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And the Fan-Brand Engagement Goes Wild

Published on November 18, 2016, at 8:39 a.m.
by Lynn Brantley.

I recently traveled to Chicago, Illinois, during the midst of the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series where the Chicago Cubs battled the Cleveland Indians for their first championship title since 1908. As I approached the city, “W” (meaning “win”) flags waved on every building, skyscrapers beamed the Cubs’ blue from their highest points and billboards noted punny Cubs jokes. I really felt like I was witnessing part of a culture rather than just fanatics — the city had caught “Cubs Fever.”

Image by Ron Cogswell
Image by Ron Cogswell

Fans gathered on couches at home, bar stools and in public spaces to watch the seven-game-long series of baseball. Local businesses immersed in the team spirit offered food/drink specials, discounted products and even team-inspired goods. Hotels and restaurants decorated their spaces with team colors and fan gear. The city created multiple Cubs geotags to engage Snapchat users to share their fan-craze throughout the series.

One specific example of fan-brand engagement stood out to me: Jim Beam, a spirits and wine brand, aligned with the Cubs and offered up to $20 free Uber credit promo code to fans in the city during the seventh inning of the first game hosted in Wrigleyville on Chicago’s north side. The brand ambassador of Jim Beam commented in a statement, “… with a historic moment like this, we want to be sure that Chicago sports fans get home safely.”

This isn’t the first time Jim Beam has worked closely with Cubs fans. Back in 2008, the brand engaged with fans to keep Wrigley Field’s name on the stadium sign by passing out T-shirts and bumper stickers that read “Save Wrigley,” in conjunction with its “The Stuff Inside” campaign.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing: integrated sports marketing. Through promotion of the World Series and the Cubs, as well as the promotion of other products and services, local businesses and corporations tapped into the “Cubs Fever” to promote their products, while seeming like part of the Cubs family.

Photo by Jonathan Lurie
Photo by Jonathan Lurie

So what can PR practitioners learn from “Cubs Fever”?

Engage with the sports community — whether the brand is related to sports or not. Integrated sports marketing brings in a wide range of audiences, all while focusing on target markets, and gives a sense of community between the brand and consumers. Sporting events can help guide campaigns on social media, print and digital advertising.

Bold Worldwide gives three great examples of effective marketing during sporting events:
1) “Find the Conversation”
Go where the fans go. Find out what social media platform is attracting the most traffic about the sporting event and engage in the conversation whether it be tweeting, sharing posts or even using the event’s hashtag.

2) “Insert Personality”
Don’t just have an automated reaction to a big play or win. Respond with a joke or meme that relates back to your brand’s personality. The more personality, the more likely consumers will understand the brand as a whole and what the message is trying to portray.

3) “Remain Authentic”
Be natural in responding to the sporting event. Yes, be engaging and relevant to consumers, but stay true to the brand image of the company. Integrate the sports into your brand rather than the other way around.

When I left Chicago, I knew the PR alongside “Cubs Fever” was not only implemented by the franchise, but by the city as a whole. Brands of all industries can integrate their marketing efforts with sporting franchises and events, like Jim Beam, to relate to old and new consumers. For the next major sporting event, try to integrate sports marketing with your brand and find your brand waving its own “W” flag.


  1. Post comment

    As a student at the University of Alabama, majoring in Public Relations, I found this article extremely useful. I believe that most people love sports and an underdog, so it is a really smart move to incorporate those two things into your brand during a big sports event, such as the World Series. I also believe that during such events it is important to keep the brand image and maintain the integrity of the company while engaging with fans, clients, and customers. Being involved in social media is a great way to do this, since technology has evolved and become a huge part of our everyday lives. Thank you for your insights on this topic.


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