The White Sox are known for their creative, fan-friendly promotions. The team was among the first major league sports franchises to offer milestone promotions, such as “Turn Back the Clock;” “Dog Day,” which allows fans to bring their mutts to the ballpark for a game; “Kids Days,” with special autograph opportunities and a chance for kids to run the bases following the game; a contest to honor the First Fan of the new Millenium; and “Elvis Night,” an annual celebration of The King. To further extend the club’s reach to its current fans, and to reach new fans, the White Sox wanted to offer a once-in-a-lifetime baseball experience that would earn the club a place in fans’ hearts forever – an experience that would get to the core of America’s pastime.
Sleepover Night, held June 8-9, 2002 at Comiskey Park, offered fans the unique opportunity to spend a night under the stars on the Comiskey Park outfield grass. Sleepover tickets were $250 per person and benefited Chicago White Sox Charities (CWSC), the non-profit arm of the White Sox. The ticket price included tickets to a Saturday night White Sox game, a postgame fireworks show and party, a midnight snack, a midnight screening of “The Natural” on the Jumbotron and a night spent on the field in sleeping bags. In the morning, guests enjoyed a pregame workout and meal before attending Sunday’s game.
The objective was two-fold: to create a memorable, intimate experience for baseball fans throughout Chicago and across the country; and to raise money for the valuable programs supported by White Sox Charities. In the process, the club was able to build awareness of its fan-friendly promotions through local, regional and national media.
The event was designed to appeal to White Sox fans and sports fans alike. Because it was the first of its kind, the club was confident that it would appeal to everyone interested in the opportunity to spend the night at a major league ballpark.
White Sox season ticket holders were the first logical target for promotion of the event. For these fans, the event developed into a way to commemorate anniversaries, birthdays and special occasions between fathers and sons, groups of friends and spouses.
The White Sox also targeted casual baseball fans across the country through an aggressive media relations campaign, as well as in-game drop-ins, website features and traditional advertising.
The White Sox Class A franchise held a sleepover for children in 1995, but there had never been a sleepover promotion in any of the four major professional sports (baseball, football, basketball or hockey). The White Sox staff examined the Hickory event and sought additional input from employees, season ticket holders and other clubs in planning the event.
Planning and coordinating the event required the cooperation of all departments, from the groundskeeper to the parking lot attendants, so the process of crafting Sleepover Night began early in 2002. Sleepover Night coordinators from the community relations department met regularly with Comiskey Park operations, parking, sponsorship, public relations and security teams to ensure the safety, comfort and enjoyment of the fans, the protection of the field, and to draft an inclement weather plan. In late April, event details were finalized, an invitation was created and ticket sales began.
The sales strategy began with team’s most loyal fans: season ticket holders and regular supporters of CWSC fundraising activities. Because the White Sox constantly strive for ways to add value to these relationships, they were given the first opportunity to purchase tickets.
After tickets were made available to these audiences, an aggressive media strategy was implemented to drive ticket sales and achieve event awareness through national, regional and local media relations. The White Sox and its public relations firm, Public Communications Inc. (PCI), decided to target a live interview with Sleepover participants on a national morning television show as the primary national media goal. With the Sleepover scheduled over a weekend, PCI offered an exclusive to Weekend Today, which jumped at the offer.
Sports promotions are a dime a dozen. Families have a myriad of sports and entertainment options available to them. Because of its relatively high ticket price, the White Sox Sleepover needed special activities, as well as a “cool factor,” to sell tickets and to attract national media attention. 
The Sleepover was packed with activities and interesting visuals for media and guests, beginning with Saturday’s game and capped off by the midnight movie. After the movie’s conclusion, guests enjoyed a recitation of Casey at the Bat, followed by a videotape of White Sox players wishing each other good night. Sunday morning, some fans slept in, while others took part in one last game of catch before leaving the field. Some fans jumped at the chance to freshen up in the Comiskey Park outfield shower, pioneered by former owner and marketing legend Bill Veeck at old Comiskey Park.
But more important than the game’s score were the looks on the guests’ faces when they took to the field to set up their sleeping bags in center field, play catch in the bullpens, sit in the dugout and have their photographs taken at home plate. The sons’ cries of “Dad, look!” and the sight of an 80-year-old woman playing catch with her adult son confirmed the club’s belief that it had created a memorable experience.
The Sleepover raised $62,000 for White Sox Charities, including $12,000 from a silent auction held at the postgame party. The weather gods smiled on Chicago that night, and fan reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The White Sox are considering making the promotion an annual event.
The targeted media relations campaign for the Sleepover was successful as well. Two live interviews with a father and son were featured on Weekend Today, one previewing the event Saturday morning, and another Sunday morning as guests arose on the field. More than 70 local, regional and national media placements, reaching an estimated audience of more than 30.5 million, were secured, including USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, ESPN The Magazine, This Week in Baseball and Sports Illustrated.
In addition to monies raised, the White Sox forged relationships with baseball fans across the country. Tickets were sold as close to home as Ohio and Indiana and as far away as California and New Jersey. By the end of the weekend, guests were united by their love of the game and their understanding of what it means to be a baseball fan. Since Sleepover Night, several other professional sports franchises have contacted the White Sox for more information, and the Detroit Tigers hosted their own Kids Camp Out later in the season. Dozens of phone calls, letters and e-mails the club has received from attendees tell that they were thrilled with the experience.
The White Sox have a long and proud history of innovative sports promotions, starting with legendary owner Bill Veeck, who created the original “exploding” scoreboard. Today, in a market that boasts several professional sports franchises and a second Major League Baseball team, the White Sox consistently offer exciting and unusual promotions such as Sleepover Night, to capture a significant share of the public’s entertainment dollar.