Friday, June 28, 2019

The Black Sox Jack World Series


This year marks the centennial of what is often referred to as the “Black Sox World Series.” But before it earned that infamous nickname it was more accurately called the “Black Jack World Series.” Here’s why ...

In 1919, the American Chicle Company, makers of Adams Pure Chewing Gum, embraced the World Series as a way to market their product. The company’s vice president, John F. Bresnahan, devised a scheme knowing that all eyes would be on the much-ballyhooed World Championship between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds. Just days before the series began, Bresnahan launched an advertising blitz in newspapers across the country, promoting Black Jack, the company’s licorice-flavored gum. As later described in the October 18, 1919, issue of The Fourth Estate, a weekly magazine devoted to newspaper advertising:

The idea of hooking up Black Jack with a big news event seemed too good to be limited to one city, so Mr. Bresnahan straightway arranged for a series of Black Jack ads in ninety newspapers.
The copy built on the theme of “nerves” in baseball, and o chewing gum for nerves. The happy combination was treated sympathetically by artists, and mats were rushed to the newspapers. ... “Total figures are not available but it is likely that millions of extra papers were sold on game days during the series. Every paper carried a sympathetic baseball and gum message to men, and men are our greatest customers. The copy appeal, the product and the news all synchronized perfectly.”
Here are the ads which ran every day from October 1 (the first day of the World Series) through October 10 (the day after the final game of the World Series):

Indianapolis Star, October 1, 1919:



Pittsburgh Press, October 2, 1919:



Detroit Free Press, October 3, 1919:



New York Evening World, October 4, 1919:



Los Angeles Times, October 5, 1919:



Minneapolis Star-Tribune, October 6, 1919:



St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 7, 1919:



Chicago Tribune, October 8, 1919:



Philadelphia Inquirer, October 9, 1919:



Des Moines Tribune, October 10, 1919:



But American Chicle’s real genius idea came by way of their sales manager, Paul S. Kantner.

With the World Series fast approaching, the Houston Post was looking to find a way to ensure that they would be the first news source to relay the result of each World Series contest. The standard method of getting such news to the public was to rely on the consumer to actively seek out this information. The interested baseball fan might head to a corner to buy a newspaper or stand in front of a remote scoreboard and “virtually” watch the game. What if the newspaper could flip this model on its head and have the news travel to the customer, rather than the other way around?

As reported in the Houston Post on the day of Game One:

... The Post, amply aided and abetted by the American Chicle Company—makers of Yucatan and Black Jack—a few days ago sought some new method of getting the news over to all the people in the briefest possible time.
The Post was looking for speed; the Adams people for something else. Both seem to have found what they want—and the people, especially the baseball fans, are the richer therefor.
... “I have it,” said Kantner, who had found himself in a discussion outside his particular line. “We’re going to put on a campaign here to introduce Yucatan and Black Jack.”
Kantner’s idea was to drop Adams chewing gum from an airplane circling high above the city, the particular kind of gum signifying the winning club. If Yucatan gum rained down on Houston, it meant the White Sox won. A deluge of Black Jack relayed that the Reds were victors. Here’s the description from the Post:




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