Jim Beam taps into Chicago Cubs' spirit

CHICAGO: The makers of Jim Beam bourbon have launched a campaign to keep the Wrigley Field name on the home stadium of the Chicago Cubs.

CHICAGO: The makers of Jim Beam bourbon have launched a campaign to keep the Wrigley Field name on the home stadium of the Chicago Cubs.

In April last year, Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell said he might sell both Wrigley and the Cubs when he bought the Tribune Co., and that he wouldn't hesitate to sell naming rights to Wrigley as well, sparking anger among some fans. Zell rejected a deal earlier this year to sell Wrigley to an Illinois state agency for $400 million.

Beam Global Spirits and Wine's “Save Our Ballpark's Name” effort, which launched this week, June 22, with the aid of Qorvis, aims to align the brand with an underdog cause popular with its target demographic, males ages 21 to 29, according to Kate Laufer, Beam North America PR manager.

She added that, “It's more about just doing what's right,” and, “If you lose the name, you lose a lot more than just the name of a baseball field.”

Gary Weitman, Tribune SVP, corporate relations, referred inquiries on the matter to Chicago Cubs chairman Crane Kenney, who said via e-mail that, “The timing of the campaign is curious given the discussion of naming rights occurred last winter and the focus since opening day has been on baseball and winning ballgames.”

Kenney declined comment on the sale process.

The stadium, one of the oldest ball parks in the country, and revered by many baseball fans, has been known as Wrigley Field since 1926.

The name campaign is part of the company's larger “The Stuff Inside” campaign, which represents a shift in its marketing strategy.

For years, Beam had largely promoted its bourbon on its own, but it shifted message in order to match the whiskey brand's identity with individuals and groups “who have this character and passion that we've been talking about for so long,” Laufer said.

“We identified certain people, one being photographer Mark Murrmann, who was working full time and sleeping in his car just to get the right shot, which is his passion,” she said. “We have a comedy troupe [Summer of Tears] who was offered several opportunities to get ahead, because they wanted to stay together… another is Operation Homefront, and organizations that really do have this character that we believe Jim Beam is all about.”

Beam is also promoting the Crown City Rockers hip-hop group, racer Robby Gordon, and the Terry Farrell fund, a nonprofit that assists firefighters and their families.

“We are aiming to extend and deepen the brand's relevance to males in their 20s with contemporary executions and calls to action,” said Katie Young, Qorvis senior associate, via e-mail. “The focus of this campaign… is to talk with guys in their language and in their environments, with a focus on social media to spark conversation.”

To aid the Wrigley field effort, Beam launched a Web site that includes a message board, news from the Cubs and the stadium, and a petition to save the nearly-century old name. The spirits company will also hand out “Save Wrigley” T-shirts and bumper stickers in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood throughout the baseball season. A Twitter account and social media release targeting bloggers are rounding out efforts.

In addition, trade and consumer press outlets, as well as bartenders, bar owners, and distributors, will be invited to Beam Town trade partner events, set to run in 11 markets, including Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Southern California, by the end of this year.

Qorvis, its AOR for trade and business PR, has worked with Beam since 2005. The campaign's budget is undisclosed.

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