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🍌 The business of making baseball fun

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In today’s email:

  • Bananas: The business of making baseball fun.
  • Chart: Why are women’s health ads rejected?
  • Pizza: Where are the delivery drivers?
  • Around the web: Elephant sketch artists, winning your customers’ trust, a no-caramel caramel pie, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s podcast to hear Jacob, Zack, and Juliet discuss what it would be like if Disney had a baseball team, and the shifting culture around remote work.

The big idea
playing baseball

The Savannah Bananas and the business of making baseball fun

It’s hard to argue with the fact that baseball is boring.

In 2020, the average MLB game lasted over 3 hours, but saw fewer hits than almost any season since 1909. Representative of this struggle was a recent Oakland A’s game that saw just 2,488 fans (the stadium can fit ~57k).

So, perhaps it’s not surprising that one minor league team, with the singular goal of doing the opposite of whatever is normal in baseball, has sold out every game since its founding in 2016…

… starting with making it fun

You can think of the Savannah Bananas as baseball’s Harlem Globetrotters. Games include:

  • Pitchers pitching on stilts, batters batting while doing a “banana split,” and a coach doing ballet.
  • Grandma cheerleaders known as the “Banana Nanas.”
  • No ads — the team removed corporate ads from the stadium, and 97% of revenue now comes from fans.
  • Free food — every ticket is general admission and includes food. Food!

The team views its stadium as an entertainment venue, with “stages” being the parking lot, entrance, concourse, seats, and field. The Bananas’ TikTok has exploded and now has ~3x as many followers (2.7m) as the most popular MLB team.

They’re also led by a business strategist

In his podcast, Bananas founder Jesse Cole explains the team’s mindset for constant innovation. It includes themes like:

  • Creativity: The team hosts monthly “Ideapalooza” brainstorms and Cole visits places like Disney for inspiration.
  • Entrepreneurship: Cole embraces a practice from 3M, the $83B company behind Post-it Notes, in which every new product line is expected to generate 25% of revenue within 5 years. For the Bananas, they’ve tested stuff like a banana cream soda.
  • Community: Staff make 300k calls a year to thank fans, merchandisers, and other partners.

The Bananas now have a 15k-person waitlist for tickets. The organization has also been named a top employer in sports.

Want more? Check out ESPN’s feature on the Bananas.

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Spotify revealed that its podcast business pulled in €200m in 2021 revenue, up 300% YoY. However, due to its losses, the division had a -57% gross margin, and expects higher losses in 2022.

Big brand: Chinese electronics brand Anker reached $1B in annual sales on Amazon in 2021, making it the most successful Amazon-native brand.

Hard pause: Meta halted development on a smartwatch that was scheduled to be released in spring 2023 and cost ~$349. The watch was expected to include activity tracking, music playback, and messaging. Meta is reportedly shifting resources to other devices for the wrist.

Golf ban: The PGA Tour suspended 17 players for competing on the LIV Golf tour, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Suspended players include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Sergio Garcia.

More union news: Employees at a Massachusetts Trader Joe’s are looking to unionize. If they win their election, it will be the grocery chain’s first union. #ecommerce-retail

Wind refuge: Marine biologists hope planting coral larvae near offshore wind turbines will result in new reefs and a safe haven for wildlife. #clean-energy

Wow: A woman was born with a misshapen ear. 3DBio Therapeutics was able to 3D-print a new one out of her cells, which a surgeon then successfully implanted. #emerging-tech

A new NFT collection has surpassed Bored Ape Yacht Club in popularity on OpenSea. We Are All Going to Die contains exactly 6,666 NFTs of medieval fantasy characters. #fintech-crypto

Microsoft’s new Xbox TV app will come to Samsung’s 2022 smart TVs this month. Players will be able to stream games, no console necessary. #big-tech

women's health ads rejected

Selina Lee

Why are women’s health ads getting rejected?

A 2021 study by the Center for Intimacy Justice surveyed 60 health-oriented businesses serving women and people of diverse genders.

