How I Market Prerelease

September 12, 2016 | 2 min to read

Critical Hit Games is known for creating next level experiences at Prerelease. But how can they be sure that extra effort translates into increased attendance? We invited owner Whitman Bottiger to share his ideas. Here’s what he had to say.

When we advertise most events, we use Facebook, our online calendar, and we simply tell everyone that walks through the door. That’s great for regular customers, but Prerelease is a chance to bring in a wider audience.

A lot of Magic players primarily play at home, so they may not be at Friday Night Magic to see in-store ads, and they may not keep up with your Facebook feed or your website. Traditional advertising doesn’t reach them. They mostly find out about events though word of mouth.

But simply hoping the word gets out is not enough.

How I Market Prerelease

Most Magic events are primarily tournaments. Players enter, play a few rounds, get their prizes, and call it a day. But Prerelease is more a celebration of a new set, and we communicate that in our advertising.

To make sure there’s buzz, we put in the extra effort to make our events stand out. If a player leaves the store saying, “this was one of the best Prerelease I’ve ever been to,” there’s a good chance that not only will you see them again, you’ll see their friends as well.

For example, we’ll turn our store into Kaladesh, Innistrad, Zendikar—wherever the current set takes place. The key is putting up decorations a few days early so we can stir excitement online. Simply including a picture with a post can increase its viewership significantly.

For Battle for Zendikar Prerelease, we created a ring-toss game using papercraft hedrons offered on the WPN site.

Viral campaigns can be fun too. Because of that word-of-mouth effect, you can get your regular players involved.

For Oath of the Gatewatch, we asked players to take selfies with a sign we printed up that said “Make an Oath” and post it on their Facebook feeds. We picked our favorite and gave out a Fat Pack to the most creative.

For Eldritch Moon we let players make personalized zombie tokens. They weren't required to, but a lot of them ended up posted on social media. That kind of buzz will reach more infrequent players.

[Editor’s note: promotional ideas like Whitman’s tokens may not imitate genuine Magic cards or make use of art assets without permission. These were made by applying stickers to token cards. If you have questions about whether a promotional idea is appropriate, contact Retail Support.]

The success of these efforts is measured in attendance, but since your best tool is making that memorable experience, it’s going to take multiple events. Don’t be discouraged when your first attempt at making Prerelease more than just a tournament doesn’t immediately yield high numbers.

It takes time for a local community to get to know a store as the best place for Prerelease, but once the word is out, new faces will arrive. It’s worth every effort.

Store Stats: Critical Hit Games

  • Location: Abingdon, Maryland (Population 30,000)
  • WPN Level: Advanced Plus
  • Age: 5 years
  • Size: 2,000 sq. ft.
  • Website: http://crit-hit.com//

By Whitman Bottiger, owner of Critical Hit Games

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