Siberian Baseball

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's the going rate for good will?

Sam Zell, you blockhead...

With a few quick sentences, Zell has raised the ire of bloggers, fans and dead chewing gum tycoons. It seems the new owner of the Cubs has no problem selling off the various assets piece by piece.

You know what? That's his prerogative. He's free to do whatever he'd like with his property, but I'm surprised that a man so renowned for his business sense has failed to grasp the lessons learned by Macy's in Chicago.

The short version of the story goes like this: Macy's buys Marshall Field's and despite a public outcry, renames the store. Burly Midwesterners accustomed to trudging to work in the dark despite negative double digit temperatures and other situations requiring mental toughness vow to boycott Macy's for what they've done to our fair city.

Macy's loses money by the truckload as Chicagoans take a degree of pride in trying to torpedo the retail giant.

I'm not saying that fans would cut off their noses to spite their faces - and even if they did, there's a line that starts in Iowa to grab up any empty seats that such a stupid move would produce - but I don't think this is the best plan for the owner of a newspaper that is facing an industry-wide slowdown and a need to start fighting back in an online world.

At the end of the day, the team and the ballpark are still Zell's, and he strikes me as the type of guy who would be more likely to sell the team and its assets piecemeal to maximize profit and cause a stir. This just reminds me to hug my kids every day when I have them to try and prevent this personality type.

So, where does that leave Cubs fans?

In the car this morning, WXRT's Lin Brehmer was asked what he would name Wrigley if he had the money as part of a larger conversation about who the listeners would like to see buy the naming rights. Brehmer didn't miss a beat and said he'd buy the naming rights to keep the name the same.

This has me asking why that wouldn't work. If the idea is to build brand loyalty in the town where you purchase the naming rights - I don't drink any more orange juice because Tropicana owns the rights in Tampa, nor did I rush out to open a checking account with Bank One when they set up shop in Arizona - what better way to do that than to buy the rights and save the name?

If you figure that non-baseball fans won't care one way or another, don't you stand a better chance of pulling in new customers both in Chicago and beyond by that sort of goodwill gesture? Why not have one of the Chicago institutions step up and try this?

The initial media blitz when oh, let's say, McDonald's buys the name and grandstands about tradition and respect for the fan base and baseball fans worldwide would surpass the ink spent to mention another name change in the era of corporate sponsorship.

I'm not saying this is a can't lose proposition, but isn't it at least worth exploring?

At the very least, it would probably piss off Zell.

(Image from

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home