NC State’s Julius Hodge is the only Wolfpack player, past or present, to ever be immortalized as a bobblehead.
Thanks to some creative thinking and team work, Wolfpack Sports Marketing recently had its most successful promotion ever. The goal was to sell out the 2005 Senior Day programs and bobblehead dolls made in the likeness of NC State basketball senior and star player Julius Hodge helped do just that.The bobbleheads are now even drawing big bids on ebay.
The idea for the bobblehead doll originated in mid-November. The WSM staff got together to figure out how to sell more programs on Senior Day for the men’s basketball team. Fans had been eager to have a memento of NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers’ days for the Wolfpack football team, and programs sold out 1 ½ hours before game time on Senior Day, his last home game, in 2003. WSM wanted similar success, plus a way to give fans a memento of Hodge’s stand-out play for the Wolfpack.
WSM General Manager Brian Asbill came up with the idea of a bobblehead doll and the staff readily agreed. WSM Business Development Associate Amy Baker sought out a sponsor and immediately got Rex Healthcare on board with the idea. The staff restructured the Senior Day program to feature Julius Hodge on front and went forward to get approval from the NCAA, N.C. State Men’s Basketball Coach Herb Sendek, and Hodge himself.
The deal? Buy a game program on Senior Day, the last home game, and get a free bobblehead. Because of the sponsorship of Rex, WSM did not have to raise the price of the program. The dolls arrived in March, just in time for game day. WSM had ordered 2,500, so the Julius Hodge bobbleheads were marketed as a limited edition item – first come, first served.
WSM then brought a local charter high school on board to sell the programs. Volunteers from the school made the sales on game day, and received a percentage of the earnings.
WSM Business Development Associate Brenda Steen coordinated the volunteer help and all WSM sales staff helped on game day as well. Fans purchasing a program received a coupon for the bobblehead which they then redeemed for the doll at a table in the RBC Center.
The programs were in the hands of the volunteer salespersons by 7:30pm for the 8:00pm tip-off. By game time, every program was sold. In fact, forty people signed a waiting list in case someone did not stop by the table to redeem their coupon for a bobblehead. None of the forty got lucky.
WSM promoted the bobbleheads for the entire of month of February on radio broadcast and at games. On Senior Day, WSM unfurled banners showing the bobblehead.
The bobbleheads have gotten press in Raleigh and beyond. On March 24, the New York Daily News published an article about Hodge, a New York native, and used a photo of his mother, Mary, holding her bobblehead. The Wolfpacker, an NC State Booster Club publication, ran a half-page sized picture of the bobblehead in a recent issue.
The bobbleheads are now popping up on ebay, with bids between $50 – $100, usually selling for $75 – $100 once bidding closes.
“It was fun to see the fans get so much out of it, too,” said Asbill. “It was not only a good idea for us in that it raised revenue, but fans really bought into it and enjoyed it.”
While Hodge was making baskets on the court, WSM was jumping through hoops to find a way to give sponsor visibility to Rex Healthcare while following NCAA rules. Because the sponsor logo could not be placed on the bobblehead, WSM had to come up with a creative solution. They created a backdrop with a photo of the inside of the RBC Center which could be used to display the doll, which gave the appearance of Hodge standing on the basketball court. In all of the signage areas in the area photo, WSM placed the Rex logo.
The bobblehead promotion was a result of “great teamwork in our office,” said Asbill. “We sat around and brainstormed what would help us sell out the programs and came up with the idea. Once we were able to pull it together, Amy made the sale. Brenda Steen pulled together the volunteers. The entire sales staff was involved in the distribution on game day. It took quite a bit of effort and coordination.”
“Sometimes you just hit on an idea and all the pieces fall into place.”
Thanks to WSM’s Sarah Stoneman for this capcom story.