White Sox Call Up Chicago Craft to the Majors

Austin Ray

THE GIST
The Chicago White Sox organization is—oh my god, I’m so sorry—going to bat for craft beer. Earlier this month, the major league baseball franchise ended a three-decade marketing partnership with Miller when the two sides couldn’t agree on a new sponsorship arrangement. Subsequently, the American League Central club announced deals with Goose Island, Bell’s, Founders, and Pabst, complementing a pre-existing deal with Modelo Especial. According to the Chicago Tribune, the team hopes the new agreements “entice fans and boost attendance with greater variety of beer options at the ballpark.”

WHY IT MATTERS
It goes without saying that promoting Bell’s Two Hearted throughout a stadium as opposed to, say, Miller Lite represents a drastic sea change from the days of large domestic ubiquity in the sporting world. At the same time, it’s also unsurprising, as craft beer has been making its presence felt across the American sporting landscape for a number of years now, to see more and more franchises implement lengthy beer menus in an effort to appeal to, and draw out, fans with more experimental palates. Indeed, last month, the Kansas City Royals named Boulevard its official beer partner, having previously built out the craft beer bar, .390 Club, in its outfield, while last fall the Atlanta Braves announced Terrapin would build a taproom and microbrewery at its new park.

As far as the White Sox organization goes, it isn’t just moving behind larger craft (Bell’s) and “crafty” selections (Goose Island, Founders). Rather, the end of its marriage to Miller seems to be ushering in an ideological shift when it comes to beer.

Yes, Miller devotees will still be able to find their Miller Lite at Guaranteed Rate Field. They won’t find, however, the familiar Miller Lite Bullpen Sports Bar in right field. That’s being replaced by the unfortunately-named Craft Kave, which will offer 75 different beers from some of the state’s more notable breweries (Revolution, Goose, etc.), as well as much smaller players (Pipeworks and Off Color).

“We're looking at it a little bit differently,” Brooks Boyer, vice president of sales and marketing with the White Sox, tells the Chicago Tribune. “A lot of teams have the strategy of less is more. We're taking the strategy that more is more.”

Back on the marketing side of things, the White Sox organization wouldn’t say whether the four new deals together make up for the lost revenue resulting from the end of its marriage to Miller. Furthermore, it says it would still be open to taking on a Miller or a Bud as a marketing partner. But it seems clear now that sports organizations and beer companies are now—ugh, sorry, one more—playing ball on a different field than they once negotiated upon.

—Dave Eisenberg

READ MORE
Goose Island, Bell’s among new brewers added to White Sox beer lineup [Chicago Tribune]