The Brand Realization
The Cubs employed a situational transformation approach to facilitate its brand
realization. In High Visibility, the authors define situational transformation as “placing [people]
in unfamiliar situations to help develop their new brands.” (Rein, 2006). The operations of sports
organizations are often divided into two spheres: team operations and business operations. The
team operations focus on what happens on the field while the business operations focus on
what happens off the field. These groups rarely interact or communicate throughout the course
of the season (Rein, 2015, pp. 34-36).
When it comes to developing and realizing a brand in sports, the team operations rarely
become involved. The team operations personnel acquire players and coaches while the brand
operations employees attempt to build a brand around these acquisitions. On the surface, the
Cubs commitment to winning by hiring or acquiring top talent clearly benefits the interests of
the team operations groups.
However, the brand transformation process for the Cubs included integrating the team
and business operations groups to embrace the loveable winners mentality. In particular,
Epstein and Hoyer became some of the most visible advocates for the brand transformation.
Before the 2013 season started, a USA Today headline proclaimed, “Theo Epstein: No more
'lovable losers' for Cubs.” In addition, Epstein said, “I tell the players, 'Right now, we're called
lovable losers. What do you want to stand for? I guarantee you if you ask the guys, they don't
want to be known as lovable losers three or four years from now." This helps demonstrate how
the Cubs were proactively searching for players who wanted to be part of the team’s brand
regeneration (Theo, 2013).
Epstein and Hoyer also became more involved in the activities of the business
operations of the team. A good example is the Cubs’ new approach to sponsorship that would
become available in large part because of the ballpark transformation. Epstein and Hoyer now
participate in meetings with large corporate partners, such as Anheuser-Busch and Under
Armour, to tell the team’s sponsors about the organization’s future strategic vision on and off
the field (Harris, 2013). Fully integrating the team and business operations around the same
brand made it clear to all external audiences that the team was behind the brand
transformation. Wrigley Field became the central component as the entire organization
communicated about the importance of the brand regeneration in a consistent way to fans,
media, and sponsors.