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Published March 12, 2007
Brooks Boyer, Chicago White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer, all too easily remembers when the Sox were forever Avis to the crosstown Chicago Cubs’ Hertz.
"When you look at where we were even three years ago, struggling to get to 2 million [in attendance], it wasn’t all that long ago,” Boyer said. "So much has changed.”
The intervening period has brought a much-coveted World Series title, but more broadly, a historic redefinition of what the White Sox are. The club is now a hot ticket in the Windy City, with attendance expected to surpass 3 million after last year’s 26 percent jump to a franchise record 2.96 million. A recent study indicated that 57 percent of Chicago-area residents watched, attended or listened to a White Sox game in 2006, more than any other pro team in the market.
The genesis of the increased fan interest, of course, was the fielding of a competitive team. But Boyer has played a key role in helping redirect sponsor and fan perceptions of the club and the game-day experience at U.S. Cellular Field. Among the strategies employed was a deliberate attempt to not out-flash the highly beloved Cubs, particularly as that team went on an offseason spending spree this past winter with more than $300 million in future salary commitments.
Boyer also has encouraged the club to think unconventionally. Garnering the most headlines last fall was a deal with 7-Eleven to change the start time of the team’s home games to 7:11 p.m. Originally conceived by Ryan Gribble, White Sox manager of corporate partnerships, he and Boyer needed less than an hour to close the $500,000-per-year deal with the convenience store chain.
"It was such a great idea that we simply had to do it, almost to the point that it didn’t matter what it cost,” said John Moritz, 7-Eleven marketing director. "But Brooks has created a real atmosphere of innovation and creativity over there, a willingness to think outside the box.”
— Eric Fisher