SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/Franchises

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The Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg predicts the mascot “will be quietly withdrawn sometime in 2016, if not before.”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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