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'BP Crosstown Cup' Draws Boos at Wrigley Field

BP, a company that’s had a helluva time getting a “cup” on the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher, is now connected to another cup, theBP Crosstown Cup, a baseball series underway in Chicago this weekend. And the series is a marketing strikeout for the oil producer.

Fans booed BP on Friday when the oil company was announced at Wrigley Field.

Official trophy of the BP Crosstown Cup.
Source: White Sox
Official trophy of the BP Crosstown Cup.

“It’s not good to be associated with something bad,” one baseball fan said on-air when questioned on Chicago television about BP’s sponsorship.

Cross-town rivals the Cubs and the White Sox are battling out a six-game series, beginning this weekend at the Cubs' Wrigley Field and ending June 27 at U.S. Cellular Field, the Sox's home turf.

The Sox beat the Cubs, 4-2, in the 1906 World Series, the first time the teams played each other.

Both organizations stand by their sponsor, which has created for the winner a 3-foot-high sterling silver cup with a small BP engraved next to its logo. At the same time, the teams have been downplaying the sponsorship. And the company itself has scaled back on media buys and outreach.

On the teams’ websites, it’s difficult to find any mention of BP, although the names and logos of other sponsors are boldly displayed.

Spokesmen for both teams said fans had expressed unhappiness with BP to them. Wally Hayward, the chief sales and marketing officer for the Cubs, added that fans were generally supportive, because they recognize the need for sponsorship. BP declined to comment.

One Chicago sports writer wrote that victor would likely shun kissing the cup.

On the BP Crosstown Cup website, it announces: “BP is proud to be the presenting sponsor! We’ll be awarding the Cup to the series winner at U.S. Cellular Field in late June. The rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox is no secret. In fact, it goes back over a century. It has divided families, pitted friend-against-friend and team-against-team. What side will you be on when we award the cup?”

In addition, the website offers prizes, including the chance to win $10,000 in BP gift cards, for those who buy eight gallons of a product called "Invigorate."

It was on April 26, only six days after the oil spill began, that the energy giant and the two teams announced the three-year sponsorship of the annual intra-city series.

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and setting off an apparently uncontainable oil leak that has fouled the water, felled animals, closed beaches, brought Gulf Coast businesses to a standstill and made BP into a corporate pariah.

The Chicago series isn’t the only sporting event that BP is supporting. It's the fuel sponsor for the World Cup 2010, which began in South Africa on Friday.

And in May, the Aquarium of the Pacificopened the BP Sea Otter Habitat. BP has donated $1 million to the institution.

The White Sox topped the Cubs 10-5 on Friday as catcher A.J. Pierzynski led the way for the South Siders with four hits, including a solo homer.