Chicago Cubs strike out by hiring a New York agency

In the eyes of a lot of local ad executives, the Chicago Cubs have just struck out.  Big time.

The team lost a big chunk of potential fans from Chicago’s advertising industry in recent days when the Cubs rather quietly announced it had retained a New York-based ad agency, quaintly-named The Brooklyn Brothers, to orchestrate its newest ad campaign with the theme line “Baseball Is Better.” 

The news of The Brooklyn Brothers hire was first buried deep in a press release issued on January 12, that had as its primary focus  an announcement about a so-called “9-Game Pack” that would allow Cubs fans to purchase tickets in advance to “highly-anticipated” weekend match ups during the 2012 season.

The campaign theme line, “Baseball Is Better,” apparently came from introductory remarks made by the Cubs’ new president of baseball operations. Theo Epstein.

We weren’t at that press conference.  But since his arrival, Epstein has managed to generate considerable press for himself and the ever-struggling Cubs now that he is the man designated to lead the Cubs to a long-elusive World Series victory.

But Epstein is an East Coaster new to the Midwest. So it stands to reason he wouldn’t necessarily be beholden to any of Chicago’s long list of ad agencies. Nor, it stands to reason, would Epstein be expected to be familiar with Chicago’s long history as an advertising hub.

Agency pick decision of Cubs president, marketing chief

So how did the decision come about to go with a New York shop for the Cubs’ latest ad campaign? For answers we turned Tuesday morning to Wally Hayward, the Cubs chief marketing officer and one of the nicest guys in the Chicago ad business.

Among other things, Hayward told us Epstein was not responsible for selecting The Brooklyn Brothers.  Hayward and his boss Cubs president Crane Kenney made that decision, Hayward said.

So how did Brooklyn Brothers come to the attention of the Cubs? Hayward said that happened during his recent visit to Buffalo, N.Y., and a meeting with a baseball cap vendor New Era, which makes the Cubs caps. At that meeting, Hayward was shown some creative The Brooklyn Brothers did for New Era.  “We really liked it,” said Hayward.

Hayward had a subsequent meeting with The Brooklyn Brothers executives in New York City. He was shown some creative, and he apparently liked it enough to give the New York-based ad shop the job of developing a “Baseball Is Better” campaign.

Hayward said he could not remember whether he gave Brooklyn Brothers the “Baseball Is Better” line, or whether the agency just happened to pull it out of Epstein?s press conference and run with it.

Still, there’s no denying the decision to go with The Brooklyn Brothers and its campaign is a slap in the face to the Chicago ad business, which has struggled in recent years as major accounts have pulled up stakes at several shops and left town.

“Can you imagine if the New York Yankees went out and hired a Chicago ad shop, it would be front page news in New York,” said one savvy Chicago ad executive.  But not in Chicago, which in the eyes of many New Yorkers is nothing if not a provincial town with a bad inferiority complex.

Cubs as a “national brand” justifies decision

Hayward also buttressed his argument for hiring Brooklyn Brothers by pointing out the Cubs are a “national brand,” which takes the team beyond the purview of just Chicago.

Hayward also tried hard to soften the blow to the Chicago ad industry that the Cubs have delivered by noting the Cubs would continue to work with no fewer than four other Chicago ad shops, including DraftFCB, EMI, Petrick Design and the Michael Walters Agency.

Hayward expects to add one more local shop to the roster in the near future.

But for now, Hayward said, the focus is primarily on the “Baseball is Better” campaign from The Brooklyn Brothers.  That campaign, Hayward said, would probably evolve through the season to reflect various thoughts about what baseball is better than.

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