Fans love anniversaries, in particular happy ones such as winning championships, breaking significant records, franchise-altering trades or draft selections or the launch of a team or of playing venue. And it works especially well in milestone numbers: 1st anniversary, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 100th.
Teams have and can make the most of these events with marketing and activation that not only make fans part of the franchise history but translate into what could be a cottage industry of products and memorabilia.
This season, the events celebrated in sports included the 50th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, the 40th anniversary of the debut of the New York Islanders, the 25th anniversary of the New York Giants' victory in Super Bowl XXI (played in January 1987 but the culmination of the 1986 NFL season) and the 25th anniversary of Mike Tyson becoming the youngest heavyweight champ in boxing history.
And this past weekend, some 5,000 football programs in high school, college and the NFL helped to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late former President Ronald Reagan by using a commemorative coin for their respective pre-game coin tosses.
Looking ahead, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game (March 2, 1962), Rod Laver winning all four tennis grand slam events and Jackie Robinson's induction into the Hall of Fame; the 25th anniversary of Indiana University's men's basketball championship and the Washington Redskins' win in Super Bowl XXII (played in January 1988 to end the 1987 season); and the 10th anniversary of the opening of Mile High Stadium in Denver, the Arizona Diamondbacks' World Series win over the New York Yankees and, in the infamous category, the 10th anniversary of Barry Bonds setting an MLB record by hitting 73 home runs in one season.
Anniversary celebrations can also turn what had been a miserable moment for some into one of a spin-doctored, feel-good memory. This year, for example, marked the 25th anniversary of the New York Mets' 1986 World Series win over the Boston Red Sox. Among the highlights is a reunion tour with Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner. In Game 6, Wilson of the Mets hit the ground ball in the bottom of the 10th that went through Buckner's legs at first base, enabling the Mets to win and sending the Series to Game 7, which the Mets also won.
The two have joined for such events as a reunion in New York on Oct. 25 -- the day of the infamous (for Red Sox fans) ground ball, as part of a fundraiser to benefit Ronald McDonald House. It recalls a recent tour undertaken by Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca, who in 1951 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers threw the pitch that Thompson hit for "The Shot Heard 'Round the World," which gave the New York Giants a game-winning victory and sent them to the World Series. Thompson and Branca subsequently became friends and have earned some money via memorabilia and other appearances.
But there are anniversaries that transcend sports and fans. In 2013, MLB will celebrate the 110th anniversary of the modern World Series. And the NFL is already planning for Super Bowl L -- which in Roman numerals and sports parlance is the 50th anniversary of the Big Game -- in 2016.