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Even today’s Twins need advertising

Right now, the Minnesota Twins could probably get along fine without advertising. With Opening Day today in Anaheim, and the home opener at Target Field in a week, the Twins are already on course to sell every seat in their new stadium for the entire year. So who needs ads?

Actually, I do. The Twins’ advertising, created since 2005 by the Minneapolis agency Periscope, is often more entertaining than the TV shows it interrupts. The latest spot, “Flagpole,” is an amusing takeoff on the frozen-tongue scene from “A Christmas Story,” and also features an unexpected appearance by a Minnesota sports legend.

(Note to the curious: the tongue effect was achieved not with digital wizardry, but with old-fashioned prosthetics.)

My personal favorite is the 2009 spot “Take It Outside,” in which Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan run afoul of Mauer’s mom after a basement game of wiffleball gets out of hand. But there are at least a dozen others that make me chuckle every time I see them.

Charlie Callahan, executive creative director at Periscope, has overseen the Twins ads since the beginning. He said the humorous approach goes over well with both fans and the players themselves.

“People like to see these guys having fun,” Callahan said. “There’s nothing more endearing than to see a superstar do some self-effacing humor. And the players really enjoy doing them. We’ve never had any problem getting them to cooperate.”

‘Good guys, hard-working guys’
The thrust of the program has shifted since the beginning, when the Twins weren’t long removed from the lingering stench of eight straight losing seasons and the threatened loss of the team through contraction.

“Back when we started, the big idea was, this is Twins territory,” Callahan said. “The idea was to reignite the state — and not just the Twin Cities metro area, but the small towns, northern Minnesota, even into the Dakotas and Wisconsin.

“As we moved forward, it was about helping people connect with these guys. The Twins have always done it the right way, with good guys, hard-working guys,” Callahan said. “So real Minnesotans can really relate to them. They have the sense that I could talk to this guy if I ran into him in line at the movies.”

The same core group has worked on the Twins account since the beginning, and they’re all hard-core baseball fans who knew and loved the game before they ever made an ad for the team.

Now that the new stadium has goosed ticket sales, the Periscope team has been spending more time on other marketing angles for the Twins.

“We’re doing a lot of education: how to get tickets, where to get them, how the new stadium works,” Callahan said. The agency also has produced a lot of collateral material: boxed season-ticket packages, brochures, display areas in Target Field — even the tickets themselves. And they’re especially happy with “Swing for the Cities,” an online home run derby game.

“That’s really cool,” Callahan said. “You hit the ball out of the park — it measures your home runs and you can share them on Facebook. You better not try it unless you have 10 or 15 minutes to spare, though — it’s kind of addicting.”

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