Okay, let’s make this clear at the outset: I am not here to bash Wifflerock, although there are many in the WIFFLE community that do. I don’t know the inner workings of their tournament. I will not publish conjecture and I will not make unsubstantiated conclusions.
That said, I just paid $100 to sign up for Wifflerock. Every year, I tell myself I won’t, and then every year I do.
Wifflerock is one of the largest tournaments in New England. Their website boasts that they have held tournaments of close to 200 teams. So why is it that Wifflerock can draw 180 teams and BLWB can’t? I think we need to seriously examine that issue if we are going to grow this format, because, frankly, the value for the money isn’t there at Wifflerock. It has to be the marketing.
I hate it when people rip the tournaments for not returning enough prize money. Most of the time, the comments don’t account for field costs, insurance and other hidden costs associated with holding a tournament. But the payout structure at Wifflerock is ridiculous by any standards. Let’s say they get 180 teams averaging $100 per team. That means $18,000 in entry fees. While some text on the Wifflerock homepage states, “$2,000 in prize money aren’t bad either,” unless we value a box of Twinkies at $100, the actualy number is closer to $1,900. That means that about 10.5% of the entry fees are returned to the players in prize money, resulting in a house hold of 89.5%. A slot machine in Vegas is illegal if it has a hold of more than 17%. And this is a tournament with multiple sponsors. I assume that these sponsors pick up some or all of the costs of holding and advertising the tournament.
It should be noted that the website claims that some money raised by the tournament goes to charity, and I think that is wonderful. Perhaps a majority of the $16,000 in profit goes to charity. If that is the case, I congratulate those who run Wifflerock for their service to the community. However, I would also recommend that if they are raising $16,000 or more for charity every year they should make that point clear on their website to eliminate some of the confusion in the community regarding where all of this extra money goes.
So Wifflerock returns 10.5% in prize money. NEWA is regularly bashed for returning a number much higher than that, and BLWB leads the region, often returning 80%, 90% and even on occasion more than 100% of the money to the players. Yet people rush in droves to play Wifflerock while BLWB is still struggling to grow. Why? The organizers of Wifflerock do a competent job, but, frankly, they run one tournament a year and they are not nearly as adept at keeping the player happy as are Euro J-Rod and Benas. Moreover, the format is designed to get games completed as quickly as possible, not to identify the best WIFFLE ball player/team (although the year Dallas won as a one-man team they probably did both). Tiebreakers are arbitrary and confusing. Teams advancing to elimination play are required to return on sunday morning for what might amount to one game.
Considering the size of Wifflerock and their realtive inexperience (one tournament a year), the organizers do a passable job. However, the tournament offers horrible value from a financial perspective, and the format is certainly less than ideal. So I ask again, why do they draw 180 teams while other more player-friendly tournaments struggle? Clearly they are capturing the casual WIFFLE ball player at an impressive rate. It absolutely has to be the advertising, because there is simply no other explanation.
The organizers of other formats like BLWB need to figure out what the folks at Wifflerock are doing and copy it. If they can draw 180 teams, imagine how many BLWB could draw with the same advertising, offering players free drinks, doughnuts, sandwiches, shirts, calendars and 80+% return in prize money. The choice between BLWB and Wifflerock should be clear. If they continue to draw better than BLWB and other formats, it can only be because they are playing the advertising game more intelligently.
And before I get inundated with support emails for Wifflerock, I want to make it absolutely clear that I don’t know what they do with the money, and, indeed, all of it might go to charity as far as I know. My only motivation was to draw a comparison between the different formats and examine their ability to draw record crowds.
On a side note, and by way of follow-up on my last article, I would like to congratulate the Hustlers on their first Goldenstick victory last Sunday. In fact, the boys were 1 run away from going 2-1 on the day. After the jamboree experience, I was expecting it to take weeks to get a victory. I now have hope that we might not humilate ourselves too badly.
For those playing Wifflerock this weekend (and clearly most of you are), good luck. For those who are playing Wifflerock and haven’t yet tried BLWB, give it a shot. You will be amazed by the difference.