Taking Pointers from the Cubs
April 27, 2017
I am a Chicago Cubs baseball fan.
For those who don’t follow baseball or are (God forbid) Cardinal fans, that statement used to be followed by, “why?’ Why would anyone in their right mind stay loyal to a team who hasn’t won a championship in our lifetime? My answer is simply, “because.”
After 108 long years, the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. How many sports organizations can say they had a loyal following, passed through generations, without winning a single championship in 108 years? Not many. I think the better question to ask than why is how did the Cubs organization cultivate such a loyal fan base?
When it comes to developing a strong following, we can take a couple of pointers from the Cubs organization and apply them to creating brand loyalty in business.
Personalities & Influencers
Most major brands have an influencer who supports their brand or product. For the Cubs, celebrities like Bill Murray, Eddie Vedder, and John Cusack have been lifelong fans. Additionally, personalities influence brand loyalty. For me, the two most notable personalities for the Cubs have been Ron Santo and Harry Caray. We still quote them all the time and they somehow give us press from the grave (just like with the green apples).
The Takeaway: Utilize influencers in your community for brand awareness. Invite them in and teach them about your product or service. An Instagram post or a Facebook mention wearing your swag or giving your product a shout out can go a long way from someone with a substantial following. This type of visibility will make your name and brand aesthetic more noticeable.
Wrigley Field is arguably the most historic ballpark. It’s the field where Babe Ruth called his shot; it has a manual scoreboard that was built in 1937; it’s where Harry Caray started the seventh inning stretch tradition of singing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Past and present owners have made an effort to preserve the nostalgic beauty of the ballpark while still making the much needed upgrades. All of this history (and so much more) creates a sense of pride for fans. Just as Red Sox fans look at Fenway, Cubs fans look at Wrigley as the epitome of the game.
The Takeaway: If your brand has a story, highlight it. If the building you work out of has a story, tell it! We have a few examples of those of our own in New Orleans. People not only appreciate establishments like Antoine’s and Mandina’s for their longevity, but for a good number of people, they’ve intertwined their own history with them.
Even if you’re a new brand, you always have a story.
The Cubs organization develops messaging outside of the fact that it is just a baseball team striving to be the best in MLB. The communicators behind the dugout develop stories on the team, the park, the construction of the park, the strong friendships on the team (Bryzzo, anyone?), the leadership, and the achievements of the players outside of the team. One of my favorite stories in recent years has been about the organist. He was celebrated for playing 2,268 consecutive home games. He led the seventh inning stretch, which is usually reserved for someone of a more celebrity status, and it garnered a respectable amount of attention from local stations, the MLB, Chicago Tribune, and more.
The Takeaway: Stories can be developed outside of your main purpose. Find the eccentricities of your brand and develop a personal story. Always maintain your core messaging, but don’t be afraid to get creative.
By far the biggest impact on the Cubs organization to garner a championship win is the leadership of the organization. With Theo Epstein, Tom Ricketts, and Joe Madden at point for the Cubs, there was no question that a World Series run would happen. They worked to cultivate a fun and productive atmosphere for their players. During spring training, Madden encouraged antics with players performing karaoke and playing with bear cubs on the baseball field. Leadership even built a victory room in the home clubhouse complete with disco ball and fog machine to celebrate their wins. Not only did this culture create a winning team, but it made fans fall in love with the sport all over again after experiencing disappointments for a century.
The Takeaway: We regularly help our clients establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry. Create opportunities to showcase your expertise and how you’ve established and built your company or brand. Position yourself as an expert in your field to garner media coverage. Identify speaking opportunities to further extend your reach among your target audience. Leverage your success by applying for relevant industry awards. Gratitude
There have been a lot, and I mean a lot, of ups and downs as a Cubs fan. However, I’ve always felt special to be a Cubs fan. I’ve always felt appreciated by the team. We always show up in our fan gear, carry a W flag, and hope for the best even in a losing season. We’re recognized for it almost every year. After the few days following the World Series win, Cubs fans in the thousands, myself included, made a pilgrimage to Wrigleyville and wrote a dedication for grandparents who didn’t live to see it. It was a thank you for doing it in our lifetime on the brick walls and sidewalks of Wrigley in chalk. Epstein and Ricketts were so taken aback by the gesture they wrote an open letter to the fans thanking them for their support and dedication to the organization. They hoped this would become an annual tradition at the end of the season. They left it untouched until they had to raise the fences for construction.
The Takeaway: Customer relations is critical for every brand in order to build and retain a customer base. Show them the love! Highlight loyal customers via your social media channels or the media. Host an event or offer an incentiveas a customer appreciation. . Showing your gratitude will cultivate loyal customers who will not only support you, but will also recommend you to their friends and family.
We’ll see more scientific reasoning behind why the Cubs have such outstanding fans, or I guess crazy loyalists, as multiple universities (including Louisiana State University) continue their research on the psychology of the Cubs fan. For now, I think we can look at their success and apply it to our brands in a way that makes sense.
Ally Hodapp is an Account Executive at Bond Moroch.
Photo Credit: "Wrigley Field -- Home of Chicago Cubs" Chicago (IL) April 2012" by Ron Cogswell licensed under CC 2.0