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?
Prior to the Winter Meetings, I made it be known that I would be willing to conduct an “instant interview” with any attendee interested in doing one. A whopping two people ended up taking me up on it, the first of whom shall be featured today: Dan Simon.
While you may not recognize his name, Simon’s work is familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in Minor League Baseball. He’s the man behind Studio Simon, the Louisville-based design firm responsible for dozens of logos throughout the MiLB landscape (including recent efforts such as the Erie SeaWolves and Aberdeen IronBirds.) He’s also the man behind this, the official logo of the Winter Meetings themselves:
In this brief Q and A, Dan sheds a little light on the history of the Winter Meetings logo and the philosophies and strategies that guide the process.
Ben’s Biz (aka: “The Guy Typing This”): How long have you been designing the Winter Meetings logo?
Dan Simon: The first one was 2003, New Orleans. The reason for it was because Brian Earle, who at the time was director of licensing for Minor League Baseball, saw that [offseason] events like the NFL Draft and, later, the Combine, were now branded. Similarly, Brian wanted to brand the Winter Meetings as what they are: one of the biggest, if not the biggest, offseason events in all of sports.
And it wasn’t just about what the Winter Meetings were, but what they should be. We certainly can’t take all of the credit for it, but the growth of the Meetings to where they are today started to happen when they were branded as an important event. That was Brian’s vision, and that was the result.
Ben’s Biz: So what are the key elements of a good Winter Meetings logo?
Dan Simon: I had already done two Super Bowl logos — XXXVI in New Orleans and XXXVII in San Diego. Both of those events were branded to be city-specific and we wanted to brand the Winter Meetings similarly. People are coming from all over the United States, to this one place, and we wanted the identity to reflect the destination. The first one we did, in New Orleans, had a jazz musician in it. 2004, in Anaheim, represented southern California’s car culture and Dallas 2005 had steer horns and barbed wire.
In the future, maybe we won’t be site specific. We’ve already done two in Orlando [site of the 2013 Meetings], so maybe we’ve already covered the appropriate visual references…Now we may be looking to do a logo that is more about baseball and the Winter Meetings than it is the destination. I don’t know if we’ll necessarily go that way, but it’s something that we’ve discussed.
Ben’s Biz: What was the thought process behind this year’s logo?
Dan Simon: Nashville is the Music City, of course, and 2007’s logo had a music theme as well….There are other things about Nashville, but that’s what people really know about it and so we wanted to re-visit that theme.
There’s also the Trade Show and Job Fair. Those are secondary logos, the children of the Winter Meetings logo, which is the main logo. They’re not meant to look exactly alike, but the Trade Show and Job Fair should look like they were born out of the primary Winter Meetings logo. We used a record-containing shape for the Trade Show and a guitar pick for the Job Fair, so it’s all music related. But it all starts with the jukebox.
The primary logo and its two “children”:
Thanks, Dan, for taking the time to speak with me. If you’d like to share something related to your experiences within the world of Minor League Baseball, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. (Seriously — if you hesitate I will be offended.)
The Aberdeen IronBirds must have been well-rested after the holiday weekend, because this morning they set (what I believe) is the record for the earliest new logo unveiling in the history of Minor League Baseball. Beginning at 6:15 a.m., noted baseball bros Cal and Bill Ripken (of IronBirds’ ownership group Ripken Baseball) embarked on a whirlwind early morning tour of local television stations in order to debut the team’s new logo for 2013 and beyond:
As any seasoned MiLB logo observer will be able to tell, the above mark is a Studio Simon creation. (The team relayed to me via Twitter that “the main design idea” came courtesy of Bill Ripken.) The bird seen above replaces the more overtly cartoonish anthropomorphic plane that previously served as the team’s primary logo.
The IronBird featured in the primary logo is even more prominently featured on the hat:
In a press release put out by the team, Bill Ripken employed three verbs over a five-word stretch in an attempt to explain the reason for the new logo. That’s no easy feat!
