The Mariners Are Dropping Hot Dogs from the Sky—and the Crowd Is Going Wild

‘Hot Dogs from Heaven’ is exactly what it sounds like. Inside Seattle's new viral ballpark promotion.

By Brittney Bush Bollay May 17, 2024

Image: Nate Bullis

The humble hot dog. A food so closely associated with baseball that we can hardly imagine one without the other. Hot dogs have been sold at baseball games since 1893, and by 2019 Major League Baseball fans were consuming 18.3 million of them every season. You rarely have to wander more than a few sections at any given ballpark to find a hot dog stand, or if you’re patient you can wait for a vendor to come to you. At Wrigley Field you can order them with your phone. The Phillies famously have a hot dog cannon. But only in Seattle do hot dogs drift down from the sky while Belinda Carlisle sings “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”

Seattle, city of innovation, has found an incredibly low-tech way to disrupt the hot dog experience: get a bunch of humans to tie little parachutes to them and fling them off the roof of the stadium. It’s silly. It’s delightful. And it’s very, very popular on the internet. The “Hot Dogs from Heaven” promotion has run only two times at T-Mobile Park, reaching fewer than a hundred thousand fans in person, but has been viewed millions of times on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. My own tweet simply describing the experience has over 1 million views and crossed platforms, and a video by user PugetStout has been borrowed and popularized by Sports Illustrated

The Mariners first started brainstorming a hot dog promotion last fall, says Tyler Thompson, senior manager of experiential marketing and game entertainment . They were inspired by the Seahawks’ “Bratzooka,” but wanted to change the vibe to better match baseball. That meant something calmer, safer, but still over the top. When someone noted that the setup could “just be us dropping hot dogs on parachutes from the 300 level,” the team ran with it and started testing.

“We started in the fall in an empty ballpark,” Thompson tells me. “There were probably 10 or 12 rehearsals.” What was simple in concept turned out to be complex in execution, requiring math, physics, and a lot of trial and error. The parachutes had to deploy reliably and slow the descent—knocking fans unconscious with falling hot dogs is a bad look—and the connection system took several rounds of tweaking. Finally the various departments and the lawyers signed off, and on April 13, “Hot Dogs from Heaven” was launched.

The paratrooping hot dogs are part of a broader shift in the Mariners’ in-game entertainment over the past few seasons. Over half of MLB fans are millennials, but ticket buyers average about 10 years older than social media followers. To get younger fans in the ballpark, the Mariners, like many MLB teams, are meeting millennials where they are—on the internet.

The team’s popular commercials, revamped as “digital shorts,” returned this year to great acclaim and 80,000 views on YouTube. The Salmon Run (various species of salmon mascots race in the outfield) has spawned an account X (Twitter) for the race itself as well as a spin-off for fan favorite Humpy the Salmon. Meme-inspired Rally Otter and DVD Rally videos are shared rapidly across Instagram, and now Hot Dogs from Heaven has had its viral moment. 

While in-game entertainment isn’t the only factor contributing to the Mariners’ increased attendance—shorter game times, earlier starts, and the 2022 playoff run all certainly play a part—the social media–ready content has many viewers declaring their intent to book a ticket to the park.

The key to the new features’ success is a feeling of authenticity, perhaps lent to them by Thompson, who at 29 is a millennial himself. For his part, Thompson is quite candid about his philosophy: “Seattle’s a little weird, so let’s make our game entertainment a little weird, too.” 

It’s working. 

“They never fail to come up with quirky fan-favorite moments,” says longtime fan Tommy Bentley, 34.

With Hot Dogs from Heaven, the Mariners may have launched another classic. Thompson expects it to stick around, anticipating larger drops and game-by-game themes in the future. What won’t change, hopefully, is the promotion’s underlying appeal: for 90 seconds of pure joy, hot dogs rain down from the sky, and the ballpark really is heaven on earth.

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