All had an ad rejected by Meta, and half said their accounts were suspended for supposedly violating policies.

Rejected ads included breastfeeding workshops and devices to strengthen the pelvic floor, which can prevent incontinence. Meanwhile, ads for erectile dysfunction and manscaping were allowed.


Meta labeled them as containing or promoting adult content or products, per The New York Times. Meta prohibits ads that promote sexual pleasure, but allows ads for family planning or sexual wellness.

A Meta spokesperson told the NYT that it sometimes makes mistakes when enforcing policies and has overturned several rejections. But Meta wouldn’t explain the reasoning behind some rejections, claiming people might try to bypass policies.

The last few years…

… have seen a boom in sexual wellness products and femtech. But according to Bethany Corbin, an attorney who specializes in health care and femtech, the algorithms haven’t caught up.

“I think part of it goes back to the long-term stigma and taboo that has surrounded all types of conversations about women’s health,” she told The Hustle.

She said she often sees ads banned when they’re not specifically about family planning, and a conflation between women’s health and being provocative.

And because anatomically correct terms are often flagged, advertisers are forced to use “cheeky” terms or fruit emojis — further reinforcing the stigma.

So, what’s next?

Continued conversions and awareness about women’s health to increase social acceptance and pressure platforms to retrain algorithms and moderators.

“It’s hard to demand that our advertising platforms change in a way that society hasn’t,” Corbin said.

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Pizza Problems
pizza delivery

Where are all the pizza delivery drivers?

In 2019, Domino’s CEO Ritch Allison said he’d “have a tough time sleeping at night” if the company had to use a third-party delivery service.

It’s a good thing he retired earlier this year.

A driver shortage is forcing Domino’s and other pizza chains to embrace delivery alternatives and make other structural changes to their operations, per QSR magazine.

The shortage…

… is due to a combination of factors, including:

  • Delivery drivers seeking more flexible hours and schedules
  • Food delivery drivers getting paid less than ride-share drivers
  • High gas prices preventing workers from taking food delivery jobs

The absence of drivers is impacting the bottom line of some of pizza’s biggest players. In Q1, Domino’s same-store sales were down 3.5% YoY, with delivery sales down 10.7%.

So, what’s the solution?

While pizza’s “Big Three” — Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut — will all likely embrace third-party delivery partners to some extent, that’s just one part of the equation.

Peter Saleh, an analyst at BTIG, believes the solution will also require:

  • Tech improvements like AI and automation to help streamline operations
  • Better benefits for drivers, including higher pay and flexible hours

Unfortunately, higher wages for delivery drivers will likely mean higher prices for consumers — meaning we may be looking at pricier pies going forward.

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🗓️ On this day: In 1692, Bridget Bishop was the first of several innocents executed in the Salem Witch Trials.

🐘 That’s cool: Check out these illustrations of elephants based solely on oral and written accounts.

🥰 How to: Just 34% of consumers trust the brands they use. Here are three ways marketers can win and maintain their customers’ trust.

🥧 Mmm: The history of a caramel pie that contains no caramel, once exceedingly popular in Virginia. Plus, the recipe.

🦎 Aww: And now, an impatient iguana.


(A roundup of our best reads from the last couple weeks…)

🧑‍⚖️ The lucrative economics of expert witnesses

🍁 Weed rolls into the metaverse

🎧 Is social audio already dead?

🌮 Welcome to the Taco Bell of the future

🐴 Did a TV show cause a housing crisis?

Shower Thoughts
  1. “Seems cruel that ADHD self-assessment questionnaires are 13 pages long.”  SOURCE

  2. “Little boys often pitch up their voice when impersonating their mother even though her voice is deeper than that of the child.”  SOURCE

  3. “If you take a shortcut that reliably gets you to your destination faster than another route, it’s not a shortcut, it’s the correct route.”  SOURCE

  4. “For how often cats are depicted chasing mice, there are no mouse-flavored cat foods.”  SOURCE

  5. “Asking someone to help you bury a body greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll have to bury a second body.”  SOURCE

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