Over the past century, the Chicago Cubs’ advertising account has bounced into and out of nearly every agency in the Windy City, from the giant behemoths to the tiny independents. Each one of them, like every aging Cubs fan, hoped they would hold on long enough to see the team win a world championship. But it was Schafer Condon Carter that finally got the win, with a rallying cry that captured the team’s confident spirit in the form of a hashtag, #FlyTheW (a reference to the "W" flags that fly above Wrigley Field after every win). We spoke with the principals of the agency—founder and CEO Tim Condon, president and managing partner David Selby and managing partner/director of business development Jim Stadler—as they drove back to Chicago from Cleveland the day after the team’s historic win.
So, first question: How’s the hangover?
David Selby: It never felt so good feeling so bad.
When the rain started and delayed the game, did you have any thought that perhaps God hates Cubs fans?
Selby: Actually, we had the exact opposite thought. We were thinking, "A couple of our good friends that passed away recently, our fathers, friends that are upstairs [decided] they were going to turn on the faucet and let it rain to cool the Indians’ momentum." The co-founder of SCC, Mark Schafer, passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 58 very suddenly, and we really think he was up there pulling some strings and had something to do with it. It was a wonderful outcome.
After Game 7, you released a video of Eddie Vedder’s Cubs anthem, "All The Way," that incorporated footage from the historic run. How did that come together?
Selby: The final cut of the spot, which we’d been working on for the better part of a month, was completed about 5 a.m. Eastern. Obviously it required a World Series win. The only way that spot was going to see the light of day was if the Cubs won.
You've been the Cubs’ agency for the past four years, which included a pretty fallow period. How did you build from that point?
Selby: We were hired in November 2012 after they had come off a 101-loss season.We knew 2013 was going to bit of a challenge, but what we did was build a campaign around the commitment that the fans had to the team and the team had to the fans. In 2014, we were fortunate to have the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field as the foundation for our campaign. And while that anniversary game was one point in time, we had the opportunity to build out a yearlong celebration of Wrigley Field and all that that spectacular cathedral embodies. Then, in 2015, for the first time in a long time, the shift moved ever so slightly to the possibility of success, and we created a call to action of "Let’s Go." We began to talk about that spirit of optimism and potential winning on the field and winning attitude.
That was the year the #FlyTheW hashtag first appeared, as the Cubs made their playoff run. How did that come about, and how has it grown?
Stadler: It’s important to note the "W" flag starts with historical significance. It didn’t just get created in the ‘80s or ‘90s. It goes back to the ‘20s or ‘30s when the Cubs would play day baseball and they would fly the flag so those on the el would know if the team won or lost. There’s a huge historical aspect there that they wanted to leverage that could be proprietary to them.
Selby: We really credit [Cubs VP of Marketing] Alison Miller with pushing the focus on the "W" and really recognizing that it was a tremendous asset, to really seeing the importance of integrating that into everything that they did and we did.
Condon: It’s a really interesting study in a brand asset and the power of iconography in brands. That "W" has really come to equal "Cubs." It’s a really exciting thing to see the equity that’s been built for that in a short amount of time.
So, the question now is, where do you go from here? The Cubs have always had that "lovable loser" tag attached to them, and now it’s gone.
Selby: We’ve begun to think about what’s next and how do you message around a World Series-winning team for the first time in 108 years. We’ve begun to think about life beyond, but it hasn’t really set in. There’s not going to be arrogance or hubris. There’s just going to be an attitude that we need to do it again, and we have to do it again. We have to prove it in every game and in every play. The Cubs are publicly acknowledging they expect to be good for a very long time. But we have a lot of work to do now to think through about how we carry this message forward. It’s going to be that focus on hard work and winning the right way.
Condon: We were walking out of the stadium last night and there was an older gentleman, 75 or 80 years old, with his son. He was walking slowly and we were shaking his hand, and he goes, smiling, "What am I gonna do now?" That’s kind of how the journey has taken on a new meaning, and where this brand goes is encapsulated with that statement. It’s a happy problem to have.
But I don’t think you’re going to see this team adopt a different attitude. And working with this team, we’re not going to adopt a different attitude. You’re going to see that same humility and authenticity and hard work in the same way we helped them express their voice.