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.