08/15/11 5:15 PM ET
White Sox can still reach ad campaign's hype
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
A large banner hangs down from the bridge running above 35th St., connecting Gate 5 to the ballpark. That banner features, from left to right, White Sox players Juan Pierre, Mark Buehrle, Alexei Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Matt Thornton and A.J. Pierzynski, with the slogan prominently displayed.
Entertaining commercials involving Pierzynski, Konerko and the marketing theme run during pregame festivities on the center-field Jumbotron. Even a T-Shirt giveaway this past weekend at U.S. Cellular Field had "all in" across the front.
It seemed like the apropos marketing campaign, based on offseason comments, offseason maneuvers and the offseason monetary commitment made by the team. Unfortunately, the in-season results have not exactly lent perfect credence to the concept. But 42 games still remain for change.
"Obviously, that's a marketing thing. Like a PR thing," said White Sox starter John Danks. "We thought, just like the slogan, we were the team to beat. How couldn't you on paper? We were one of those teams."
"You know, sometimes you hit home runs, and sometimes you hit singles and doubles," White Sox senior vice president, sales and marketing Brooks Boyer told MLB.com. "But if at the end of the year, we are sitting in first place in the American League Central, it doesn't matter how you get there, at least you get there. That's the focus right now."
Boyer has received via e-mail quite a bit of feedback from disappointed White Sox fans based on this campaign. The most common play on words has been going from "all in" to "all out" with the third-place team sitting at 60-60 and four games behind the AL Central-leading Tigers.
But this marketing concept was not put together haphazardly.
Two other ideas were being considered when general manager Ken Williams made a resonating statement during the news conference to announce the four-year, $56 million deal with designated hitter Adam Dunn. Basically, the White Sox were putting all their chips on the table. That philosophy continued with the return of Konerko and Pierzynski, as well as the additions of free-agent relievers Jesse Crain and Will Ohman.
"It wasn't 'all in,' but it was putting something along that line," said Boyer of Williams' comments. "And when I read that [in a column], I said, 'We are all in.'
"That was the goal. The goal was to always win the World Series, so to say that we are all in made a lot of sense -- especially when you think about the bet that we were placing at that particular time.
"If you go wire to wire, it's a brilliant campaign," Boyer said. "Now we are just trying to go 'to wire.'"
These campaign ideas get worked up by Energy BBDO, the White Sox advertising agency. Then, a committee comprised of Boyer, director of advertising and multi-cultural sales and marketing Jessica Priego and senior vice president, communications Scott Reifert make a decision on what way the organization wants to go.
Ultimately, though, it's the on-field product influencing those campaigns.
Remember "The Kids Can Play" or "Win or Die Trying" from 2005? Of course, there were the "Grinder Rules," which will live on forever in White Sox lore.
"[Manager] Ozzie [Guillen] created the Grinder Rules back in 2005, when he said, 'This is how we are going to play,'" Boyer said. "I'll be darned, they played that way. So you try to take your best guess at what the product is ultimately going to look like and feel like and build a campaign around the strengths of the product.
"With the White Sox, we always believe the strength of the product is what happens on the field. White Sox fans care about what's going on out in the field."
One primary target of the advertising campaign is to get people excited and generate interest in the White Sox. The team certainly can't control the harsh Chicago weather in April and May, but the club's slow start to the season didn't exactly send a plethora of fans through the U.S. Cellular Field gates.
The White Sox certainly haven't given up, and to their credit, even as far back as 11-22 and 11 1/2 games out of first place, even with Dunn and Rios enduring horrendous season-long slumps and Jake Peavy battling back from season-ending surgery in 2010, they have climbed over every obstacle to stay alive. They are all in trying to fulfill that original all in prophecy.
"Our season hasn't played out quite like we wanted, but we are still in the middle, where a lot of teams are already out of it," Danks said. "That's kind of the surprising thing, hearing people say that we are out of it.
"All we have to do is get in the playoffs, and we'll be a tough team to be beat. We have pitching. We have good enough hitting to carry us. And you know it only takes them getting hot. We are not in the position we thought we'd be in, but we are in a good enough position now that we can do something."
In looking at the whole tenuous state of sports marketing for a team, Boyer used the comparison of Pepsi as an example. Every time a consumer opens a can of Pepsi, there's no doubt what he or she will get.
No such certainty exists with the White Sox.
"Sometimes in baseball, it's week to week and month to month, and sometimes day to day," Boyer said. "You never know what our product is going to be like. So you always try to take your best guess. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, and sometimes you just do OK.
"People know we try to put the campaign around the team going into the season and what is our best guess. And I think a lot of White Sox fans were very excited about this club, and we thought we would be in first place or battling for first all season long. Now we are trying to battle to get to first place."