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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Us vs. Them!

by
Guy Bacci
 

On the same day the White Sox tied a franchise record for most dingers in a home game, new PR Director Brooks Boyer smashed a homerun of his own. His new commercial debuted during the June 8 slugfest against the Phillies, instantaneously sparking positive reactions from Sox fans. Minutes after the spot ran, a related thread appeared on WSI, provoking over 100 replies in less than 16 hours.

 

The commercial begins with a voice-over: “The White Sox present ... a comparison.” The comparison is not-so-subtly between the Sox and Cubs, or Us vs. Them. Six comparisons are gradually displayed, my personally favorite being:

 

THEY: Have a fan who says “Woo.”

WE: Don’t.

 

The spot ends with the words “Sox Pride,” followed by a final zinger: “Oh... and the mayor likes us better.”

 

The last time Sox marketing took such a bold swipe at the Lovable Losers was in 1997, after Albert Belle had been signed, when a billboard near Wrigley proclaimed that “real baseball” was played eight miles south. Too bad Jamie Navarro and Doug Drabek weren’t real Major League pitchers, and Robin Ventura suffered a very real ankle dislocation in Spring Training. While the ad was memorable and audacious, there’s no denying its immediate secretion of bad karma.

 

Karma continues to be a concern. Magglio Ordonez’s trip to the DL gave Sox fans a small taste of what Cub fans have been swallowing all season. Maybe Sox fans were having a little too much fun at the expensive of the Northsiders. There was plenty of delight over the Cubs’ injury woes, Corey Patterson’s struggles, and Derek Lee’s choke jobs. (Did you know Hee Seop Choi’s slugging percentage is nearly 100 points higher than Lee’s? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) But the mocking tone from Southside faithful has been seriously subdued since the injury bug hit close to home.

 

The question remains: Is poking fun of your neighbor a good marketing ploy? One thing is certain: It’s much more entertaining than a grade-school girl chanting “Ooo-ee-ooo Magglio” or a somber Jerry Manuel claiming his team would bring its A-game. (Insert your own punch line as to what the A actually stood for.) It was refreshing to see an ad with attitude, comedy, cultural relevance, and an ability to excite the fans. Sure, it once again establishes the notorious Southside inferiority complex, but considering the Cubs/Sox rivalry is as big as it’s ever been, now is an appropriate time for such a campaign.

 

Now is also the time to hype up the Sox as rebels, unwanted outcasts, the alternative to Cubdom cheese. Past White Sox commercials have been painfully tacky, reeking of a Chip Careyesque phoniness. The old marketing regime didn’t seem to understand what Southside fans were all about. So many of us fell in love with the Sox because they were a team that offered something different from the fluff across town. Why not flaunt those differences? My earlier column entitled Escape From Cubbie Carnival was all about the Sox having an opportunity to attract the young, impressionable fans who crave a team outside the mainstream. That column garnered more response than any I’ve written. I was bombarded with emails from pumped up fans. It’s clear the Cubs’ recent appearance in the NLCS, along with an insane amount of media coverage, has Sox fans celebrating their love for the Southsiders more than ever. Hence “Sox Pride” was an ingenious way for Boyer to end his debut commercial.

 

The ad has inspired the creative minds at WSI to unleash their own concepts. Some of the recent threads offer outstanding campaign ideas, such as featuring Sox stars in everyday activities, or highlighting the famous phrases uttered by Hawk Harrelson. One suggestion had Joey Cora waving home a car as it pulls into the driveway; another had a priest blurting “Sit back, relax and strap it down” as a prisoner is strapped to an electric chair. (A little too grim, of course, but hilarious nonetheless.) The concepts are similar to the type of ads the Mariners have created in Seattle for the past several years, which have been recognized as some of the best in baseball. All this creativity makes you wonder why the Sox have resorted to such lousy commercials for so many years. Kudos to Boyer for throwing together a classic ad with absolutely no budget. The “Sox Pride” commercial couldn’t have cost more than a few pennies, yet it made a lasting impression.

 

Let’s not forget to give the Cubs some credit. After all, the commercial exists because of them. The two Chi-town teams are feeding off each other’s success. It’s been decades since both teams were considered legit play-off contenders. As much as I hate to admit it, having both teams in the post-season would only heighten the overall excitement in the city. Coverage of the Chicago baseball scene would go through the roof, much like it did during the stretch drive last year. In the end, that could benefit the Sox more so than the Cubs. Believe it or not, Cubbie triumph isn’t such a bad thing, as long as the Sox continue to do their part.

 

That’s the big if. As stated in this column last week, winning is what puts butts in the seats, more than fireworks, new roofs or witty commercials. The Sox are outpacing last year’s attendance by 25-percent, despite some of the most hideous weather imaginable. There must be something endearing about being in first place.

 

But Boyer can’t worry about that—he doesn’t have the ability to alter what happens on the field. His job is to create a buzz, grow the fan base, and keep the current bandwagon healthy.

 

Hitting a homerun with his very first commercial is not a bad start.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.  He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.  His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).  Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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