Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Much Would You Pay For a Ryan Theriot Plate Appearance?

I can't quite figure the Cubs' strategy in pissing off a large portion of their fan base by assaulting us with  largely unintelligible snippets of pop songs to introduce the Cubs' batters as they come to the plate.  The Cubs added the Toyota sign, a giant noodle advertisement outside the park, and began the new intro music for the batters all during this homestand starting with the series against the White Sox.

I get the Toyota sign and even the noodle thing because those bring in revenue to the Cubs that they can now not feel obligated to extract from my wallet.  I haven't even seen the noodle yet (except in the photos), and I notice the Under Armour logos on the outfield doors a lot more than I notice the Toyota sign, so if the Cubs make a few bucks on some things that barely register to me, then so be it.

But I highly doubt that Salt n Peppa is paying the Cubs to play "Push It" before every Ryan Theriot one-pitch ground out.  Nor do I think any of the other musical artists whose music is now being played (probably without permission) are paying to have their songs accompany players' at-bats.

So why are the Cubs doing it?  The Cubs market the hell out of Wrigley Field's charm and old-school feel.  The ivy, day baseball, the manual scoreboard, the latent racism in the stands, and the organ music all harken back to a simpler time when white men knew a thing or two about fundamental baseball.

So why damage that brand image while getting nothing in return?  Afterall, the Cubs are quickly entering a period of time where the team on the field is the least interesting thing about coming to a game at Wrigley.  They can't possibly be shifting to an emphasis on the team as currently constructed as a method to boost interest in Cubs tickets.

I have a guess, and it is based on nothing but my own conjecture and willingness to see conspiracies where there are probably none, simply because conspiracies are more interesting than just plain stupidity.

What if the long range plan was to sell individual player plate appearances to corporate sponsors?

"Now batting, Ryan Theriot, sponsored by Budweiser.  Because when Ryan Theriot bats, you are going to want a few beers."

Judging by the reaction to the Toyota sign, fans wouldn't take to something like that very well.  To make the huge jump from quaint organ music to an audio version of NASCAR advertising would be too much to expect of most people who fear and resist change. 

Last year, the fans didn't like corporately sponsored doubles being announced by the recorded Luna Carpets jingle, so after a few games, the Cubs transitioned to the Luna jingle played by the organ after doubles.  The fans got the lesser of two evils, Luna gets its brand advertised, and the Cubs get money.  Everyone wins.  They still do it this year.  Take a listen the next time a Cubs player doubles (sometime after the All-Star break would be my guess).

By playing the pop music, the Cubs have created an atmosphere where, if you were to close your eyes, you would not be able to determine if you were in Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular, or a minor league ballpark.  I have yet to see anyone react to it positively.  Not one person.  The most positive thing I have heard was a woman telling her friend, "I like Marlon Byrd's the best, but I miss the organ."  I'm assuming she was talking about the music.

A few more homestands of playing loud obnoxious music before every at-bat might make any change welcome, such as a quick corporate sponsorship and maybe the organ playing the company's jingle.  All better!

Like I said, I doubt that is the real reason, but isn't wild speculation fun?  But they have to have a reason, because otherwise all they are doing is more damage after spilling oil from the BP Crosstown Cup all over their carefully crafted brand image.


danieldschell said...

I'm as depressed about this season as anyone else, but I really can't figure out why we're making such a huge fuss over the walk-up music. Seems to make us look even sillier for caring.

Aisle 424 said...

Whether the fans are dumb for caring or not doesn't change the fact that they care. Because they care, the Cubs are actively damaging their brand that caters to those people who make up a majority of their fan base.

I can understand pissing those people off when money is coming in by the truckload in exchange, but to do it for free seems stupid unless there is some deeper plan. I'm merely throwing out a hypothesis to explain the seemingly illogical behavior.

danieldschell said...

I think part of what I mean is, could the Cubs have foreseen this kind of negative reaction? To me, it's just music. The offense is anemic, the bullpen is way more bull than pen, and the fans are up in arms about losing the organist? Who knows, maybe the Cubs will change their tune (sorry) now that they've seen the response, but there seem to be a lot more issues to be up in arms about.

Rich said...

What negative reaction? Where are people 'up in arms' about this? Have I missed something? (quite possible)

Aisle 424 said...

I think they should have seen the reaction coming. Think about the reaction to anything that happens in that ballpark that changes it even a little.

People hated the lights. People hated the bleacher expansion. People hated the Under Armour signs. They hate the Toyota sign. They didn't like when they put shrubbery in the batters eye for a few years instead of a mass of empty green seating.

