Somerset contest brings fans out of their seats

Front office inside joke evolves into popular in-game promotion


What started as an inside joke between members of the Double-A Somerset front office turned into a unique opportunity to connect with fans.

For the past few years, Hal Hansen, the Patriots’ director of marketing, has decided what songs are played during postgame fireworks shows at TD Bank Ballpark. Eventually, this task turned into a competition with general manager Patrick McVerry. The objective: Guess the theme among the four songs chosen to accompany the show.

“I was just doing it for fun to see if [McVerry] could guess it,” said Hansen, who joined the club in 2017. “It just sort of snowballed from me trying to stump my general manager.”

This simple act of making a four-song playlist evolved once again when Hansen thought it might be interesting to somehow include the fans in his game.

“It would be one thing to [do]it and see if anybody realizes it, but then to actually have a formal promotion where we announce it to the crowd, let them know there’s going to be a game that we’re playing, how to enter, what they can win,” Hansen recalled. “We all decided, let’s give it a try and see what happens.”

Somerset made good use of technology to bring this idea to life. The ballpark was already outfitted with scannable QR codes on the back of every seat in the house. The Patriots were also on the Fan Compass platform, used by Minor League teams across the country to run contests for giveaway items or interact with fans as part of promotions through the team website.

The contest was an immediate draw for Kathy Hargens of Chatham, New Jersey, and her family during their first game ever at TD Bank Ballpark in August. Hargens was the winner of one of the 10 fireworks contests the club ran after the promotion’s debut on July 8. For their prize, winners receive tickets to any other Patriots game with postgame fireworks, and they would be able to take in the fireworks show from the field.

“It was so much fun,” Hargens said after cashing in on her prize with her husband, Craig, son, Kai, and daughter, Zara, at a game last week. “We loved it. … [Minor League] games are more fun. They’re more personal. There’s more interaction. You see more. So we really like going to them.”

Fans who wanted to participate would scan the QR code that would lead to a Fan Compass-driven contest page on the team website, where they could fill out their contact information and guess how all the songs played during the show were connected.

“We did it right there at the game because my son and I were kind of into it,” Hargens said, remembering a playlist of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, Katy Perry’s California Girls and Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. “We got the first few songs, and by the third song we already had figured out that ‘Girl’ was in the title of both of the first two songs. And then the third song validated it.”

Hansen said that, as far as his choice of themes, he would shoot for fewer brain teasers to encourage participation. Many themes were pretty simple, like bands with a number or food item in the name or artists that were recently the subject of bio-pics like Queen or Aretha Franklin. Those would typically draw hundreds of entries, with plenty of correct answers among them. But Hansen also recalls some answers that mostly stumped the greater public.

“Occasionally, we would throw a tough one in there. I think in one of the contests we only got maybe two right answers. It was pretty interesting,” Hansen said. “It’s been a lot of fun. People have been asking staff on the way out. They’ll say, ‘I couldn’t figure it out. What was the theme tonight?’”