More than 300 beauty samples were distributed at a Mets game.

With physical store visits down, brands need to find fresh avenues to get samples into consumers’ hands.

According to the Integer Group, a retail and shopper marketing agency, free samples are the most influential avenue to encourage brand trial and conversion to purchase. More than half of Americans polled indicate they “often or always,” buy a product sampled. Moreover, establishing an emotional connection to brands is key with Millennials with a study by the Fashion Institute of Technology revealed 48 percent of that age cohort said they are more likely to buy from a brand if they know the story behind it.

With those facts in mind, three companies looked to take advantage by distributing samples at a recent baseball game. Cosmetic Promotions, Hard Candy, and Van Der Hagen and Beard Guyz (men’s shave and beard grooming products), teamed to give samples to a group of 300 members of GKR, which stands for Met’s announcer Gary Cohen and former players turned announcers Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, at a New York Mets game at Citi Field.

Beauty companies have become a common sight at music festivals and other gatherings. Sports are a logical next step, according to Joann Marks, chief executive officer and founder of Cosmetic Promotions. She’s participated in sampling events of all sizes and singled out sports as a prime distribution spot because of the wide range of ages that attend. “And, getting a personal-care item at an event is a nice surprise.”

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In her view, the best samples are smaller sizes rather than full size, which could eliminate a visit to a store or web site for purchase. Among the best categories to give trials of, she said, are fragrance, bath, skin and hair. Her company donated miniature shampoos.

For Van Der Hagen and Beard Guyz, baseball was a natural fit. In fact, the company seized the chance to include information about a current promotion it is having with 30 baseball teams. “This opportunity came at a perfect time for our #ShaveOrNotShave initiative with Wade Boggs and Minor League players,” said Korhan Beba, vice president marketing for Van Der Hagen and Beard Guyz. “Sampling to our key demographic is obviously critical to trial and purchase.” He added that along with advertising on complementary radio sports channels, the sampling program rounds out a brand awareness initiative that is designed to educate consumers about the benefits of the company’s products and ultimately drive sales. Company research shows that once sampled there is a high conversion rate.

While baseball might not be thought of as fertile ground for beauty, Hard Candy found just the opposite. Half of the members in attendance at the GKR event were females. They were delighted to find a Top Ten Trendsetter eye shadow collection in their sample bags — a somewhat unexpected, but welcomed, item at a baseball game. Several even applied the makeup at the game. “Hard Candy is a disruptive, on trend, edgy cosmetic collection and sampling at a baseball game is equally as disruptive,” said Stu Dolleck, president of NuWorld Beauty. “Events sponsored by sports teams are generally blanketed with men’s products for sampling. Women are multidimensional and Hard Candy celebrates the women who love and support sports. Our goal was to get the products into the hands of the women at the event and let them have some fun, too.”