“The IronBirds are evolving to continue to remain on baseball’s leading edge,” said Bill Ripken, co-founder and executive vice president of Ripken Baseball. “This is why we wanted a fresh new look and feel to connect with families, and resonate with fans of all ages.”
Another team to have recently jumped aboard the new logo train are the Buffalo Bisons. The team’s previous blue-tinged logo made an overt attempt to highlight their affiliation with the New York Mets, but with the dissolution of that relationship the Bisons have instead chosen to assume an identity distinct of the parent club (which is now the Toronto Blue Jays).
This logo isn’t “new” so much as it is a callback to a look employed by Buffalo during the years 1988-97. Sez the team:
“It was important for us to reestablish our own team identity with our new logo. Our fans have continued to express their fondness of the red, white and blue logo from the late ’80s and early ’90s at the ballpark. We feel this new logo not only pays tribute to that history but gives the team an exciting new look for the future,” said Mike Buczkowski, Vice President/General Manager of the Bisons.
And far be it for me to gratuitously point out press release typos, but this one is really funny:
For the past four seasons, the Bisons adopted a blue and orange theme with a more atomically correct bison charging out of the city landscape.
And, finally, there are the West Michigan Whitecaps. The club has unveiled an array of supplemental looks in advance of their upcoming 20th anniversary campaign.
The “Olde English” logo will now serve as the team’s official road cap. And, wow, that alternate logo on the far right is certainly one of the more ridiculous to come down the pike this offseason. It takes the team’s long-standing primary logo and combines it with a tiger because, you know, the Detroit Tigers are the Whitecaps’ parent club. Here’s one more cut-and-paste job for you, before I end my blogging day:
“I’m excited about these new logos,” said Whitecaps president Scott Lane. “They strengthen the Whitecaps’ identity with the Detroit Tigers in a very literal way for our fans, who are also Tigers fans. I think the logos are a little more edgy and youthful and will appeal to the younger generation of fans.”
Thanks, as always, for your Ben’s Biz Blog patronage. I am evolving to continue to remain your #1 Minor League Baseball news source.
The nationwide fraternity of Minor League mascots added its newest member this past Friday, as the Pensacola Blue Wahoos unveiled this fella to his presumably adoring public:
You may remember that I wrote about this Blue Wahoo a few weeks back, when he was nothing more than an artist’s rendering in search of a name. He has since been bestowed with a moniker, and will forevermore be known as “Kazoo.” Interestingly, the Blue Wahoos are referring to Kazoo as a “fictional aquatic creature” despite the fact that he clearly exists.
The Blue Wahoos are entering their inaugural season, but thanks to the inexorable passage of time they’ll eventually be celebrating anniversary seasons of varying degrees of importance. And when they do, there’s a good chance that they’ll put in a call to Studio Simon. I was recently alerted to the fact that this Louisville-based logo powerhouse has had a hand in three recent anniversary marks, celebrating seasons from 10 to 20 to 60.
Aberdeen IronBirds, 10th Anniversary
I’d say that the above image is pretty much the definition of “self-explanatory.” So let’s move on.
Fort Myers Miracle, 20th Anniversary
Whereas the IronBirds mark needed no explanation, the above logo has a bit of a backstory. Dan Simon, the man behind the Studio Simon brand, reported in an email that:
The Miracle mark features the script font, and the teal and yellow color palette, that the team sported when they first moved from Miami to Fort Myers in 1992. In fact, the team wore those colors for at least several campaigns before the move, which means that it was them, and not the team formerly known as the Florida Marlins, who deserve credit for officially bringing teal onto the baseball branding landscape.
But wait, there’s more:
As part of their 20th anniversary celebration this season, the Fort Myers Miracle will be wearing throwback uniforms from 1992, their first year in Fort Myers after their move from Miami (a move necessitated by the fact that the Florida Marlins were taking over the Miami territory, starting in 1993).
The Miracle will be wearing the teal and yellow caps and jerseys for every Friday and Saturday home game during the 2012 season. There will be a season-long jersey auction that will conclude at the final home game on September 1, when the highest bidders will win the jerseys.
