Take me out to the ball game! The Atlanta Braves hold a special place in the hearts of most Atlantans, including Tuck Tucker of Tucker Castleberry Printing who grew up watching the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s. When the Braves organization moved to Atlanta in 1966, young Tuck became an avid fan, scraping together fifty cents for game tickets every chance he could. Sometimes he even found his way to dugout seats to watch the home games.
Baseball has been a personal passion for Tuck, but it also led him to pursue print work with the Braves. Tuck first approached the Braves in 1973 about printing opportunities. After three years of persistence, Tucker Castleberry was given a chance to print a small promotional brochure. This job was viewed as a “check job”, which the Braves marketing department used to gauge Tucker Castleberry’s performance. The brochure was mailed to corporations to encourage season ticket sales and warm them up before a sales call was made by the Braves sales team. The brochure highlighted the benefits of season tickets for a corporation and made them aware that the sales call would come soon. The Braves were pleased with the quality of the brochure and the service from the Tucker Castleberry team.
After the first printing success, they were able to send a quote to the Braves for printing every home game program. The program was 140 pages filled with team information, stats, and ads. Each home game required 120,000 programs to be printed at a time. Tuck connected with the Braves’ Director of Publications, shared his passion for Braves baseball and expressed that it would be an honor to have the opportunity. After exposing the competing printer for greedy business practices, Tucker Castleberry won the bid for printing the programs in 1979.
At that time, there were no contracts, so print jobs remained as competitive as the sports they covered. Tuck continued to build his relationship with the Braves Director of Publications, which led to a very challenging new project of producing a 100-page book of stats. This job required 500 copies of the book to be printed. The book of stats included the regular-season history and the stats of the Braves as well as the opposing team they would be facing in the playoffs. The job had to be printed quickly after the final regular-season game on a Sunday and be ready by Tuesday for the sports commentators to reference. Preparing this book of stats was an arduous task because of the technology at the time. It required a multistep process that included assembling each page as mechanicals on art boards, adding photos, turning each page into negatives, creating proofs, and then printing plates from the negatives. The first time Tucker Castleberry printed the book of stats, the team worked 24-hour days until it was completed. Tuck and his #1 salesman, Pete Livesey, delivered them personally to the playoff game in Pittsburgh to ensure that they arrived on time. The MLB would have fined the Braves if they had arrived late. “Our team always goes to any length necessary to make sure that our customers are treated well and receive their job as promised”, states Tuck Tucker.
“Adopting the latest technology has been a key part of our relationship with the Braves. We invested in a QUIP machine, which was the precursor to the fax machine, to streamline communications. As soon as fax machines came out, we purchased one for our office and for our ten best customers, including the Braves. Fax machines allowed us to communicate with clients quickly and sometimes eliminate the need for couriers”, adds Tuck Tucker.
In the early ‘90s, the Braves hired a new Director of Publications. This director utilized his PC-based computer for page composition and typesetting. “There was serious compatibility issues that caused greater hassles, delays, and expenses for us because we utilized Mac computers. The Braves struggled to get internal approval for Mac products to use in their own Publications Department due to the expense. We solved the problem by investing in Mac technology for the Braves and sending operators to train their team. This investment ultimately saved us money over time by allowing us to continue to serve the Braves in a timely and professional manner”, explains Tuck Tucker.
“By the mid-90s, the Braves approached us and asked us to become a corporate sponsor. As a corporate sponsor, we would gain the opportunity to manage all their printing and advertise within their stadium on their in-park signage, scoreboard signage, and in-stadium monitors”, adds Tuck Tucker.
Today, Tucker Castleberry’s relationship with the Braves has grown from supplier to partner to advisor as well. Before the Braves moved from Turner Field to Truist Park, the management team identified season ticket holders and involved corporate sponsors that were knowledgeable about the organization. The Braves invited 15 representatives (Tuck Tucker included) from this list to work with the Braves to configure the new ballpark for seating, concessions, parking, traffic, and even vendor placement. Led by an outside marketing consultant, this group met every two months to generate ideas, many of which are in place at the ballpark today.
The Braves also consult with Tucker Castleberry regarding ongoing promotions that involve printed materials. For example, the Braves wanted to send premium seat purchasers a nice package that accompanied their invoice for the upcoming season. A leather portfolio was developed that included a personalized Braves notepad with the invoice, a custom communications letter, and specific information about each customer as the first three pages of the pad, completely customized for each recipient.
Tucker Castleberry also works with the Gwinnett Stripers, the Rome Braves, and the Mississippi Braves. To support this expansion and grow the business to accommodate other teams across the nation, Tucker Castleberry developed a division called Sports Print. This division works with Major League and Minor League teams.
Plans are being developed to spread Tucker Castleberry’s reach in the sports marketplace. Other sports marketing avenues are in the mix now, such as the PGA and the NBA.
Tuck Tucker proudly states, “Partnering with the Braves has been a homerun experience for our Tucker Castleberry team!”