This baseball franchise is the fifth-most valuable in the country ($448 million, says Forbes), commands the most expensive ticket price of any team and, along with Al Capone, is the global calling card for Chicago. In short, the Cubs are more popular than Jesus. Yet, just days before their home opener on Sunday, the Cubs announced a brand new marketing campaign called "It's a way of life," specifically to remind Cubs fans of just how much they love their team.
With the kind of utterly forgiving, zealously loyal fan base that a company like Toyota would kill for, what, exactly, is this marketing campaign supposed to accomplish? Maybe they're trying to convince fans of other teams to jump ship? Frankly, a brand like the Cubs needs to market to its fans like people need to be convinced to breathe air; hell, Cubs fans even count their unborn children as fans!
Draftfcb, the agency responsible for the new campaign (and the recent U.S. Census campaign), clearly did its research on this one. It probably took its interns at least two walks up and down Michigan Avenue and through Wrigleyville to realize that almost every house, bar or restaurant bears a Cubs flag or sticker; every other person wears a Cubs jersey and every store sells some kind of Cubs paraphernalia.
The whole north side of the city is a living, breathing ad for the Cubs. They brought this precious field data back to the creative department and lightning struck: It's ingenious! Market the obvious and accepted: Cubs fans love the Cubs.
But Draftfcb may have taken the research a little too far, because the ads that we've seen make Chicagoans really look like "Cubs fans." The first print ad features an unappetizing black-and-white close-up of an overweight man stuffing his face with unhealthy food. This reinforces the concept that Chicagoans aren't just hog butchers to the world, but hogs as well.
Small wonder the Olympic bid was lost when hometown marketers are sucking every ounce of world class sophistication out of the image that Mayor Daley has spent so much taxpayer money to establish.
Couldn't Draftfcb have found a svelte woman who looks like Carla Bruni, sipping on a martini and eating yogurt while watching the game on her iPhone? Unfortunately, Carla doesn't look like a "Cubs fan" so she falls outside of the goal of this campaign: reminding people of what they already know.
Most marketing campaigns have a deliverable benefit in mind: sell more products, reinforce an image or find new customers. Any team that can consistently get away with raising its ticket prices during a recession doesn't need much help with the first two. New blood, however, is not likely to be lured in by a campaign that is focused entirely on an existing customer base.
Why not spend the money and buy tickets for unlikely candidates to convince them to become Cubs fans? Draftfcb could send its interns down to the Civic Opera house, the Bikram Yoga College or the West Chicago Garden Club and hand out some bleacher passes.
Of course, these potential fans might have to be convinced of the benefit and value of the Cubs brand -- and that would require some actual marketing.