Target Corp.’s ubiquitous bull’s-eye logo has appeared on race cars, television shows and the left eye of its white bull terrier mascot. But even by Target’s lofty marketing standards, Wrigley Field represents a whole new ballgame.
The iconic logo — this time in green — now adorns maintenance doors located amid the ivy that clings to the famed outfield brick wall, a key part of Target’s multiyear marketing deal with the Chicago Cubs to promote its new CityTarget store.
“The Cubs are a beloved hometown team, so a sponsorship was a great way for Target to connect with a city that loves sports,” said spokeswoman Katie Boylan.
For the uninitiated, Wrigley Field, Major League Baseball’s second-oldest ballpark after Fenway Park in Boston, is considered by baseball purists and Cubs fans to be hallowed ground. And nothing best embodies the park, other than the Cubs’ perennial loserdom, than the ivy and brick.
So when the Cubs sold ad space on the wall to Under Armour in 2007, the first time the team had done so, some fans were predictably upset. But as owner Tom Ricketts continues to push for ways for Wrigley Field to generate advertising revenue, fans have come to accept such deals, said Brian Kelly, a retail consultant based in Chicago.
“The prevailing wisdom is that the team needs to raise money to field a better team on the field,” said Kelly, a former top executive at Sears.
Target’s relationship with the Cubs goes back to 2011, when the team hired the retailer’s commercial interiors arm to design and furnish office space a few blocks from Wrigley Field. About the same time, Target was finalizing plans for its new CityTarget store at the corner of State and Madison streets. Designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan and built in 1899, the building, which is a U.S. historic landmark, was home to the Schlesinger and Mayer department store and later Carson Pirie Scott.
Sense of community
The retailer designed its smaller CityTarget format, now also in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, to penetrate the dense cores of major urban centers, where building big-box stores is not a practical option. Target officials wanted to position the CityTargets as neighborhood stores that could convey a sense of community and urban identity. That’s why the stores carry quite a bit of local merchandise, including sports-related apparel and accessories.
“Wrigley Field is an icon in the community,” Kelly said. “Target is trying to establish a hometown relationship by using a hometown icon.”
In addition to the bull’s-eye logo, Target gives away prizes at each home game, and also hosts a Back-to-School Day where fans under 12 receive a free Cubs/Target branded back-to-school gift.
But Target’s unique presence in the park might be short-lived. Ricketts, the Cubs owner, had threatened to move the team unless the city approves construction of a large digital scoreboard on which the team can sell advertising to other interested companies. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks recently unanimously approved a 4,560-square-foot video scoreboard in left field and a static 650-square-foot see-through sign in right field. Work presumably will begin after the current season ends.
Target’s investment could pay off handsomely should the Cubs break their 105-year championship drought and win the World Series this year.
With a record of 42-51 at the All-Star break, that appears unlikely.