To honor its 100th season, the Chicago Bears decided to think big in regards to how it would celebrate with its fans – literally.
Across the city of Chicago, the Bears have placed larger-than-life bobbleheads of 13 prominent players from every decade. Made of high-density foam, each of the seven-foot-tall bobbleheads weighs between 150 and 200 pounds.
In addition to this, there are 10 miniature-sized bobbleheads that will also be used as giveaways for the first 20,000 fans in attendance at Soldier Field during the 2019-2020 campaign.
Former halfback Red Grange was the first of the bunch to appear around Chicago during the season starting in August. Other notables like Mike Ditka and Walter Payton have been turned into jumbo-sized bobbleheads – with the latest collection on November 24 to include former Bears stars Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
“We’re celebrating our 100th season and wanted to come up with new ways to make it relevant,” said Scott Hagel, the Bears’ senior vice president of marketing and communications. “Not just to the fan that’s been with us for many years and might have witnessed our history, but also newer fans and younger fans that might not have quite the same connection as some of our long-term fans.”
During the offseason, Hagel and his team chose numerous players for the larger bobbleheads at each of the Bears’ preseason and regular-season home games that paid homage to the club’s past.
That was a tough task – of all the 32 NFL teams, Chicago has the most Hall of Famers with 33.
Being the league leader in that category made it difficult for the Bears to determine which players will be placed on the bobblehead, said Hagel. He and his colleagues had to pick 10 former players across 10 decades: the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980, 1990s, 2000s and the 2010s.
Here are the players selected to appear on 10 of the Bears’ seven-foot-tall bobbleheads, and the decades they played in and the date they were unveiled:
- Red Grange (1920s, August 8)
- Bill George (1950s, August 29)
- Mike Ditka (1980s, September 5)
- Bronco Nagurski (1930s, September 29)
- Walter Payton (1970s, October 20)
- Brian Urlacher (2000s, October 27)
- Sid Luckman (1940s, November 10)
- Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers (1960s, will be on display on November 24)
- Mike Singletary (1990s, will be on display on December 5)
- Devin Hester (2010s, will be on display on December 22)
“The idea of creating these massive, seven-foot-tall bobbleheads – and then to sprinkle them throughout the city of Chicago on our home weeks leading into the games – was so that fans young and old can interact with them and talk about them,” Hagel said. “It helps us tell our history in a way that’s relevant to today’s fan. It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been successful thus far, and we look forward to continuing it throughout the season.”
The approach has not only made waves in the Windy City but in the neighboring state of Ohio. As the fan experience specialist for both MiLB’s Toledo Mud Hens and the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, Heather Brunsting has leaned on bobbleheads to engage with the teams’ fans.
In early October, the Walleye introduced Bobblehead Spike, a bobblehead replica of their mascot Spike. It stood at six-foot-six and was there to greet fans when they arrived for Toledo’s home-opener on November 2. Immediately, kids and parents began flocking towards Bobblehead Spike, whose head could indeed bobble.
Although Brunsting never thought of incorporating the Bears’ current bobblehead strategy into the Mud Hens’ and Walleye’s operations, she admits that it has given her plenty to mull over.
“We strive to do what makes the fans happy,” Brunsting said. “What is their experience before the game and after the game? What is their experience in the offseason? How do you keep them coming back game after game? I’m definitely going to have to do some more research on what the Bears are doing and pass that on to a couple of other folks. But I think that they’re setting a precedent for just another way you can elevate the fan experience, which is great.”
From Hagel’s perspective, what has made this particular bobblehead series special is the history surrounding it. This season marks not only the Bears’ 100th anniversary since its formation, but also that of the NFL’s.
During the offseason, Hagel and his team will convene about whether to extend the bobblehead giveaway at Soldier Field into 2020. As for the bobblehead statues, he already plans on featuring them throughout Chicago for years to come.
“We’re very fortunate to be steeped in tradition and a lot of history,” Hagel said. “Obviously we were there from the beginning of the NFL. I think our fans take great pride in being a part of the flagship franchise of the NFL – and this is a wonderful visual representation of what that means over the course of 100 years.”