produce for our wholesale production inside the stadium and for our use, whether that as for gifts for sponsors or to make drinks.” – Tyler Parsons
With still two weeks till their home opener, Parsons has already seen the excitement from the fans and other sports professionals about the product.
“The response has been awesome so far from both our fanbase and other sports professionals and teams that think it is really cool and a unique concept. I have a feeling we will see a couple more teams jump on as well.”
Although it was Parsons’s crazy idea, it took a team effort to pull it off.
“It all started off as a wild and crazy idea and I came into work and I said, ‘We are looking to create our own Vodka, what should we call it?’ and we had our marketing team get together and we started throwing around some ideas and between Ryan LeFevre and our Director of Fan Engagement Mikaela Higgins, they kinda came up with LUG.”
As for inspiration for the name and branding? YouTube videos of old vodka commercials.
“We were looking back at these Vodka ads that you see all over the place and if you just Google vodka advertisements, the people in them are always in black tie and it’s always really cold and there is usually snow and ice involved,” said Parsons.
Not only did the team play into the winter theme, they made sure to get their mascot involved.
“Luggy, the face of our primary logo is actually incorporated into the face of the bottle.”
In the never-ending battle of what cool promotion can a sports team pull off now, the Lugnuts might have put in an early contender for promotion of the year.