Hell, I remember people bitching about the emergency siren tower that looks like the Michelin Man was impaled on a post that stands across the street on Waveland. People didn't like when the Torco sign was replaced by Southwest Airlines (now Miller). People just plain hate change of any kind in that ballpark.

They had to have known there was a very real chance there would be backlash, so why risk it if there isn't anything to gain from it? Makes no sense unless they are actively breaking away from that marketing model and want focus to be on the team. But the timing for that is really poor, so I have doubts that is the case.

Aisle 424 said...

Rich, I've heard people complaining about it at the park and all over Twitter. Nobody has said anything positive about it that I've heard.

Berselius said...

Tim, I think most of the backlash is due to the shambolic play of the team, not the advertising. Maybe you could call it collateral bitching (dying laughing)

danieldschell said...

Agree with you Tim, about the lights, shrubs, etc. All controversies that seemed to die down fairly easily (exception being the neighborhood about night games). Perhaps the Cubs did envision upsetting some fans, but like me, felt it's just music, how upset can people get? In my opinion, it's much ado about nothing. BUT, in fairness, I don't spend much money on buying tickets to get in. I honestly have not noticed the music while watching on tv; it is obviously much more noticable, and annoying, at the ballpark.

Aisle 424 said...

It just seems to me that it is like if I sold a candy bar and marketed as old-fashioned chocolatey goodness and people bought it and loved it because it was, indeed chocolatey and good.

Then after building up a loyal customer base, I'd continue to market it as chocolatey goodness, but it now tastes like fruit. It may taste good, it may even be better, but it isn't what I promised when I sold it.

The Cubs are selling a unique game experience and charging a premium price for it, but are now providing us with a game experience that I can get in Kane County for less than $10 per seat.

Aisle 424 said...

B, I'm sure the collateral bitching is louder because they aren't doing anything on the field to distract us from the changes we don't like. So again, I have to wonder why they made the change now? They have NOTHING to gain. They could only lose.

It worries me because there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan when it comes to getting the marketing side and the fan experience (stadium operations) side on the same page and that is supposed to be where Crane Kenney's strengths lie. If they can't get a decent marketing strategy together that doesn't alienate half their loyal fans, what chance do they have of putting together a decent baseball strategy to improve the entire organization on the field?

Berselius said...

Crane Kenney's strengths lie in wearing a suit, as far as I can tell. That's about it

Jubbo said...

Walk-up music (which I hate in every park and I compare to wrestling entrances) makes me a hell of a lot sadder than a non-internally illuminated Toyota sign. Its awful.

And "there doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan..." is what's most worrisome about it all.

Anonymous said...

Just got home... What's the topic? Hammered...
Intro music moans... What woud be cool is a Cub mascot chasing a white tube sock around the bases in order to win 2 seats to a Chicago Wolves game circa 2006... Go Cubs

Keith said...

The awful thing about the walk up music isn't that it's being done, it's that it's being done poorly. Whoever made the decision to start using recorded walk-up music, whether it's Crane Kenney, Tom Ricketts, Gary Pressy, or someone else, has never actually been to another big league ballpark to listen to how other ballparks approach it. At Wrigley, Paul Friedman will announce the player, and the music starts to play after he's done. In every other ballpark the music is playing when the batter is announced, so while it may still be kind of stupid at least the song feels like less of a non sequitur. It's hilarious how this organization can't even get the little details right.

Also, I've noticed that all the black/Latin players have rap or dance tracks for their walk up music, while all the white players (save Ryan Theriot) have classic rock. Just an observation...

Aisle 424 said...

My understanding is that the players pick their own music, so we can't blame any patterns in music style choices on the organization.

But like I said, it makes no difference to me whether the organ or recordings is better than the other. The Cubs have had a strategy for years of differentiating themselves from other baseball teams by being able to provide a unique baseball experience at Wrigley Field. The steps they are taking make it like any other ballpark (and like you said, not even done as well as other ballparks), so I don't understand the strategy when they do that without at least getting monetary gain from a corporate sponsor.

BleacherBoy said...

The Toyota sign is not as bad as I had imagined, the noodle doesn't matter (outside the park), but the music issue is vile and violative of the ballpark experience.

Is it "important" in the grand scheme of things? Of course not. Is baseball "important"...probably not in the cosmic sense. However -- unlike a bad bullpen, or Soriano's brain, or D. Lee's hole-y swing, or our horrible fundamentals, or Lou's Alzheimer's this was an intentional choice and can be reversed with an easy fix.

I'm not some codger who wants time to stand still on all fronts...but this is not logistical modernization (like the lights) or carry any benefits (like a jumbo-tron or modern plumbing, or new seats might).

It just doesn't fit or belong at Wrigley -- please sign/spread this petition if you agree:

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