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Pizzaiolos go batty for baseball

How one pizzeria gained national exposure


February 28, 2008
By Canadian Pizza

Topics

World Pizza Champions Special Forces member Bruno
DiFabio and business partner Gary Mastropolo captured tens of thousands
of dollars worth of advertising for about $200 dollars with an idea
that caught the eyes of several marketing outlets across the nation,
local and national television channels, radio stations, and newspapers.

World Pizza Champions Special Forces member Bruno DiFabio and business partner Gary Mastropolo captured tens of thousands of dollars worth of advertising for about $200 dollars with an idea that caught the eyes of several marketing outlets across the nation, local and national television channels, radio stations, and newspapers.

The marketing stunt focused on the pair’s lifelong love of the New York Yankees, and how their latest New Haven, Conn., pizzeria was slowly being taken over by customers favouring the dreaded Boston Red Sox. “New Haven has taken an immediate liking to us and we are grateful for it, with the exception of one thing,” a coy Mastropolo said in the initial press release from the scheme. “There are too many Red Sox fans here.”

At the recent Northeast Pizza Expo in Atlantic City, N.J., DiFabio recounted how the two pizzaiolos decided to reward any baseball fan with tickets to a game in New York. They developed an idea to launch a balloon from their pizzeria’s parking lot at a specific time on the Friday before the baseball game. The person who found the balloon would then need to return the small poster attached and claim the tickets at the restaurant.

balloons“It makes it tough to pass the day (at Marco Polo Pizza) with so many Sox fans bragging about being in first place. We are not used to it. Everyone we know are Yankees fans,” said DiFabio.

The idea, and a carefully worded press release sprung a chain reaction of publicity for the two independent restaurant owners, who are native New Yorkers, in the early days of the American League playoff hunt.

“People in the know say that New Haven is the border where the tide changes from Yankees fans to Red Sox fans. Well, these native New Yorkers are not buying it,” the press release boldly stated. “On Monday, Aug. 27 at 2 p.m. (DiFabio and Mastropolo) will give away four of their tickets to Wednesday’s Yankees/Red Sox game. The tickets will be launched into the atmosphere via balloons. The lucky recipient who finds the tickets when they fall back to earth will be treated to the greatest rivalry in all of sports.”

The release further claimed: “They are confident that the tickets will land in the hands of true diehard Yankee fans. The lucky fans will be treated to lunch or dinner for four people at Marco Polo Pizza. In addition, for the entire three-game series, anyone donning Yankees’ gear in Marco Polo will be treated to 1/2-price on all menu items. Anyone wearing Red Sox attire will be charged double. To the winner of the series on Friday, those fans will be treated to 1/2-price all day while wearing their teams attire. Let the Games begin!”

Much to the pair’s delight Steve Bonini, a diehard New York Yankee fan, showed up to claim the tickets.
DiFabio was interviewed on ESPN’s First Take, and Marco Polo Pizza was featured in two different articles in the New Haven Register, with the second article making the front page. Another local newspaper featured a large full-colour article. Extensive coverage on two local cable news channels and Connecticut NBC channel 30 followed.

DiFabio said the crowning achievement was coverage on an ESPN telecast of the Yankees/Red Sox game at the stadium and his live appearance on First Take the day after the game.

In speaking with hundreds of other pizzeria operators at the expo, DiFabio explained that while the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry is a historic and passionate one, the concept can be tweaked by just about any market to play up rivalries ranging from cross-town high schools to NHL teams in Canada like Montreal/
Toronto or Edmonton/Calgary.

“After the initial idea, this cost me only $200 for the tickets, and then just a little extra effort. This idea can work in any number of ways in any city or town in the country,” he said. •