I don’t know if you guys have heard, but 2019 is the Cardinals Time To Fly. #TimeToFly
I’m not sure to what extent this catchphrase has made its way into TV commercials and other promotional materials yet, but if you’re on Social Media, it’s all over the place. It was already a piece of the team’s brand identity when they announced the Paul Goldschmidt signing on Dec. 5:
The #STLCards have acquired six-time NL All-Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for C Carson Kelly, RHP Luke Weaver, INF Andy Young and the club's Compensation Round B selection in the 2019 MLB Draft. #TimeToFly pic.twitter.com/65SThIrDli— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) December 5, 2018
But the first use of it that I can find seems to be in this hype video from November 15th.
We're just getting started! #TimeToFly pic.twitter.com/b794MMrndA— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) November 16, 2018
So there you have it, Cardinals Nation: Your rallying cry for the 2019 Cardinals. Whattayathink?
On the one hand, you’ve got some team-specific elements here. You’ve got an allusion to the fact that the team hasn’t been in the playoffs for three years now, while the Cubs... and the Brewers, the damn Brewers even, have been.
And then there’s the parallel between winning and flying because, now try to keep up with me here, Cardinals are birds.
So in the grand scheme of corporate generated marketing slogans, #TimeToFly is... fine. Personally, I have a hard time being moved by these things in general. Every time I see something like this, I imagine I’m back in the high school weight room with some bro wearing a t-shirt that reads “Burn the Boats” or “Hitting is our Business and Business is Good.”
The best rallying cries, hashtags, etc. are of course, generated organically. Nobody in a Clark Street board room could have come up with #ItsGottaBeTheSalsa last offseason, but that became the indelible mark of the 2018 team. Ditto the #RallySquirrel or #HappyFlight or #DoItForTorty.
And then there’s “El Birdos,” the nickname Orlando Cepeda gave the 1967 Cardinals, which of course became a moniker for that team, the organization in general, and even the website you are now reading.
But it’s not like a professional marketing staff is just going to sit around and hope they catch lightning in a bottle - not when you need to design web graphics and hype videos and such. Who’s to say when or if that’s even going to happen? On top of that, organic catchphrases grow in that scary world outside of team control.
You might stumble into a delightful #RallyCat only to wind up embroiled in a war of words with a local animal rescue organization. I know that sounds crazy, but believe me, it’s the kind of thing that can actually happen.
And while marketing slogans have been around pretty much forever, the hashtag era seems to have put more pressure on clubs to codify them. For one thing, since 2017, every club has had an official hashtag on Twitter, for which Twitter generates a cute little team logo.
In both 2017 and 2018, the Cardinals went with #StlCards. Both seasons, they were among roughly half of MLB Teams who chose a hashtag that was simply a permutation of the team name. Some pundits find those simple hashtags boring, but personally I’ll take those over the high school football slogans.
The Cubs, for example, went with #ThatsCub in 2017 and #EverybodyIn last year. Maybe these were potent rallying cries among Cubs fans. For me, it was fun to retweet some embarrassing Cubs incident with #ThatsCub, or to tweet things like “#EverybodyIn the Cubs organization is complicit in empowering domestic abuser Addison Russell.”
As of right now, I’ve had no urge to tag any of my incessant Cardinals related tweets with #TimeToFly. But let’s be honest, I’m a sheep and that could well change. As the season rolls around, I - an adult man with two children - may not be able to resist seeing that little Cardinals logo on my tweet. And if the team is doing well and this catchphrase really takes off, I might say “time to fly” when I pass another dude wearing a Cardinals hat at the mall.
We do need something to rally around, and we can’t just assume that a #RallyGoat or #ItsGottaBeTheKimchi is going to come around.
Of course, the urgency of #TimeToFly also sets up a potential fall if the 2019 Cardinals don’t, in fact, fly. And you’ve got to like the organization going on the record, in marketing form, to say this is the year.
Burn the boats. There’s no going back.