It wasn’t an understanding of baseball that got Kelly Linstroth her job as director of marketing for the Chicago Cubs; it was her understanding of the fans.
While the team and its devoted following are legendary, it’s also a business with customers. Kelly came to the Cubs after a change in ownership became dedicated to building its marketing department. It was 2009, and the team began to collect and leverage fan data to better market to them and create more revenue opportunities. A department with few resources has now grown to more than 30 people.
“Sports teams realized that if we are to run our brands like a business, similar to consumer goods and retail, not only can we be successful on the field, we can be successful as a business,” she says.
Kelly already understood customer loyalty. She worked for four years at Walgreens, helping to launch its rewards program that identifies what customers buy so the company can market to them better.
With the Cubs, Kelly oversees marketing in all areas of fan touchpoints, including email, digital, and social media, as well as leveraging fan data to personalize communication to them. Cubs fans can engage with their team—and become customers—without ever setting foot in Wrigley Field, and Kelly and her marketing team work to make those interactions as smooth as possible.
“I’m a Packers fan, so I know how I would feel if their fans weren’t being treated well,” Kelly says. “I didn’t quite understand that until I came here.”