On a Saturday afternoon twenty-three years ago, former team President John McDonough and Cubs Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting Jay Bunk sat down to talk about ideas away from the office. Bunk was skeptical about a Cubs Convention because as Chicago baseball fans know there is nothing pleasant about downtown Chicago in the middle of winter with the first pitch being months away. McDonough thought differently, and the rest as they say, is history. The 23rd Annual Cubs Convention will be held this weekend at the Hilton Chicago.According to Cubs.com, proceeds from the Convention benefit Cubs Care. The 2007 Cubs Convention raised more than $300,000. To date, the Cubs Convention has raised nearly $4 million for Cubs Care. The convention is not the only McDonough marketing miracle, there are more. Let’s take a closer look.

Cubs Convention
Obviously this event provides fans an opportunity to mingle with current and former Cubs players, broadcasters and front office executives, although who really wants to mingle with front office executives? As big as the event has gotten, it is still a good time, and here is why. The Cubs record at the time of the convention is 0-0, and with that record comes hope. Could this year be it? Watching Jim and Lou under the microscope. There are NO questions off limits and usually the best and most honest questions are asked by the kids.

How about shaking D. Lee’s hand and looking up and up and up and up. Sitting next to Andre Dawson and being too scared to say a word, looking over at him and see him smiling at you. Having a beer with Jody Davis and Keith Moreland. Seeing the ’89 team, those rock stars. Don’t worry there is also useful Cub information too, the coach’s panel is always informative. Watching Kathy and Judy from WGN make the players blush, except of course, Mark Grace. Sitting in the same room with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams and listening to their stories. I could go on and on, but you get the drift.

Attending a Cubs convention, simply put, is an experience.

Beanie Babies
This may be more than you ever wanted to know about beanie babies, but bear with me for a second. The first giveaway, Cubbie, was on May 18, 1997. The first 10,000 children at these games received Cubbie accompanied by a commemorative card noting the special event. Today, these first Cubs giveaways sell for $100+ on the auctions today.

The whole beanie baby idea from a business standpoint is smart. One or two games a year, the team will draw thousands of young fans they otherwise might not attract. Who knows, maybe the young boy or girl will fall in love with the game that day.

Oh, and did I mention “retired” beanie babies draw extra security at the ballpark? I think it is odd that baseball teams have had to hire extra security on beanie baby day, but I have seen the lines at the mall the day after Thanksgiving and the stories about body slams over Elmo dolls. It is serious business. I find it funny that dads want their beanie babies just as much as their children do and players have their own collection.

Here comes abhorrence from baseball purists. I know, I know, baseball should be about the game and that is it. Well, the Hall of Fame shouldn’t allow cheaters in either, but it is not a perfect world.

Guest Conductors
According to Vineline, the Cubs monthly publication, some of the most famous people in the world contact the Cubs to ask about being a “guest conductor” for the seventh-inning stretch. OK, I understand no one messes with tradition at Wrigley Field unless you are a) ready to spend big bucks or b) content with the fact you may be lynched by a mob of angry, drunk fans. Let’s be honest and take the guest conductor role for what it is – product selling and celebrity worship – which has what to do with baseball?

The official message is it is a way to honor the memory of Harry Caray. Yeah, I am sure Ozzie Osborne knows exactly who Harry Caray is. How about Jeff Gordon? He didn’t even know where he was, it is Wrigley Field, not Wrigley Stadium. Here is some advise Jeff, prepare a little. In my opinion, if you want to honor Harry Caray drink a Budweiser, now that he would respect. I know I have touched on this before, but I say let Ron do it. He would love to and is giddy with Cub love anyway. At the very least get people who care about the Cubs or baseball or at least Chicago. That way we can still poke fun at the Ditkas of the world.

Three very different marketing tactics, yet they are all tied to John McDonough and the Cubs tradition. Of course he had a little luck on his side too, namely Haray Caray, Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville. As successful he was for the Cubs, McDonough has said, “winning is the greatest marketing idea of all time.” I agree maybe the Cubs should try it.

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