SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/Franchises

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  • With eye toward families, Cubs roll out mascot

    Lots of pro sports teams have mascots. But the Chicago Cubs hadn’t had one for 98 years.

    Now the Cubs do, and his name is Clark.

    With the addition of Clark, the Chicago Cubs become the 27th of 30 Major League Baseball teams to get a team mascot. Only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have no mascot among MLB teams.

    Clark is joining the Cubs at this moment in its history because team management has
    Clark makes the Cubs the 27th of 30 MLB teams with a mascot.
    Photo by: STEVE GREEN / CHICAGO CUBS
    decided a mascot is one way the Cubs operation can become more family friendly. And the team may need more families to help populate the stands in Wrigley Field if the 2014 season is as bad as last year’s was.

    Alison Miller, Cubs senior director of marketing, noted: “Clark is a young, friendly Cub who can’t wait to interact with our other young Cubs fans. He’ll be a welcoming presence for families at Wrigley Field and an excellent ambassador for the team in the community.”
    TROUBLE BRUIN?
    Reactions to the new Chicago Cubs mascot


    Julian Green, Cubs vice president of communications and community affairs: “There are some folks that had strong reactions to the mascot, but at the same time, there are folks that see what we’re trying to do. It’s strictly for kids and family entertainment.”
    Sports On Earth’s Will Leitch: “[It] is difficult to think of a more negative response to a mascot. Every Cubs fan I talked to had that same sense of sadness and embarrassment: Why did we do this?”
    Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: “If they’re going to do it, that is a terrible name. You either go after Harry Caray or Ernie Banks, you don’t use Clark.”
    The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan noted the Red Sox’s introduction of Wally the Green Monster in the ’90s eventually “worked in Boston, which is the first spiritual cousin to Chicago.”
    The Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg predicts the mascot “will be quietly withdrawn sometime in 2016, if not before.”
    The Illinois Daily Herald’s Mike Imrem: “The biggest question of all is whether the Cubs need a mascot in the first place. Certainly they do. Anything that distracts from what’s happening on the field is welcome.”
    ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield: “Give it time, Cubs fans. You’ll learn to love Clark.”
    Bruce Miles, Illinois Daily Herald: “Such gimmicks as mascots generally don’t sit well with a fan base that has been around since 1876.”
    ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, a devout Cubs fan, said the new mascot is “awful” and “pathetic.”
    ESPN Radio’s Jorge Sedano: “I don’t even know if it looks like a bear. It looks like a chipmunk.”
    ESPN Radio’s Mike Golic: “Kids will like that. It’s certainly not hurting anything.”
    Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke: “Sad but unsurprising news from Wrigley. Organization finally so irrelevant, even the Ivy isn’t enough.”
    Sporting News’ Jesse Spector: “I know we’re all supposed to crap on everything, but does anyone really think the Cubs’ mascot won’t be a huge hit with its target audience?”
    The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner: “It seems Twitter has decided the Cubs’ new mascot is dumb. Totally disagree. Kids love mascots. Every team should have one, even the Yankees.”
     
    Compiled from SportsBusiness Daily files

    According to the Cubs’ marketing department, the team was getting consistent feedback through surveys and fan interviews about the need for more family-friendly entertainment related to the Cubs experience. One suspects too much effort may have been focused in recent years on improving the ballpark experience for the beer-gulping young adult crowds that populate Wrigley Field on most game days.

    Before and during games at Wrigley, Clark will greet fans as they enter the ballpark and help kids run the bases following the game. Aside from his game-day tasks, Clark will work with Cubs Charities to help the team target improvements in health and wellness, fitness and education for children and families at risk.

    Cubs management has developed a so-called “backstory” for Clark. His great-grandbear Joa was the team’s original bear mascot in 1916, but only for one year. The team had been mascot-less until Clark’s debut this week. Clark answered the call, so to speak, because he could hear the roar of fans at Wrigley Field from his home in the Lincoln Park Zoo, where Joa retired to after his brief appearance with the team.

    A Cubs spokesman said the team soon will put out a job description to find the right person to bring Clark to life full time. That person has not yet been hired because the team wanted to keep Clark’s debut a secret until now.

    Lewis Lazare writes for sister publication Chicago Business Journal.

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  • Padres’ RFID system to combine ticketing, concessions, other fan touch points

    The San Diego Padres are ramping up efforts to understand fan behavior and habits. The team is introducing a radio frequency identification system that will combine ticketing, concessions, its fan loyalty program and in-game entertainment.

    Like the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays, the Padres have aligned with London-based customer management group Fortress GB to tie together all of their fan touch points into one system.

    But the Padres are taking a significant step by also folding the program into MLB Advanced Media’s At The Ballpark mobile application. This RFID system will be recognized in the app, and fans will also have a smart card embedded with the RFID chip, like what the Nationals and Rays have done.

    The system will be similar to one used by the Nationals.
    Photo by: WASHINGTON NATIONALS
    Padres fans will be able to manage their tickets, buy food and merchandise, and enhance their in-game experience through the app. The Padres with MLBAM are developing several mobile games and social elements that will be available and the club has aligned with San Diego-based startup technology firm Goodsnitch to allow fans at Petco Park to provide feedback on their in-game experience.

    The Padres’ system will also manage its fan loyalty program, The Faithful, which rewards fans for virtually any behavior with the team — from buying tickets and merchandise to reading articles online and retweeting team tweets.

    The club spent an undisclosed seven-figure sum creating the program. Installation required infrastructure at the ballpark including new turnstiles and a new point-of-sale system. Padres staffers also toured Nationals Park and Tropicana Field to study their RFID efforts with Fortress.

    “This has been a major investment on our part, but it’s where our future lies and is the next logical step for us,” said Mike Dee, Padres president and chief executive.

    Helping manage the effort for the Padres are Wayne Partello, the club’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, and Ryan Gustafson, manager of business strategy and analytics. After Dee left the Miami Dolphins to take the club’s senior management job last summer, he brought former colleague Partello with him from Miami into a newly created role.

    MLBAM this season is substantially reworking At The Ballpark to allow clubs, and in turn their fans, much more flexibility to customize what the product provides. The Padres, as a result, are among the first clubs to deploy MLBAM’s broader vision for the app.

    “Like any business, we want to reward our best customers, and the broader platform we’re creating for At The Ballpark will allow teams to take that in whatever direction they choose,” said MLBAM President and CEO Bob Bowman.

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