The Cubs were in the middle of a brand transformation as this chapter was being
written. As the team began the 2016 season, the Cubs were in the middle of its transformation
centered on Wrigley Field. This included adding a new clubhouse, creating a permanent ticket
office and guest service locations, and making improvements to the Marquee. At the same time,
the Cubs have begun construction on areas around Wrigley Field including a new plaza and
office building located adjacent to the northwest corner of the venue.
For many sports organizations encountering these challenges, even starting the brand
transformation process would be difficult, if not impossible. In addition, the Cubs had a
differentiated brand that enabled the team to achieve off the field success even as the team
struggled for decades on the field to produce a World Series. Wrigley Field was the centerpiece
of this identity, and fans, media, and sponsors were hesitant to make a change to the iconic
venue they loved.
The Ricketts family understood this dynamic and prioritized a moderate brand
transformation when it assumed control of the team. The owners realized that taking away the
elements that made coming to Wrigley Field to watch a game so special would not benefit the
team, its fans, or its sponsors. At the same time, the Ricketts family wanted the team to be a
consistent winner. It realized that fans wanted the Cubs to win the World Series and would love
the organization even more if it could deliver a title.
The Cubs began this transformation through its extended identity. Steps to change the
brand as person (e.g. hiring Maddon) and brand as organization (prioritizing winning as an
organization) served to complement the upgrades to the most highly visible element of its core
identity. Using Wrigley Field was the centerpiece of the team’s new brand because it has
embodied a clear and consistent message to its key audiences during a time of change. Since the
Ricketts family assumed control of the team, it has made the new “loveable winners” a
consistent message communicated to its core audiences. It has also continued to take actions
that show its commitment to this brand transformation. The Wrigley Field restoration is at the
center of this approach. The organization’s willingness to use its own money, at a time when
many other sports organizations are using public financing for similar capital intensive projects,
is a highly visible action that resonates with fans, media, and sponsors.
The Ricketts realized that purchasing the Cubs meant there was an opportunity to
create a new brand. Renovating Wrigley Field would be at the heart of this brand transformation.
The Cubs could only become the “loveable winners” by improving Wrigley Field for players, fans,
and sponsors. The change to the ballpark is a consistent reminder to Cubs audiences that
moving forward could be better than stopping time