Monday, February 19, 2007

Goose or Phoenix?

There's been a ton of chatter surrounding the Cubs and their plan to add ads to the outfield wall. People as far and wide ranging as WGN's Jim Memlo to ESPN's Mike Greenberg to Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin to talk-backers on this site have chimed in on the topic.

All these people make various points on why they don’t like the advertising. It's not aesthetically pleasing. It violates the architectural integrity of a landmark. It violates the field of play where advertising shouldn’t be allowed.

But there is also a recurring theme in their comments which is very telling. All of them also say something along the line of what Kamin said this morning:

The Cubs and Tribune Co. are now foolishly about to blur that line -- and open the door to further commercialization that would kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

That goose, of course, is Wrigley itself, which the Cubs have shrewdly shaped and marketed as a feel-good pleasure ground where you can enjoy the sweet scent of old-time baseball even if the team stinks.

That is 100% true. The Cubs are now worth potentially $650 million because of the way John McDonough has marketed the Wrigley Field experience.

That begs another question: Is the Wrigley Experience the only way to increase the value of the brand?

The answer is two-fold. The answer is "Yes" if the team stinks.

But, what if the team doesn't stink? Couldn't the team be as, if not more, financially successful by marketing winning?

Wouldn't it also be possible to raise a goose that lays golden eggs on a diet of winning instead of cuddliness? Why do the Cubs have to have their marketing focus stay on the beauty of Wrigley?

As I've heard recently from Cub brass, it's time to win. That means it's also time for a new goose to rise from the ashes of the Andy MacPhail regime. And if getting a few extra bucks to afford Cliff Floyd comes from placing underwear signs on the outfield wall means winning the last game in October, there will be support for that here.

Additional Point: Kamin also had this to say:

Perhaps Cubs executives will come to their senses and realize it doesn't make sense to pollute their beloved ballpark with ad clutter between the foul lines. That's what they did after they let Budweiser pop two signs directly beneath the outfield scoreboard from 1983 to 1986. When Budweiser's contract with the Cubs expired, the team decided not to renew.

Not to split hairs, but there is advertising every half inning at Wrigley Field within the foul lines. The LED message board under the scoreboard runs ads each time three outs are recorded. I suppose one could argue that these signs are not in the field of play but are in Home Run territory. Well, at least "Home Run Territory sponsored by The Cream and The Clear."

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