Kolff still is ironing out details of a Miguel Cabrera-as-Jedi-Knight figure for Sept. 16 that will be a "Star Wars Night" promotion available with the purchase of a special ticket bundle.
"I'm very picky when it comes to bobbleheads. I want to make it exact as possible," Kolff said. "I love it when the guys think it looks just like them. I've hidden that one away until I think it looks like Miguel."
Which player is featured as a bobblehead is decided by the end of the year for the following season, in part because of the turnaround time between China and Detroit — including a month of production lost to the Chinese New Year, she said. "We like to have our bobbleheads identified before Christmas," Kolff said.
Such devotion to detail is, in part, intended to keep the Tigers from embarrassing themselves like the Red Sox did in 2016 when they canceled a bobblehead giveaway hours before a game because the figurine looked nothing like the player (David Ortiz).
The vagaries of the roster also can be tricky for promotions.
"We don't do a lot of player-focused items after the All Star break or after the trade deadline because you run the risk of trading someone you've made a bobblehead of," Kolff said. Her department works with the front office to try to ensure they market players who still will be around all season, and Duane McLean, the Tigers' executive vice president of business operations, ultimately signs off on player promotions.
The other bobbles this season are pitcher Michael Fulmer on June 16 — he was the 2016 rookie of the year, making him nearly immune from trade risk — and ex-Tigers hero Alan Trammell on Aug. 19.
The Tigers say they are open to doing celebrity bobbleheads — think Kid Rock or Bob Seger — and more of former Tigers. This season's Trammell bobble already is goosing ticket sales.
"We already know that people are super interested in that one because the ticket sales have shown that there's incremental difference between what that game should be if you look at it from just from a season ticketed pre-sale to where it is right now. People want that Alan Trammell bobblehead," said Ellen Hill Zeringue, the Tigers' vice president of marketing.
A J.D. Martinez "Game of Thrones" bobblehead will be part of a July 28 promotion that requires a special ticket purchase to receive the figure.
For most teams, a bobblehead is the lure to get more fans through the turnstiles, after which they'll spend more money inside the ballpark.
Bobbleheads, which became an MLB staple in 1999, can boost fan spending by as much as $25 per person, and corporate sponsors typically pay a premium to be part of bobblehead giveaway days, said bobblehead impresario Malcolm Alexander in comments to Crain's Detroit Business for a story in 2014. His company, Bellevue, Wash.-based Alexander Global Promotions, has produced more than 50 million bobbleheads since 1999. Crain's Detroit Business is a sister publication of Plastics News.
The dolls are not a cheap item: The wholesale cost of one bobblehead is $2.50 to $4.25 each, or more, with the price hinged on the complexity of the figurine's pose
Teams consider the cost worth it because bobbleheads boost the gate. MLB attendance by 6,674 fans per game, according to a survey published in 2006 by the American Journal of Business. Bobbles are the most effective giveaway at boosting attendance, according to 55 percent of sports team executives surveyed in 2011 by Haddonfield, N.J.-based analysts Turnkey Sports & Entertainment Inc.