White Sox Back To Winning Ugly

Naming the competition in advertising is always risky. But for the Chicago White Sox, perennial underdogs in a city dominated by the Tribune Co.-owned Cubs, it’s a way to get much-needed attention.

Sox agency Hoffman York this month launched TV spots that note differences between the teams. For example: The Cubs “are lovable even when they lose,” while the Sox “hate losing.” The Cubs “believe they’re cursed.” The Sox “agree.” The Cubs were “champs in 1908.” The Sox were “champs as recently as 1917.”

The agency has presented ads poking fun at the Cubs in the past, but as a rule of thumb, the Sox have been reluctant to use such a strategy —until now. “We tried to stay sporting with it. We didn’t say, ‘Sammy [Sosa] has a corked bat’ or anything,” says Tom Reilly, creative director at the independent agency. “It’s kind of like Avis. We have to try harder.”

With the teams playing each other this past weekend (at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Sox), the campaign received plenty of play in the local press. As usual, some of the best coverage has come from The Heckler, the Onion-esque paper for Cubs fans that is put out by Leo Burnett’s very own Brad Zibung. The latest issue delivers the sage prediction that the campaign “will increase [Sox] attendance by seven.” “Everyone’s trying to get a piece of the Cubs’ action this year, including, now, the Sox,” Zibung says. He did admit the campaign was doing its job. “This is probably the first time anyone has talked about a Sox ad in 10 years.”

Brooks Boyer, who joined the Sox this season as their new marketing director, OK-ed the more aggressive approach.