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?
“If it bleeds it leads” is a well-known journalism trope, and those of us who make a living in the cutthroat world of Minor League baseball blogging ascribe to a similar saying: if it’s a logo then it’s a go-go.
Therefore, I have no choice but to begin today’s missive with the latest and greatest images to emanate from the world of MiLB. On Saturday, the High Desert Mavericks unveiled a pair of high-definition alternate logos:
Sez the team:
“After 21 seasons in the Victor Valley, we felt it was a great time to introduce new logos which reflected both the Mavericks team identity and our strong connections to the High Desert community,” general manager Eric Jensen said. “Our new ‘HD’ logo allows the whole High Desert to feel represented when they’re wearing Mavericks apparel and incorporates the unique physical attributes of this region.
“Likewise, the new cowboy logo represents the rugged resilience of those who reside in the desert while providing a historical tie to the Maverick name.”
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a Mavericks game last season, but somehow I neglected to notice physical attributes such as a green sun. I did, however, notice the ruggedness.
Another team I visited on that trip were the Lake Elsinore Storm, who have recently announced a very good reason to make a return visit. Following April 22’s ballgame, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will perform a free show.
This has to be one of the best deals of the season — where else can $9 buy entry to both a professional baseball game and a rock n roll spectacle?
Sez the team:
The concert, set to begin approximately 30 minutes after the game ends, will be held in celebration of Storm owner Gary Jacobs’ birthday. Jett, known for “I Love Rock N Roll,” is scheduled to perform a 90 minute set with her band on a stage placed behind second base.
Hey, Lake Elsinore, please do me a favor and offer Rocky Road ice cream during the ballgame. It would mean a lot.
But now let us return, one more time, to the world of logos. On Monday the Reading Phillies announced a great new idea, one that sees them teaming up with Brandiose in order to teach the art and science of logo design to a new generation.
It’s called ‘9 to the Nines.’
And since it’s been a press release quoting kind of morning, let’s do it one more time:
As a kid, did you ever dream of wearing uniforms like the pros? Jason Klein and Casey White of Brandiose are the guys who design the official logos and uniforms for Major League Baseball teams. The duo will be coming to Reading, PA to give the kids of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club a firsthand look at how baseball logos come to life. Brandiose will also be collaborating with the kids to design their very own logos for the Baseballtown RBI League.
Jason and Casey will take the kids through the same creative process they take teams of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball through by discussing the parts of the community the kids cherish the most. They will then work with the kids to bring those ideas to life in logo form. Kids will sketch their ideas at the event, with Klein and White compiling the ideas into a major league look for each Baseballtown RBI League team. The kids’ logos will be unveiled in time for the Baseballtown RBI League’s 2012 Opening Day.
And — hey! — if any kids want to submit a Ben’s Biz logo that could be used for 2012 and beyond then you know where to find me. That’s right, alone and in front of a computer.
Well, the moment you’d (presumably) all been waiting for has arrived:
I must admit that I find it amusing that the Wahoo has a hook in his mouth. Wouldn’t that imply that death is imminent, despite the determined demeanor?
No! According to the press release, this “tenacious” Blue Wahoo is shown “breaking away from a fisherman’s line.” He has lived to scowl another day.
The cap logo features “a Blue Wahoo circling a baseball bat forming the shape of a ‘P’ for Pensacola.”
The logo’s color scheme is described thusly Neon Red, Gulf Coast Royal, Blue Angel Navy, and Tin Roof Tin make up the club’s official colors, celebrating the textures and colors of the Emerald Coast. The Blue Wahoos are the first sports team to adopt Neon Red, a tribute to the neon signs that illuminate Pensacola’s beachfront establishments.
It seems that quite a few people aren’t buying this “neon red” terminology, however, at least if Facebook and Twitter rumblings are to be believed. Why not call it “Pensacola Pink”?
The team says that “many” alternate logos will be unveiled in the coming months, but at the moment the only one available features the aforementioned hook (presumably after it has broken away from the tenacious Blue Wahoo).
The logo was designed by
Plan B Branding Brandiose, that recently re-branded branding company. These guys have to have one of the most bizarre-sounding client lists in all of professional sports: Blue Wahoos, Storm Chasers, IronPigs, Flying Tigers, BayBears, etc. Clearly, Minor League Baseball is a world all of its own.
And apologies for the extreme tonal shift, but obviously the big story in the world of baseball today is the stabbing death of Mariners outfielder Greg Halman. I’m currently working on a story that will feature the thoughts and recollections of those who knew him in the Minors. If you have something you’d like to share then please get in touch ASAP.
Last Friday I wrote a feature story on the new-for-2012 Pensacola Blue Wahoos, but the westernmost region of the Florida panhandle isn’t the only area in which affiliated ball will debut next season.
How about them Grand Junction Rockies? The team, located in Western Colorado, was officially introduced to the public at a press conference yesterday. The Rockies will play in the Pioneer League, as the Rookie-level affiliate of the (surprise!) Colorado Rockies. Read all about it in my MiLB.com piece.
And with a new team comes a new logo. Here it is, in all its parent-club referencing glory:
As noted in the MiLB.com piece, the key difference between this mark and that of the Colorado Rockies is that the mountain range has been replaced by a mesa. As I learned today, Grand Junction has more Mesas than Jose’s family reunion.
As a club that plays in Colorado and owned by the same folks that own the Colorado Rockies, it’s not surprising that Grand Junction is going the conservative route with its look. The same could not be said of the team that they are replacing: the Casper Ghosts. As you may recall, this was the only team in professional baseball whose primary logo glowed in the dark.
In glossing over the article I wrote when the Ghosts’ logo was unveiled on Halloween 2007, I came across the following quote from team CEO Kevin Haughian.
“I originally wanted to be the Casper Weinbergers, but we figured no one would get it.”
The Ghosts’ logo was designed by Plan B Branding, which, as of today, is no longer Plan B Branding. As detailed on this blog last week, the company unveiled its new name via a week-long internet scavenger hunt. And that new name is:
Logo fiends should enjoy poking around the new website, particularly the “Behind the Scenes” section. Said section is chock-a-block with info and photos regarding how many of the Minors’ top logos came to be.
The announcement of the “Brandiose” name comes exactly one year after another notable name change. For it was on November 15, 2010 that the Omaha Storm Chasers were introduced (themselves a Plan B/Brandiose client, natch).
The name was heavily criticized by those within the community and without, and my response to the criticism (specifically that of then-ESPN columnist Rob Neyer) was the most widely-read and commented upon offseason blog post that I have ever wrote. Give it a (re)read, if you’re so inclined.
Ah, November 2010. I was so young and strong back then.