Lindsey Knupp's cool sports job: IronPigs VP of marketing and entertainment
Lindsey Knupp wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do with her life when she was in school. "I honestly never really thought, 'I want to be this or I really want to do this," she says. Her father tried to sway her into pursuing business because he told her "that's where the money is."
She opted for a career in minor league baseball.
"Come to find out, minor league baseball is not where the money is," she says, laughing.
But it is where Knupp has found fun, creativity and satisfaction for 13 years.
Knupp, 34, is the vice president of marketing and entertainment for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies' Triple-A affiliate in her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania. She grew up a fan of both the Phillies and Pirates (her dad's team), but now is all Phillies.
A two-time All-American field hockey player at nearby Shippensburg University, Knupp is in charge of the team's pregame and in-game entertainment, promotions, giveaways and marketing. She also is on the team's board of directors for IronPigs Charities. In 2015, she was honored as the Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year for minor league baseball.
During the season, the job can be full of marathon days with little time off. Then there's the offseason, when she plans, evaluates, signs contracts and brainstorms with the management team about how the fans at Coca-Cola Park can have an improved experience.
But to Knupp, that's part of the job's attraction. The former marketing major is constantly challenged. Minor league ballparks must be fun places, whether the team is good (as it is this year) or bad.
"It's important to have a good promotional schedule, to do good things while the fans are here to keep them entertained," she says. "We want to be the No. 1 family entertainment destination in the Lehigh Valley. We look at ourselves as the entertainment place to go, not just 'Come watch a baseball game.'"
The story of her career in the minors, in her words:
Through the baseball door
When I was a junior at Shippensburg I was looking for internships and I just stumbled on the Reading Phillies having a summer internship program. I thought, "Oh, I never even thought about baseball. That would be fun." I applied and got it.
First full-time job
I went back to school for my senior year. When you graduate in May and baseball season starts in April, there's not really positions available, so I got a sales job in the IT industry as a headhunter for about six months. But I kept in contact with my manger at the Reading Phillies because I really enjoyed my time there. I fell in love with working in sports because of the energy and atmosphere that comes out on game day. I was lucky enough to get a call and was offered a full-time sales position in Reading. I was there for the 2006 and 2007 seasons. I moved to my hometown, Allentown, in 2008 for the IronPigs' first season. I was director of entertainment and promotions until 2015 when I was promoted to vice president of marketing and entertainment.
I said, 'Just put a strip of bacon on a hat.' The others in the group were saying, "No, that's stupid.' ... I said, 'Well, we're the IronPigs. Pigs, bacon. People love it.'Lindsey Knupp
I do all of the on-field entertainment. I plan all that with a staff of people I have here on game days. We come up with all the between-innings contests. I write the script for our PA announcer. I coordinate our giveaways. I plan our promotional schedule with our general manager, when we want to do bobbleheads and how we can build the themes of the games with the giveaways and with what we're doing on the field and on the video board. Over the years I've taken over more in the marketing role, so doing our outgoing marketing -- billboard campaigns, making sure we have our TV spots and radio advertising. I also oversee our production room and the manager of community relations, and I've helped plan different merchandising campaigns, including all of our logo rebranding.
On Saturdays, the team wears a cap with a strip of bacon on the front, and the jerseys say "Bacon USA." The bacon logo was my brainchild, and I'm very proud of it. In 2013 we were trying to freshen things up a little bit, to come up with new merchandise. I don't know if you've seen the Lexington Legends minor league team, but they have a mustache logo and it's just a mustache on a cap. I saw the logo and thought, "That's awesome. I would want that cap." So I thought, what could we do that would be similar that would sell? I said, "bacon." Everybody loves bacon.
I said, "Just put a strip of bacon on a hat." The others in the group were saying, "No, that's stupid. Why would we put bacon on a cap? That's nothing to do with us." I said, "Well, we're the IronPigs. Pigs, bacon. People love it." People said that's going to be the dumbest idea ever. We did it and people loved it. We've sold the cap to all 50 states. They've sold in different countries. It's been by far our best merchandising campaign.
Last year our VP for social media and communications said, "We're close to Philadelphia. Let's be the Cheesesteaks (for a game)." We did a whole one-night thing and sold a lot of cheesesteak merchandise. We sold out of cheesesteaks, too.
Other entertainment and promotions
For the All-Star Game in 2010, we brought a steel drum band from Jamaica. They were on their way to California for some event and by some luck of the draw we got them here to perform. They were great. But their drums didn't make it through customs and we had to find 55-gallon drums to build the night before it happened, which was crazy.
We've done on-field weddings. They did everything from getting married on the field to shooting the garter out with a slingshot, to the Kiss Cam being on them when they cut the cake and did their first dance.
Every year we do a superhero night and do a themed jersey. Kids come dressed as superheroes. The jerseys are Spiderman-, Batman- or Superman-themed.
We did a Hump Day jersey auction, with a camel on the front and the butt of a camel on the back. The players weren't too keen about that.
Our first year, we rebranded and did a Friday uniform which was black with a molten IronPigs head based on the Bethlehem Steel relationship. We did a blackout theme, so players wore black jerseys and black pants. They hated wearing black pants because they felt like a softball team.
We were going to give away bobbleheads one year of the characters in our Pork Race during games. We have Diggity the Hot Dog, Chris P. Bacon, Hambone and Barbie Q. Throughout the year, we were going to give away bobbleheads to the first 3,000 fans -- one night Diggity, one night Chris P. Bacon, etc. These bobbleheads, as you'd get them, you'd be able to piece them together like they were racing and you could put whoever you wanted in front. But when they arrived, our interns are putting them out at the gate and they realized all the boxes said Diggity, for example, but inside were Chris P. Bacon or Hambone. They were all mixed. So an hour before gates open we had all our bobbleheads pulled out of boxes in our food court and all our staff was scrambling to get the right characters in the right boxes. We're all drenched in sweat. Minutes before fans came in, we got the right ones at the gates.
Winning makes it better
It definitely makes everything better when the team is good. The energy is there. You always have your baseball fans that are coming regardless, but now people are starting to see home run hitters. Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins are back-to-back crushing home runs. I don't care if you like baseball or not, it's fun to see, and the cheering that goes with it.
It's a team thing
Being an athlete and part of a team, growing up and in college, helps. Being part of a team and being team captain, you learn to get along. Same with the front-office staff. We're together so much. You definitely get worn out, exhausted. It's having each other's back if something goes wrong -- "Hey, we're all here for you." The more you can rally your team, the better the atmosphere is, the more fun it is.
Home is home
Working in my hometown, I see a lot of people that I should remember their names. I know faces. Friends of my family ask how my grandparents are doing, how my family is. I have seen how this ballpark and being in the Lehigh Valley has made a difference. This gives people a place to go that's safe and affordable. You're talking, bonding with your family and friends during the game, not like at a movie. People bring first dates. They bring their grandkids.