A portion of the proceeds from that auction will benefit the Dave Clark Foundation, which as Simon notes, should “make you ‘Glad All Over.‘” That one deserves a high 5!
Billings Mustangs 60th Anniversary
I did write about that one already, but the above image is superior to that which I had before. And here at Ben’s Biz Blog, you know we only settle for the very best.
One thing is bothering me, though: is there a word for “60th anniversary”? If this was a 50th anniversary then I’d have the chance to drop “quinquagenary” and 75 brings the opportunity for “dodranscentennial.” But, for now, I’m at a loss for words.
“New logo season”, that robust time of year in which fresh Minor League team emblems are unveiled to a salivating public, generally gets going in October and peaks in November.
But I know that there is a certain segment of Biz Blog readers who just can’t wait that long, as they seek new logos with a rapacious intensity that can never be satiated. I’ll aim for temporary placation, then, by sharing three new marks that I have recently come across in my seemingly endless sedentary internet travels.
First, and most extensive, is this Studio Simon effort on behalf of the Daytona Cubs. In 2012, the team will take the field in uniforms bearing these logos:
The timing of this might give one paws, as the logo was unveiled at the tail end of the season and with little accompanying publicity (not even a press release). But the early, albeit low-key, unveiling has led to a truly anomalous happenstance:
The D-Cubs went on to win this year’s Florida State League Championship, and the merchandise features the new logo despite the fact that the championship team in question never wore it.
At any rate, it’s time to say a fond farewell to the club’s old bear. This particular shades-wearing cub cultivated an air of studied detachment, and I loved him for it.
Meanwhile, the following news has emanated from far reaches of northern Michigan: the Great Lakes Loons will be celebrating their 5th Anniversary throughout the 2012 campaign, and a series of commemorative logos are most definitely part of the festivities. These quinquennial marks will be featured on “limited-edition merchandise, stadium signage, and other team-related items.”
Finally, let it be known that there is just one Minor League Baseball game left in the entire 2011 season — tomorrow’s Triple-A National Championship Game between the Columbus Clippers and Omaha Storm Chasers. That contest takes place in Albuquerque, but the 2012 version will be held in the impressive confines of Durham Baseball Athletic Park. The logo for said contest has been revealed and, quite frankly, it’s a load of Bull:
That’s all I’ve got for the time being, but in a few months you can bet your bottom (as well as your top and/or middle) dollar that we’ll be awash in new logos. It is the way of things.
The new logo train keeps right on a rollin’ — and this time the train’s running Express.
The Round Rock Express, who are entering their first season as a Texas Rangers affiliate after 11 years with Houston, unveiled new logos today. Those who have been following my logo-related blog posts over the past month should be able to tell that this is a Studio Simon creation all the way:
The above mark is the primary one, incorporating a cattle catcher and the Texas State flag. The team also notes that there will be new secondary marks, new colors and new uniforms. While blue and red continue as the Express colors, they now are in line with the Texas Rangers colors; the blue is a brighter royal blue, while the red remains unchanged. The new marks incorporate traditional Express elements, including a “train” theme and the Texas flag. The interlocking R logo remains as is save color alteration.
Here’s the “interlocking R logo”, alteRRed:
The “E-Train” cap logo, described by the club as a metallic E concaved upward with a cattle catcher at the bottom.
After two weeks of sustained internet hype, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have finally unveiled their new logos to an eager and waiting fan base. Or should I say uncoiled their new logos:
“We were looking to freshen up our look as well as bring in new elements,” said Rob Zerjav, Timber Rattlers team president. “The jersey logo is a little edgier than the past logo and we now have an alternate logo that does not incorporate the snake, which gives us some additional branding opportunities. We are also pleased to keep our very familiar ‘W with the snake wrap’ logo as this logo is what Timber Rattlers fans identify with and it continues to be one
of the most popular logos in all of Minor League Baseball.”
