Wrigley Reax

Judging by the ongoing poll on this site, more football talk is definitely in order. After the ‘Cats suffered their third straight drubbing (and 40ish point total) and fifth straight loss, I’m pretty sure I didn’t need a poll to confirm this. Today, we may be the only place where you won’t find Oscar commentary. We’re talking about the Wrigley experiment instead.

Earlier this month, VP of Athletics & Recreation (aka “AD”), Jim Phillips, announced a one-of-its-kind partnership between the Wildcats and the Chicago Cubs.  At the time, I was against the move, primarily because I questioned the direct cause/effect impact of the games translating in to more seats filled with purple fans at Wrigley.  I was concerned about the fact that a football game at Wrigley could lose its luster, and based on last go around, a single game ticket costing then more than half the price of an entire season ticket (I paid $125 or so for the 2010 game).  I had vivid memories of terrible sight lines from that game, perhaps exacerbated by the fact Mikel LeShoure just rolled us in the blowout loss. Today, I’m reconsidering. As a reminder of where you stood, here is how nearly 1,000 of you voted:

LTP Poll: Do you like the ‘Cats returning to Wrigley Field?

  • Yes (56%, 492 Votes)
  • No (28%, 248 Votes)
  • Depends upon opponent (16%, 135 Votes)

The partnership calls for much more than just the potential five football games. As we’ve discussed, the partnership includes a cross-marketing deal, enabling Northwestern’s marketing team to leverage access to the Friendly Confines’ concourses and convince potential new fans to sample the product. Non-revenue sports like baseball, lacrosse, soccer and softball, will all get opportunities to play on the fabled field providing a once (our maybe four time) in a lifetime experience. For the many of you that were in Chicago the last go around, the media circus act caused by the visuals of Wrigley’s façade becoming decked out in purple (and obviously supercharged by the one-way debacle), did create a sizable impression. While I don’t have the actual numbers, I do know that season ticket sales have increased each year and that there was a decent jump from 2009 to 2010, in part, because you needed to have a season ticket to ensure you had access to the Wrigley game. 2011 and 2012 saw back to back increases on the 2010 year, which might be skewed by the fact our friends in Lincoln were likely the biggest factor in continuing the trend.

At the top of my list for reversing course and praising Northwestern for this is one reason – thinking differently. I want Northwestern Athletics to not only fight the uphill battle of attracting new fans, I want them to be praised for taking chances. There is nothing quite as immovable of a force as status quo, and we’re not going to get to 47,130 almost all purple, without taking some chances. It means we’ll fail along the way, and that is perfectly fine with me. I love the fact we’re doing things drastically different in an attempt to really try and connect with the college football fan and draw them in as their second favorite team option.

One of the beauties of the Wrigley deal, as I understand it,  is it locks out Illinois (or any other team) during the tenure of our deal.  The Illini have been reactionary almost every step of the way as it relates to Northwestern marketing. The ‘Cats launch “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” campaign and Illinois responds with their own campaign “Our State. Our Team.” Northwestern launches a partnership with the Cubs and the Illini launch a Chicago Council, explicitly created to nurture the Chicago community of Illinois alumni.  With the Illini football program reeling right now, there is a potential here for Northwestern to continue to edge Illini media coverage out in this area.

Articles like this recent one in the Daily Herald (“Cubs-NU alliance leaves Illini, White Sox in its wake”), bring to light the reward of taking chances and getting the coveted “earned media”, which is getting others to write about you in a way that is original content and commentary as opposed to a paid advertisement. Far more effective, don’t you think?

To me, this season is a pivotal one for really climbing the ladder towards our stated goal of selling out Ryan Field on a weekly basis with mostly purple. The home schedule begs people to get season tickets as Ohio State and Michigan anchor a home slate that is spectacular and also includes Michigan State, Big East champion Syracuse along with Western Michigan and Maine.  Simply put, if you want to ensure yourself a ticket to either Ohio State or Michigan, you’ll need to get season tickets. The trick for us is to get as many of them to be purple as possible since Ohio State and Michigan fans are already buying them and then dumping the rest in the secondary market.

Northwestern recently announced yet another experiment in ticketing, thanks to a partnership with Kellogg, NU’s esteemed business school. PRR outlined the specifics of the deal, which essentially offer fans a sliding scale pricepoint down to a certain “floor”.  It addresses the reality that is Northwestern basketball tickets are not exactly a hot commodity right now and entices fans, although in this case, likely Ohio State fans (Ohio State and Penn State are the remaining two home games), will be the experimenters.  Whether or not it works, I’m just excited to see us taking chances and being innovative. We all know that the best marketing you can have is stellar on field performance.

A 10-win season in 2013 or even more – a B1G championship – would likely be the catalyst for us to realistically get to weekly sellouts in 2014.  Which, of course, is exactly when the Wrigley experiment will kick in to gear.  So, there you go.  Instead of complaining about the Wrigley sight lines or questioning the direct cause and effect on increasing Ryan Field attendance, I’m throwing my full support behind the moves made by Jim Phillips and company.  Anyone who is willing to fight status quo has my support.

