But the brand will be most visible at Wrigley, where United has purchased rights to a prominent rooftop behind the left-center-field bleachers and struck a three-year deal that makes United the team's exclusive airline sponsor. Freshly painted in time for Friday's first pitch, the bright blue roof proclaims that United is "proud to fly the Cubs."
In passing, I've been sort of fascinated by this. Why do the Cubs allow fans to see that rooftop (and other rooftops for that matter)? Are they essentially giving away access to the fans at their stadium for free? Apparently not.
While the Cubs have been at odds with rooftop owners over the years, team officials helped land a separate agreement between the airline and the owners of the apartment building at 3701 N. Kenmore Ave.
The building is owned by a partnership that includes Tom Gramatis and Max Waisvisz, founder of ticket reseller Gold Coast Tickets.
For many years, the Kenmore rooftop was painted red and sported the Budweiser logo. But two years ago, Gramatis and Waisvisz sold the space to the Horseshoe Casino in Indiana, upsetting the Cubs because the casino did not have a marketing deal with the team.
Last season, the Cubs erected a giant sign featuring Toyota's logo behind the left-field bleachers that partially blocked the Horseshoe sign. The Toyota ad upset some rooftop owners because they saw it as payback.
When the casino deal expired at the end of last season, the building's owners reached out to the Cubs' owners, the Ricketts family, for help in finding a new rooftop advertiser, Waisvisz said.
"We wanted to see if they could help us maximize the value of the rooftop," Waisvisz said. "We also want to be on friendly terms with the Rickettses."
Hayward confirmed that the building's owners approached the Ricketts family, who were willing to assist.
"We've worked hard at building relationships with local businesses and local rooftop partners," Hayward said. "We strongly encourage the rooftop owners to partner with one of our official marketing sponsors."
Economic theory tells us that when taking an action benefits third parties, then people won't take enough of that action. This is because the people who take the action, whatever it is, only account for the benefits they receive, not those felt by third parties. One example is a bee-keeping operation that benefits an apple orchard next door. The existence of the externality suggests that the beekeeper doesn't invest enough in his business from a "socially" efficient point of view.
One way that people can internalize the externality is by integrating the activity that generates the externality with the activity that receives it. If the beekeeper bought the orchard or the orchard owner bought the beekeeping operation, the externality is internalized, and no third party benefits. The externality gets corrected.
With the rootop, the owners of the building are receiving a positive externality in the form of millions of eyeballs being able to see their huge rooftop. I admit that it's hard for me to wrap my mind around what "that action" is in this case, but one possibility is that Cubs games do not have enough eyeballs trained on that sign.
When the Cubs blocked the view of the big rootop, it reduced the number of eyeballs that could clearly see the sign. By doing that, they essentially forced the building owners to partner with the Cubs and thereby allow a long-time Cub sponsor to advertise there. Now that they have done that, the Cubs will not block the view of the sign.
But I still miss the Budweiser sign that used to adorn that roof.