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Fresh marketing coming to Cubs

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 11:26 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — MESA, Ariz. — After years of working with brands like Chex, Betty Crocker, Honey Nut Cheerios and Pillsbury, Alison Miller left General Mills last summer to become senior marketing director for the Cubs.

Of course, dealing with Jeff Samardzija isn’t quite the same as dealing with the Pillsbury dough boy.

“There’s no ‘hee hee,’” Miller said, referring to the dough boy’s laugh when his stomach is poked. “The personalities are a little different.”

Unlike General Mills competitor Frosted Flakes, the Cubs aren’t expected to be “grrrrrrrrrrrrreat” this year, so Miller has her hands full. Selling the Cubs basically has been a push-button operation since 2004: Open the doors of Wrigley Field and 3 million fans will flood in.

But that comfort zone disappeared during the 101-loss season in 2012. The Cubs now must find a way to revive fan interest.

“Obviously I had a good run working on some big brands (at General Mills),” Miller said. “Cheerios, for example, is a $1 billion brand. It’s the size of the Cubs.

“From a branding perspective they’re similar. It’s talking to your consumers, talking to your fans, understanding what they want and trying to give them a product they want.”

The Cubs have chosen a local ad agency, after using one from Brooklyn that came up with the lamentable “Baseball is Better ...” campaign. A new Cubs slogan will be unveiled March 8.

Changes coming at Wrigley Field include more taped music, more stats on the LED board in right field and some tweaking of the seventh-inning stretch.

The Stretch: Miller said guest conductors will continue to lead the seventh-inning stretch. Jim Oboikowitch, the new in-game programming director, said they will try to make it Chicago-oriented with more former Cubs and celebrities who are Chicago-area natives and follow the team.

“I do think we want to get ‘A listers,’ so if there is that celebrity in a movie ...” he said. “But we want them to understand what they’re coming to do — not just come into the broadcast booth and (to promote something).”

“They should know something about the Cubs. They should know the background of Harry Caray and what we are doing, and it will be a little more teaching them and exposing them.”

Not every guest will be invited into the broadcast booth beforehand. Last year one admitted he didn’t even like baseball.

“People really like the stretch guest,” Oboikowitch said. “It’s the interview that always has been a little dicey, and I think people always remember the bad ones — when a guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about or always is interrupting the (broadcasters).”

Music: Gary Pressy will continue to play organ music, but Oboikowitch said the Cubs will “upgrade” the music with more modern, taped music, cutting down on the advertising announcements over the p.a. system.

“It’s tough after a year when you lost 101 games,” he said. “The year we won 51 home games (in 2008) it was the same music, but it felt a little better and seemed louder. We’ll play what fans want to hear, though we won’t have ‘Call Me Maybe’ on the list.”

The Cubs are considering having an introductory song at the start of games, as they did with Van Halen’s “Jump” in the ‘80s.

LED board: Focus groups showed fans liked the LED board in right field, though it seemed to be one non-stop display of ads. Oboikowitch said they will feature “new age” stats and more facts on players.

“It was funny, people want to know their height and weight,” he said. “They do want to know how tall Darwin Barney is.”

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