Here on the blog, the recent content theme has been “covering in-season topics that I didn’t get around to covering during the season itself.” But out there in the real world, the biggest news on the MiLB front has been a topic near and dear to many of you: branding.
Over the past week, there has been one team launch (the El Paso Chihuahuas), one new identity (the Akron RubberDucks), and three sets of new logos (Arkansas Travelers, Charlotte Knights, and Rochester Red Wings). This post, number #999 in Ben’s Biz Blog history, attempts to make sense of it all in a crisp and concise fashion.
October 22: El Paso Chihuahuas (read my MiLB.com story HERE)
In my nearly eight years of covering Minor League branding efforts, none elicited as strong a reaction as October 22’s announcement that El Paso’s new Triple-A team would be called “The Chihuahuas.” The comment section of the MiLB.com article linked to above serves as a pretty good summation of the initial reaction, about 1/3 incredulous, 1/3 angry and embarrassed, and 1/3 delighted.
“Chihuahuas” is aggressively kid-friendly and completely independent of any overt reference to the parent club (in this case, the Padres), which is a trend that should be familiar to anyone who follows this industry. In recent years Brandiose has been behind IronPigs, Flying Squirrels, Storm Chasers, and RailRiders, so why not Chihuahuas? Why not anything?
My Take: While I like the color scheme and logo, the “Chihuahuas” name leans just a bit too ridiculous for my taste and was in fact my least favorite of the five “finalists” in the “Name the Team” contest (Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Desert Gators, Sun Dogs). Yes, the players come and go, but it’s a little off putting to me that men competing at Minor League Baseball’s highest level have to take the field with “Chihuahuas” emblazoned across the chest.
That said, the team did a phenomenal job in regard to creating a buzz not just in the community but nationally, and now they have the opportunity to build an entire brand around something very unique. As is so often the case, I feel that once people get used to the name they’ll not just tolerate it but embrace it. Myself as well, probably.
Also, as an aside: Holding a Name the Team “contest” in advance of announcing a new name is a great way to generate publicity. But these contests are disingenuous in that they rarely, if ever, actually take fan opinion into account. Is this advance buzz worth the ill will generated when the name chosen doesn’t reflect public consensus in any way, shape or form? It won’t happen, but I’d love it if a team came right out and explained the paternalistic mindset that informs these decisions: “You fans mean well, but since you live in a market that was heretofore without Minor League Baseball you have no idea how the industry operates and therefore no real idea what would truly make for a good team name. Feel free to argue impotently amongst yourselves while us professionals do our jobs, as in the end everything will turn out alright. We guarantee it.”
October 23: Arkansas Travelers (Read my MiLB.com story HERE).
The Travelers’ motivation for creating a new set of logos (designed, once again, by Brandiose) was two-fold. Firstly, the team wanted to streamline and simplify an identity that had become a bit of an unwieldy hodgepodge in recent years. Second, new logos represented a good way to generate buzz and momentum as the Travs enter a 2014 season in which they will serve as hosts of the Texas League All-Star Game.
My take: I like it. The Travs’ have a history in Little Rock that goes back over 100 years, and that’s something that they’re understandably proud of. The new logos are correspondingly sleek, simple and traditional (the horse references the “Arkansas Traveler” folktale that resulted in the team name in the first place), and rumor has it that there may be more to unveil later in the offseason.
10/24: Charlotte Knights (read my MiLB.com piece HERE)
The Knights are moving into a brand-new downtown ballpark in 2014, and with the new digs comes this new set of logos. Here’s what general manager Scott Brown told me:
“Charlotte is nicknamed ‘The Queen City’ after Queen Charlotte, so, moving forward, we wanted to capture royalty as our theme. The time was ripe to do this, because even though we’re only two miles away [from the previous home of Knights Stadium] we’re now inside the city limits. The Knights are defending the Queen City.”
My Take: Similar to the Travs, I like this sleek and relatively simple re-brand as it serves as a great way to kickstart what is a truly exciting new era for the Knights. And while I’m ignorant of pretty much everything beyond the world of baseball, several people on Twitter pointed out that it is somewhat similar to the logos of the collegiate UCF Knights and Army Black Knights. This could be seen as a negative, as well as the fact that the logo on the far right seems to depict a seahorse in the midst of suicide. But, again: I’m a fan.
10/29: Akron RubberDucks (read my MiLB.com story HERE)
After 17 seasons the Aeros are no more, as Akron’s Double-A franchise has scrapped that in favor of “RubberDucks.” This is all part of owner Ken Babby’s attempt to revitalize what had been an ailing franchise, and is sure to be accompanied by a veritable onslaught of duck-themed promotions in 2014 and beyond. The “Rubber” in the team’s name refers to Akron’s standing as “Rubber Capital of the World,” but even with this local tie-in the name generated a near-Chihuahuas level of internet commentary (best characterized as a mix of gentle snark and faux outrage).
My Take: When I first heard the “RubberDucks” name I winced a little bit, thinking it too cartoonish and child-like. It has grown on me somewhat, however, due to the aforementioned local tie-in, sharp and eye-catching logo set, and a general faith in the Akron front office. And just a thought, but might Akron’s “Rubber capital of the world” status have something to do with its steadily-declining birth rates?
November 1: Rochester Red Wings (read team press release HERE).
Less a re-brand than an update, this Studio Simon creation highlights mascot Spike’s ever-increasing commitment to the weight room. Pretty soon he’s going to using the #riseandgrind hashtag on Twitter.
My Take: While far less splashy than the four new logos talked about above, this is a nice re-imagining of an iconic brand (the Red Wings are the oldest team in all of Minor League Baseball). Studio Simon always does good work.
And thus concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #999. I still don’t know what I’m doing for 1000, so it might take a while to appear. Any suggestions?