Spring came early in Chicago this year, and as of this writing, the baseball season is just a couple weeks old, so spring is still filled with promise.
Watching the club defend a World Series crown is not something Chicagoans are familiar with, but White Sox fans are having a go at it. Meanwhile on the north side, the Cubs got off to a surprisingly good start in early April.
As a Cubs fan, I often listen to the game broadcasts on WGN Radio. Last season I was delighted to hear the advertisements of Lifeway Foods, the Chicago-based maker of Kefir and other specialty dairy foods.
"Hey, how about a nice cold Kefir after the game," the spot went. I practically drove into a parked car the first time I heard it. As funny as it sounds, the campaign makes sense. It's a great way for Lifeway to introduce its unique product to potential new customers in its core geographic market.
This season I realized there is another dairy company advertising during the broadcasts-none other than Dean Foods, the nation's largest dairy processor. The company of course has its roots in Chicago and the Dean's brand is dominant in the greater Chicago market, so the Cubs Radio Network is a perfect vehicle for its ads.
The link between baseball and dairy is nothing new, of course. Many dairy companies have a history of promotional tie-ins with their home Major League Baseball club. No surprise; it's a match made in American nostalgia, really. Milk and baseball have both been around forever, and when they have their game on, both have a wholesome appeal to children and families. Additionally, both have a brand loyalty that focuses on a large local market first, but perhaps has some regional appeal as well.
But perhaps it's time the match evolved a bit, and it's the dairy processors who need to step up to the plate. Or they at least need to get into the on-deck circle. Advertising is just part of the opportunity.
More and more dairy products are sold in convenience forms and packages, which means they might be able to find a better seat at the ballpark. How about single serve bottles of milk or drinkable yogurt at the concession stand. I'm sure many dads and moms would rather buy a dairy beverage for their little sluggers than a big sugary soft drink.
Bite-sized ice cream treats are now offered at movie theaters, so why not something like that at the old ballpark. Of course combining more in-the-park dairy products, with a radio ad campaign is just the thing to drive in the winning run.
If dairy has entered the big leagues as a fun, convenient, exciting food, it's time to play ball.
David Phillips will help judge Tillamook Cheese's Macaroni and Cheese Competition this month in Chicago.