Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=162831
Story Retrieval Date: 4/19/2014 7:40:00 PM CST
As the Cubs gear up for opening day at Wrigley Field, some fans will be spending $24,300 on season tickets, or $300 per person per game, to sit in the field’s luxurious new PNC Club of Chicago.
The luxury club is sponsored by PNC Financial Services Group Inc., a bank headquartered in Pittsburgh. It features outdoor heaters, all-inclusive food and beverages, an indoor lounge and a chance to meet celebrities introduced during the seventh-inning stretch.
PNC Club ticket holders have to buy a minimum of two tickets out of the 70 club seats available. Wally Hayward, the Cubs’ new chief sales and marketing officer, said Friday the team has sold 70 percent of the PNC Club’s seats and thinks the rest will sell once people see the addition opening day.
At a Wrigley Field press briefing, Tom Ricketts, the new owner and chairman of the Cubs, said his family has already spent more than $10 million on improvements to the field for opening day, including refurbishing bathrooms, creating an in-stadium viewing area to watch batting practice, opening Sheffield Grill to the public, remodeling the clubhouse, and building the PNC Club.
A desire to wring even more revenue out of a sold-out ballpark helps explain why the Cubs hired Hayward, a sports-marketing expert, just as many other teams with established global audience and strong brand names are upping their marketing.
According to David Aron, a marketing professor at Dominican University, all of the premier baseball teams have someone covering the marketing position, and the Cubs have had a vacancy since John McDonough left for the Blackhawks. Aron said the Cubs are attempting “a model like the Boston Red Sox, who are very aggressive in marketing,” a trait that propelled the team to win a World Series.
What do these marketing giants do?
Like any marketer, their primary focus is generating revenue, said Joel Whalen, professor at the College of Commerce of DePaul University. He believes marketing encompasses all of the ways that any major sports organization “reaches, serves and communicates with customers.” In Chicago’s competitive sports atmosphere, Whalen said, the Cubs need to make sure that fans “continue to treasure the brand and have an optimal experience each time they come to Wrigley field.”
Responding to a question after the briefing, Ricketts said it is his family’s goal to “bring in the best practices across the marketing function.” He said, “we want to be among the best in the game at sponsorships and partnerships.” This may get a little tricky, when the family is working with a 100-year-old building without room for ads around the field to generate revenue.
Hayward said that's a major challenge that pushes him to “be creative and more innovative in how we bring corporate partners in to the Wrigley experience… without putting 70 signs around the bowl area of the park.”
Another limitation is the old, manually-operated scoreboard in center field. Jon Greenberg, executive editor of Team Marketing Report, said the Cubs are losing a lot of money by clinging to the historic scoreboard in lieu of an electronic board, which could post advertisements. According to Greenberg, other teams bring in at least $10 million to $15 million in ads on scoreboards.
Hayward has always worked on the buying side, or agency side, of sports marketing and now sees his selling-side job as a way to really connect “with our loyal fan base and our consumers, to help them sell more products or services.”
According to Team Marketing Report, Cubs tickets have become some of the most expensive in major league baseball. It estimates that the Cubs have the highest average price for tickets, at $52.56 for general admission, although this figure doesn’t account for premium ticket prices at other, more modern fields.
Even though the family-owned business does not reveal revenues, Hayward affirmed, “we are on track with our revenue plan for the year and the Ricketts have committed and said that the funds that we have generated here are going to go back into preserving Wrigley Field and putting a better product on the field for our fans.”
Hayward said the team will announce its new sponsors on Monday, opening day at Wrigley, and declared he hopes to help make the Cubs “a championship team, on and off the field.”