Ahhh, baseball season. There’s nothing that quite defines summer as well as sitting in the sun eating a hotdog at the ballpark, watching your favorite team win. Unless you’re watching the Cubs, in which case you may only get two out of those three. Despite their lack of World Series appearances, the Chicago Cubs are a national phenomenon. Everybody–baseball fans or otherwise–has probably heard stories about the Cubs’ fiercely loyal fans, and many wonder why these people keep supporting a team that loses more often than it wins. “Maybe next year” has become their mantra, and they have grown accustomed to being the butt of all kinds of jokes (as a St. Louis fan, I’ll try to keep those jokes to a minimum). Nonetheless, the fans stay strong and keep rooting for their Cubbies, which I think makes the team one of the best businesses out there.
When you think about business in general, a major component is customer service. It’s so easy to upset customers (and potential customers), so it’s crucial to have a plan to win them back so they remain loyal. But when you think about the Cubs as a business, they really have no “customer service” so to speak. They lose games and end up frustrating their fans, but they don’t improve. Yet fans remain loyal despite the disappointments (maybe it’s because the Cubs seem to win a good portion of games against the Cardinals, and that makes up for the rest of the season). I would challenge you to find any other business that can continue to let down their customers and keep business going as strongly as the Cubs do.
Maybe there’s much more to the game than just winning to Cubs fans. Perhaps it’s historical Wrigley Field or the bustling atmosphere of Chicago. Maybe it’s the bond between fans, since most of the fans really do love their team (I’m guessing there aren’t many fair-weather fans with this team). But like all sports, at the end of the day it is a competition and people want to see their team win as much as possible. Because Cubs fans are so incredibly loyal, though, the team doesn’t have to win to fill the stadium. Most fans don’t quit buying or wearing their memorabilia when the team loses or has a bad season, unlike many fans of other teams. So what incentive is there for Cubs owners and management to make the team any better?
The Cubs are a perfect example of what every business hopes to have–loyal customers without the costs. The Cubs don’t have to be good to bring in money, so as a result management doesn’t necessarily need to try to improve their game. Of course they may want to so they can say they were the ones to finally take the Cubs all the way to the World Series (and therefore summon Armageddon), but from a money standpoint they probably don’t have to. That’s an incredible spot for a business owner to be.
What do you think? Will the fans continue to support this team forever, winning or losing? Or will they eventually get fed up and force the managers to try harder to build a winning team?