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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Vanisko

Life Lessons Learned from the Savannah Bananas

I’m not a baseball fan, never have been one. But I’m a fan of Jesse Cole and have jumped on the Savannah Bananas bandwagon. Jesse Cole is the yellow tux wearing owner of the Savannah Bananas, a summer collegiate baseball team that competes in the Coastal Plains League and an independent professional team that plays Banana Ball, a fast-paced version of baseball he invented. He is a wacky, out of the box thinker that is turning the world of baseball upside down.

I like what Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas are doing to make the game of baseball more exciting, but I really like what he is doing to enhance the customer experience. I think that what Jesse Cole is doing in baseball can easily translate to any business situation, in fact they are really good life lessons for all of us.

These are the things I’ve learned from Jesse Cole and the Savannah Bananas:

Fans First

It’s all about the customer/fans experience. Every day you have the opportunity to make someone feel special, find a way to do it. I’ve often heard the saying that a person will forget what you say to them but will never forget the way you make them feel. Whether it’s his “home run hitter” promotion where a young kid is chosen to kick off the start of the game by hitting a homerun against the Bananas and running the bases or the time when the players greet fans, signed autographs and danced under umbrellas after the game was cancelled due to a rainout, the Bananas know how to make their customers feel special. Life lesson: If your customer feels special, they will remember that feeling for a long time and you will be unforgettable.

Do Your Job Well

Yes, they are entertainers, but they are also baseball players and despite all the dancing and shenanigans (or maybe because of it!) they win championships. If they didn’t play good baseball, have talented players, and hard-working staff to run all the stuff behind the scenes of the “show”, they wouldn’t be so successful, and we probably would never have heard of them. Baseball is the core, and all the other stuff is the cherry on top of the sundae. Life lesson: To be successful you need to know the ins and outs of your ’job’ and do it well. Add the flare to standout but first do your job and do it well.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Don’t be a copycat, go out on a limb and try something new. The Bananas do upwards of 150 promotions per season. Their goal is to do something new each and every game; therefore, they are always experimenting with something new. Their promotions run the gambit from a grandma cheer squad to kilt wearing players to a pitcher on stilts. No idea is off limits or scoffed at. The sheer volume of game day promotions needed removes the fear of failure, if promotion 134 of 150 doesn’t work, so what, tomorrow is a new day and a chance to try something different. Jesse Cole goes all in and isn’t afraid of failing. When challenging yourself or brainstorming for ideas, always ask “what if”. Life lesson: Don’t put self-imposed limits on your thinking and don’t let the fear of failure hinder your progress.

Stand Out for Success

Standing out from the crowd can lead to success. While MLB teams struggled to fill the stands, the Savannah Bananas sold out every game since their second season. In fact, they have a waiting list of over 50,000 people. Their ticket price includes everything from parking to hot dogs and soda. The all-inclusive model is family and budget friendly, on the other hand, attending an MLB game patrons feel nickel and dimed the whole night. The Bananas know their audience and cater to what’s important to them. Life lesson: Know your target audience and develop a product that caters to their wants and needs.

I still haven’t watched a baseball game in its entirety, and to be honest, I still may never do so, but I love Jesse Cole’s marketing and motivational ideas and how the Savannah Bananas are changing the game for today’s audience. He’s an expert at reading his customer and providing a product that meets their needs and exceeds their desires. We should all apply the Savannah Banana philosophy in our life and business.

Never heard of Jesse Cole, the Savannah Bananas, or Banana Ball? Catch their new show on ESPN+ starting 8/19/2022.


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