ORLANDO – We hear so much about the consumer journey and how brands need to follow it carefully. But what if it’s the brand’s journey that is the dominant marketing narrative? In the case of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, you take it one season at a time, be honest and transparent with fans and don’t get too far ahead of yourself.

This was the challenge for Chicago-based advertising agency SCC, which became the Cubs’ agency of record in late 2012—when the team had just capped a 101-loss season. SCC’s work involved crafting “a different theme or campaign every year that really has followed the cadence of the team’s progression,” President & Managing Partner David Selby says in this interview with Beet.TV at the Masters of Marketing conference of the Association of National Advertisers.

That progression continued as this was written, with the Cubs losing game #2 of the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Chicago Tribune provides details of the game at Dodgers Stadium.

Prior to engaging SCC, ownership of the Cubs had just transferred to the Ricketts family and the team had recruited as its President Theo Epstein from Boston. The plan to turn the franchise around wouldn’t happen overnight, nor could predictions of its success.

“In 2013, when we couldn’t talk about players and we couldn’t talk about baseball as we were rebuilding the team, what we could talk about was commitment,” Selby says. This was communicated in the form of “dramatic, authentic fan stories.”

Fortunately, 2014 was the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, “this iconic venue where we play.” So the Cubs created a season-long event called The Party of the Century.

Things picked up the following year with the addition of Joe Madden as Manager and pitcher Jon Lester, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, to the point where “we could maybe shift our voice to be a little more confident. And so what we did was introduce a little more aggressive language,” says Selby. The next theme was Let’s Go and it focused on team momentum, not individual players. “It seems subtle but it was actually more confident than maybe we were confident in or comfortable with at the beginning of that season.”

The Cubs made it to the playoffs in 2015 but lost to the New York Mets. Heading into 2016 expectations were high “but we wanted to keep everything in check. We’re going to be honest with you,” Selby says of team communications to fans. “We invited them along on this journey.”

At 5 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 3 of 2016, after the Cubs had notched the World Series, the team issued a commemorative spot featuring musician and Cubs fan Eddie Vedder’s Someday We’ll Go All The Way, which eventually earned some 36 million views.

“The Cubs didn’t spend one dime of paid media on it,” Selby says. “That was this powerful statement from our fans to us about what this win meant.”

This video is part of a Beet.TV leadership series produced at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference, 2017. The series is presented by FreeWheel. Please find more videos from Orlando, visit this page.