Napoleon Harris Pub

The former Wildat LB is a rising political star. As this Yahoo! Sports post explains, Napoleon Harris, an Illinois state senator,  has caught the eye of President Obama. Check out the interesting piece on #8. Thanks to Victor C. for the link.

  • Scooter

    I paid $150 a seat for tickets that suddenly were practically the worst seats in the house right next to the unused endzone. I will not be going to another ‘Cats game at Wrigley.

    • Nirvana91

      Exact same situation here. I actually dropped my two season tickets in part because I received no compensation, no apology, no anything. I wasn’t asking for much, but a simple “we’re very sorry we messed up and you got screwed” message would have been nice.

    • NUcappy

      I’m sorry, but I don’t feel bad for people who didn’t research the quality of the seats at Wrigley and just paid for the most expensive ones. Anyone who’s ever been to a baseball game at Wrigley would know the lower bowl is very shallow and would not have great sightlines for a football game. My $75 seats in the 400-level overlooking the end zone were terrific, and would have been even if they played both ways.

      • Scooter

        It has nothing to do with researching the quality. I would have loved my seats if they hadn’t changed the field layout a few days before the game.

      • Mark

        @NUcappy Please serve as my personal consultant for future Wrigley tickets – good sitelines and minimal persons walking in front of me to buy or evacuate beer. (Although I get aisle seats because I’m 6’4″ so maybe middle of the row is best. Please advise!) Thanks!

        • NUcappy

          See my post that you just responded to, explaining where the best seats were. You’re welcome.

      • JM

        It had nothing to do with research. A major issue was that they decided, after taking orders, to change terrible $100 bleacher seats to $125 seats, meaning people who opted for $125 seats sat in awful seats that were not supposed to be a possibility for their price level.

    • skepticat

      While I don’t remember reading or seeing anything about it, I would think the Wrigley deal would be contingent on being able to fit a regulation-sized football field inside the stadium. I know there are plans to accommodate this in future renovations to the stadium, though I don’t know when said renovations are to occur. Especially since Ricketts’s dad went and pissed off Emanuel during the elections.

      And if memory serves, it was Delany who made a unilateral, last-minute decision to play the game in one direction, even though everyone (including the conference) had signed off on the field configuration. Not that NU couldn’t have done something to assuage the situation, but I think the university got screwed on this one too.

      • Scooter

        Yeah, not the University’s fault that the field configuration changed, but as Nirvana91 said, they still should have sent an apology out at the very least, and even better would have been to refund a portion of the cost.

        The thing is that I had a deal with NU, not the conference, and yes, they got screwed, but I paid them for something that they were no longer able to provide me. They should have done something about that.

  • Drew

    I think you nail the main point. The increased exposure is great, and trying new things is important, but the team has to be consistently good and win some of the big games if we’re to maximize all of this and eventually fill Ryan Field. It’s such a fine line for Northwestern in this market. A 5-0 start is great but if you can’t win that 6th game the week of all the hype, all the momentum disappears.

    Side question: Any idea why NU chose Ohio State (10/5) as the Homecoming game as opposed to the Minnesota (10/19) game? We usually don’t have Homecoming in early October. Was it to get more people in purple for the OSU game? I imagine Homecoming adds at lest 3,000-5,000 in ticket sales, at minimum. Have you heard any other reasons?

    • Noah

      Agreed, though starting in the top 25 may change some of the 5-0 slow buildup as the prorgram has momentum, media, etc. But agreed, you have to keep winning. OSU sets up a big stage next year that could be an amazing catalyst or a bump in the road that could have big setbacks for the season.

      I imagine, that is why it is homecoming. Biggest game of the year, we will likely still be T25, momentum, fan support. If Athletics has a lot of input (which I don’t know their influence) it’s not surprising they pick OSU. We did OSU in 2008 also, I think.

    • I didn’t realize that. Adding to my list of questions for Mike Polisky. Thanks! My gut would be that it is a way to ensure more purple and while getting more for Minnesota would’ve been the easy play, defending the scarlet and gray from invading as they always do, was a higher priority.

      • SteveR

        Only works if NU fans are lined up ready to buy tickets for the OSU game the day they become available…Buckeye fans assuredly will be. Northwestern fans are not accustomed to buying tickets with a sense of urgency, so my guess is Homecoming will be 50% scarlet and gray.

      • JM

        I thought the same thing. They can make fewer single-game tickets available by making HC tix available to alumni, and also get a more pumped-up home crowd due to fans flying in in decent numbers.

    • wildcatneighbor

      I would think it’s hard to have family weekend only 2-3 weeks after they moved in the freshman and what not for the start of the year, and have the whole family come right back out…hence the homecoming tag for OSU and the Family Weekend Tag for Minn.

      • Drew

        Interesting point re: family weekend. It may have simply been due to the way the schedule laid out this year.

