SBJ/March 24-30, 2014/Wrigley Field at 100

‘Doublemint Twins’ among sponsor history

Wrigley Field doesn’t have a traditional corporate name, a modern, high-definition video board (at least not yet), and never had an era where its outfield was completely lined with billboards like so many other older stadiums. But the venue has still been the source for some of the most unique sponsor activations in baseball history.

Among the first was a moment of corporate synergy between the club and its then-owner, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., when Wrigley Field in the 1920s and ’30s sported a ground-level scoreboard featuring elf-like “Doublemint Twins” atop the structure, promoting Wrigley Co.’s Doublemint line of gum. The twins were featured atop the scoreboard and in various materials such as game programs for more than a decade before making way for the ballpark’s iconic center-field scoreboard in 1937.

Old Style has been a part of Wrigley and the Cubs since 1950.
Photo by: AP Images
Another long-standing Chicago brand, Old Style, has used the Cubs and Wrigley Field as a cornerstone of its marketing. The pilsner brand, first created by the G. Heileman Brewing Co. more than a century ago, and now owned by Pabst Brewing Co., began sponsoring the Cubs in 1950.

Since then, regional, lighter beers such as Old Style have generally gone out of favor in place of heavier microbrews. And amid massive industry

SBJ Podcast:
MLB writer Eric Fisher and facilities reporter Don Muret on Wrigley Field's first 100 years, what the park means to Chicago and what its future holds

consolidation, global conglomerates now dominate the beer business.

Anheuser-Busch now holds a broad, new marketing deal with the Cubs worth $140 million over the next decade that gives Budweiser exclusive marketing rights to the ballpark.

But long-held traditions have remained, and after some period of marked uncertainty this past fall and winter following the arrival of the new Budweiser deal, Old Style will remain available at Wrigley Field. The product is also available at the Cubs’ spring training park in Mesa, Ariz., even as it’s not ordinarily sold in the Phoenix area during the rest of the year.

“It’s almost a rite of passage to have an Old Style at Wrigley,” said Dan McHugh, Pabst chief marketing officer.
“It’s something that’s become completely ingrained with the experience and tradition there. So even though the landscape has changed with regard to A-B, we’re not going anywhere. We’re still very much a part of Chicago and the Wrigleyville area.”

Other big sponsor activations within Wrigley have arrived only after considerable debate and consternation.

After ivy was installed on the Wrigley Field outfield walls in the fall of 1937, those walls went barren of corporate signage for 70 years. But in early 2007, Under Armour, then an upstart, still fairly unknown athletic apparel and footwear company from Maryland, convinced Cubs officials to allow two 7-by-12-foot signs within the outfield walls. Under Armour landed the deal after nearly three years of fervent pursuit.

“For us, it was never just about putting up a billboard, but really planting a flag within a landmark,” said Steve Battista, Under Armour senior vice president of brand. “It’s really hard to find a better spot than that for branding, particularly for a company like ours. It’s like oceanfront property. And that was really the start of a much bigger involvement in the Chicago market, which remains very big for us.”

First, though, Battista and Under Armour canvassed opinions from hundreds of Chicagoans both influential and ordinary to make sure it was not upsetting to the legion of diehard Cubs fans.

“I remember talking to everybody we could about this, having conversations with people like Bill Murray at the
Under Armour branded space in the outfield beginning in 2007, and three years later Toyota landed a spot above the bleachers.
Photo by: Getty Images
Super Bowl that year, asking them, ‘If we do this, how would it be received?’” Battista said. “Fortunately, the feedback was all positive, and we saw that if we could be helpful in some small way to helping this team get back on top, that fits in with our core mission around performance.”

As Under Armour has since grown into a global giant in the field, its relationship with the Cubs has intensified. The company recently signed a multiyear agreement to have the Cubs’ new spring training complex in Arizona branded as the Under Armour Performance Center.

Limitations within Wrigley Field, both from the ballpark itself and via its agreements with neighboring rooftop owners, have prompted Cubs executives over the years to be more creative in order to generate additional corporate revenue. The most prominent example in recent years was a 2010 deal with Kraft that created a sculpture outside the ballpark resembling a large piece of elbow macaroni. The noodle has since made stops at other iconic venues, including Philadelphia’s Love Park and Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The same year as the noodle’s arrival in Chicago, the Cubs struck a deal with Toyota to place a sign atop the Wrigley Field bleachers, working through the ballpark’s landmark status and opposition from some local constituents. A similar negotiation between the Cubs and neighboring rooftop owners has extended over much of the past year as the club seeks to gain assurances that it will not receive legal challenges against several planned large-scale renovation projects, including a new video board above the left-field bleachers.

“We owe it to the fans to balance the traditional feel [of Wrigley Field], but also bringing in new elements that bring in new revenue to put into the team,” said Colin Faulkner, Cubs vice president for sales and partnerships.

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