In light of the Chicago Cubs’ continued evolution under the Ricketts Family regime, both on the baseball side and the business side, it should be no surprise that the Cubs “brand” is also being evaluated for change and improvement.
According to a BN’er who was at a small focus group held earlier this week by marketing executives, the Cubs are exploring a number of branding changes in the coming years, including new uniforms and a new logo.
Although the familiar home pinstripe unis aren’t under consideration for revamping, the focus group was shown a variety of potential road uniform changes, including a navy blue look (as opposed to the “Cubbie blue”), which was apparently designed to have a “vintage” feel. The Cubs are also considering regular throwback jerseys that they would wear on Sundays, or at least some kind of alternate jersey which would commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Wrigley Field in 2014. Similarly, the revamped road jerseys are under consideration for 2014.
The group was also shown a variety of different Cubs logos, according to the source, though the classic “C” cap logo is not currently being reconsidered (whew). The reconsidered logos ranged from subtle changes to the “C,” to the old school bear look, to completely new logos.
The source also noted that there seemed to be a great deal of interest in whether fans would buy new gear if the logos/uniforms were changed. In other words – and this is me surmising, rather than having been told this directly – the Cubs want to know if they could increase their merchandise sales if they had new looks to offer, versus continuing to sell the same looks. (That said, I believe there is considerable sharing of merchandising revenues among baseball teams, so I’m not quite sure of the angle here.)
The group also discussed the ballpark experience, which is, itself, an additional layer of Chicago Cubs branding. Of particular note was a discussion of a large video board – yes, that would be a “JumboTron.” Nothing is finalized, but it appears that installing a JumboTron for the 2014 season is very much under consideration. It would be placed in left field, essentially where the “Toyota” sign currently resides. That placement would reduce rooftop blocking, would be viewable by most of the folks in the stands, and would not interfere with the aesthetic view from inside the ballpark, out into the neighborhood. According to the source, the group reaction to the proposal was actually almost universally positive.
The JumboTron, while not quite in the same branding vein as logos and uniforms, is a part of the changing fan experience at Wrigley Field. Obviously a large video board has long been considered for Wrigley, and was necessarily going to be discussed as a part of the planned renovations. Not only would it change the fan experience – more stats, replays, between-innings entertainment (I know, some of you just gagged, but I’m told the Cubs continue to promise that there won’t be anything cheesy) – but it would also provide the Cubs with strong additional revenue opportunities through advertising on the board.
The source indicated that the Cubs took the secrecy of this focus group very seriously, which tells me that they understand the sensitive nature of some of the changes they put on the table before the group. More importantly, it suggests that the Cubs are not simply floating trial balloons here – these are actual changes they are considering for implementation within the next two seasons.
The Cubs’ rebranding efforts are being led by new Senior Director of Marketing Alison Miller, who spoke to fans about the marketing side of the business at this year’s Cubs Convention. Miller, whose prior credits include General Mills and Harvard Business School, was brought on board last July to help modernize the Cubs’ marketing efforts. Her responsibilities shifted upward when former marketing chief Wally Hayward left the Cubs in favor of a marketing firm he created together with the Ricketts Family.
I reached out to the Cubs for comment on these initiatives, and corresponded with Cubs Manager of Communications Kevin Saghy. Although he said no branding changes are planned, he confirmed that the Cubs have conducted a number of surveys, focus groups and research over the last several months under the direction of Miller. He also confirmed that the Cubs are “making an effort to get feedback from our fans on a number of topics including our brand, fan purchase habits and renovations.”
In other words, I take it that, yes, these kinds of initiatives are seriously being considered by the Cubs, even if nothing is technically, formally planned at this time.
This will be a storyline to follow as the renovation at Wrigley Field continues, and as the culture of the Cubs continues to change/modernize (which I mean in a good way, for whatever that’s worth). In the near term, I wouldn’t look for much on the branding front in 2013, but it sounds like next offseason could bring substantial news in that arena.
And, of course, I’m sure we’ll all be following the JumboTron storyline closely.
[Yes - thankfully I managed to do most of the writing and digging for this piece before The Little Boy arrived.]