  • JimGoCats93

    Recognizing that NU season tickets are likely the best sports entertainment value in Chicago, I hope that we, as existing season ticket holders, do not have to pay a premium to go to Wrigley. My only complaint – 3x the price when I am the one who has been supporting the team – I don’t think so.


    • DT

      I’m with you on this one, Jimgo! Moreover, if we do have to pay 3X the price, this season ticket holder ain’t goin’- AGAIN..

    • skepticat

      Was about to say the same thing myself. As much as I’m on board with the Wrigley games — especially since my hour-plus nightmare on the CTA becomes a 10-minute walk — I’ll be significantly less enthused if they stick with the same pricing practices. Instead of artificially inflating the season ticket numbers and soaking us for tickets, how about giving us season ticket holders a break on the price and soaking those that just want an individual ticket? I think they need to be a little careful how they play this.

  • Mark

    I hated the Wrigley game – bought five tickets. At least I was in the end zone where almost all the scoring took place. But I do get the point that publicity is important and if we’re going to get to 47,130 with only the mandatory 2K tickets for the visitors something has to be done. I also agree that Cats’ tickets are not only the best sports entertainment value in Chicago, but are even more clearly the best deal in the Big Ten. Example: donate $500 to UoM for a chance to buy season tickets, no guarantee of availability. If you get the UofM tickets then you also pay a yearly “donation” plus a ticket price per game almost twice the price of the Cats. While Ann Arbor is a great town it’s not the type of destination weekend location as Chicago.

  • PurpleHayes

    I’m not particularly a fan of Wrigley, but trying to see the bigger picture, a comment in support of the “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” aspect of the deal. We must be onto something–did anybody else see the billboard in the Carrier Dome carrying the Orangemen’s new slogan? I guess we’re trend-setters, as the sign clearly read: “New York’s College Team”!

  • Alum Dad

    I hope any future Wrigley games are optional for season ticket holders. If I never see another football game there it will be too soon. The last time NU played there I spent $600 for four crappy seats to see NU receive the ass-kicking of a lifetime.

    • Mark

      Agree about the way season ticket holders were treated no better than someone who never has gone to a Cats game but bought tickets for the Wrigley game because of the “experience.” But the loss of Persa the week before the Wrigley game totally changed the game. We found out out that the backup QBs weren’t ready for Big Ten action – but we found out Trumpy had a higher gear.

      Of course as season ticket holders we’re treated to the television timeouts that prolong and destroy the rhythm of games. But going to games is 10X better – or 100X – than watching things on tv.

    • Ron

      Completely agree. As a Wrigleyville resident and Cubs season ticket holder, Wrigley Field holds no mystique for me. I go there dozens of times a year, walk past it hundreds of times a year.

      As Alum Dad posted, and as others did, my takeaway from the last NU game at Wrigley was that it was a great one-off, special event. But with Springsteen-level ticket prices, crappy sight-lines, and the loss of tailgating and what passes for a college football environment in Evanston, the most I’m interested in seeing this happen is about once every 10 years.

      It’s funny that LTP mentions that Illinois is doing “reactionary” marketing. I view this Wrigley deal as, perhaps not reactionary, but definitely as defensive marketing. They made the deal to keep the crooks that are running the Cubs these days from offering the same deal to the Illini. That doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for NU. It’s definitely a good deal for Cubs management.

      The only one who will surely benefit here is the crazy birther conspiracy theorist Joe Ricketts. I am doubtful that I will participate. I know I’m in the minority here, but I hope that NU fails to fill the park, unless the prices match what are offered in Evanston (fat chance).

  • Michigancat

    I caught the Wrigley game the way I’ll catch the next one…showed up early for the scene, met my (Illini) brother and his (Illini) kids at a bar, and partied until LeShoure went nuts (or our defense stopped tackling…whatever). Then the real drinking started…but with the El and taxies nearby, who cared. I can afford the tickets, but having watched a Final 4 hoops game in Ford Field, I’ve resolved to avoid seeing the right game in the wrong venue again. But the atmosphere was a hoot and I’ll head over to Wrigleyville again.

  • cece

    Chicago Council to nurture alumni…..that is a good idea if it is about athletics. we could do more welcoming connecting of NU folks.

  • H George

    As an alum and NU sports fan, I don’t support this move. On one hand I get how an 18 year old from Ohio would love the chance to play in Wrigley Field, but as someone who has lived in the Chicago area since graduation from NU, I have to say Wrigley Field is a dump! It needs to be torn down and a new stadium built. Plus the Cubs, Blackhawks and ‘Cats have all proved that winners don’t play there. It’s not a place where home teams win.
    Keep the 2010 game a memory of the past; no need to replicate it. But I suspect that my opinion doesn’t count and the “horse has left the barn” so we’ll just have to grin and bear it as Cat fans. BUT, I sure as hell hope that someone does a better job of scoping out the best seats in Wrigley! I paid $150 per ticket for crap seats; couldn’t see a single play east of the 20 yard line, and people sitting in the upper deck, who paid much less had great views of the field.