4 Brand Lessons From The Chicago Cubs

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, April 18, 2017

Temperatures are rising, spring has sprung and baseball season is underway. And what a season it’s poised to be with the Chicago Cubs hoping to win back-to-back titles—a feat no team has done since the New York Yankees were World Series champs in 1999 and 2000. No pressure. All eyes are on them—and for good reason. They have the talent and leadership to be successful for years to come, but anything less than winning another championship will be considered a failure by many. 

It’s not just the Cubs that face the fear of being a flash in the pan. Outside of sports, singers and authors become one-hit wonders all the time—and brands are no exception. While some fade away after one incredible product launch, others struggle with follow-up products or line extensions that miss the mark. So how can a brand score a home run with the launch of a follow-up product or campaign? In celebration of the return of America’s favorite pastime, here are four lessons brands can learn from the Cubs.



Success doesn’t happen overnight. Well, sometimes it does … but it takes a lot of preparation. Becoming the 2016 World Series champs wasn’t a lucky break. It was a strategically planned approach by GM Theo Epstein—from recruiting the right players to hiring the best coaches and managers. Brands need to take time to lay the foundation for continual success. First, be sure to have the right team in place. From R&D to marketing, everyone needs to work together. Also, outline an innovation pipeline early on and stick to the schedule as closely as you can. Lastly, plan for an overarching campaign theme that has the potential to carry out multiple messages and products.    

Stay hungry but stay humble. You’ve just launched the biggest product of the year. Sales and awareness have skyrocketed and your brand is a media darling. What do you do? Take a moment to let it soak in, and then get back to work … as if it never happened. Epstein recently commented that after a World Series win you either get complacent or even hungrier because now that you’ve tasted it, there’s no real in between. When kicking off a follow-up program, campaign or launch, be just as aggressive—or even more so. Treat each subsequent project with the same passion and excitement, as well as caution, as your first one to remain grounded.          

Take advantage of the spotlight. Find ways to keep the positive momentum going for your brand as long as you can while planning your second act. After the Cubs won, the media covered everything they did. They made the talk show rounds; team members attended a fellow player’s wedding; they went to the White House; retired catcher David Rossi joined “Dancing with the Stars.” And just like that, the 2017 season was here. By executing a phased marketing and PR plan, your brand will still be buzzing by the time you’re ready for your next launch.

Keep in mind what worked but evolve. When planning a follow-up launch or campaign, leverage tactics and ideas that helped yield your success. That said, don’t lose sight of current trends that will impact your brand. During the offseason, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said it’s important to be uncomfortable to continue to grow and not become stagnant. This is true for both playing the game of baseball and in the marketing sense. What can you do this time around that remains true to your brand but demonstrates a clear evolution? Push the creative envelope with your content creation or target a new group of influencers. Utilize new platforms that will resonate with your audience.       

Only time will tell how far the Cubs make it this season. But if they stay grounded and focused, they have the potential to become one of the most dominant teams in sports history. The same can be said for a brand. By developing and following a well thought-out and consistent game plan, you’ll win with every product launch or campaign. And in the end, you might just create a passion brand with a fanatical following.

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