While the aforementioned alternate logo doesn’t incorporate Fang the snake, it is rather fang-like. I’d like to think that Teddy Roosevelt would have chosen this logo to adorn his cuff links:
Continues the press release: The new Timber Rattlers home jerseys will feature a silver ‘TIMBER’ placed on top of a maroon ‘RATTLERS’. The outer stems of the ‘A’ and the second ‘R’ in RATTLERS have been extended and curved to resemble the fangs of a snake.
Visual representation of the above text, featuring uniforms worn by eye-less, four-armed robo-men.
And, lest we forget, these new duds would make great Christmas gifts for all the reptile-loving Minor League Baseball aficionados in your household.
The Rattlers’ updated look was designed by Studio Simon, who seem to be one of only two logo design companies that Minor League teams will work with.
It’s certainly been a big week for logo news, and I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t share the following link. Dave Levy over at SportsGrid blog thinks he may have discovered the motivation for the Asheville Tourists’ ribs-eating moon logo.
Writes Levy: I’ve watched the SNL Best of Will Ferrell more times in my life than I can count, so there is only one possible thing in the world I think this could be a tip of the cap toward: Ferrell’s brilliant Harry Caray impression. As he asks, “It’s a simple question, doctor, would you eat the moon if it were made of ribs?
Plan B Branding designed the logo, and I emailed co-founder Jason Klein for comment on this most important issue. He played it coy, however, writing that he could “neither confirm or deny” Levy’s speculation.
Jeez, I’m exhausted after so much investigative reporting. Time to go take a nap.
But the Tourists’ renderings of hobo sport-playing, rib-eating celestial bodies weren’t the only new marks to emerge from the Minors yesterday. Or even from North Carolina.
The Kinston Indians, who are celebrating a quarter century as a Cleveland affiliate, unveiled new logos of their own:
The logo seen above replaces this:
While much remains similar, the big difference here is that Kinston is no longer using a Chief Wahoo-style caricature as part of its identity. It had been the last team to do so in the Minors (the Spokane Indians developed their latest mark after consulting with the local Spokane tribe, while the Indianapolis Indians switched to an abstract, somewhat psychedelic design in 1995).
But despite this significant change, the K-Tribe’s new look is aesthetically similar to the old one. This is duly noted in the press release:
“The new, fresh look updates the classic K-Tribe style that our fans love,” said Assistant General Manager Janell Bullock. “We blended together current favorites and updated some great designs we already had. New look, same tradition!”
A Feather In Your Cap (home hat):
The away caps feature a red “K”:
On the Road:
The logos are the work of — you guessed it — Studio Simon. I can’t remember the last new Minor League logo that wasn’t designed by either Studio Simon or Plan B Branding. Those two have the game on lockdown.
Those who work for Minor League Baseball teams have no say whatsoever when it comes to trades, free agency, and player development. Nonetheless, the flame of the industry’s hot stove is just as scorching as that which emanates from the Majors. It’s just heating up a different pot is all.
One big piece of news was made official yesterday, with the announcement that the franchise formerly known as the Portland Beavers will be playing in Tucson in 2011 (and, perhaps, beyond). More on that can be found HERE, and rest assured I’ll be providing updates on that situation as it progresses.
And as an aside — when I first started this blog a man by the name of Benny Hill would periodically email me his thoughts on the Tucson Sidewinders. You still out there, Benny? Your name is my name too, and I’d like to hear what you think about yesterday’s announcement.
Far more prevalent than franchise re-location are identity overhauls, featuring new logos and, in some cases, new team names. The Lake County Captains released their new marks on Wednesday, and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers continue to churn out numerically-obsessed promotional videos in anticipation of November 12’s grand unveiling.
On an even greater scale is the Omaha Royals, who will be announcing the results of their “Name the Team” contest on November 15.
I will say once again that my choice is “Omahogs.”
As for that which has already happened, the newly re-christened Jackson Generals have unveiled the logo for the 2011 Southern League All-Star Game. As with the Lake Captains logo, this is a Studio Simon effort:
Moving from logos to stadium renovations, the South Bend Silver Hawks have announced that Coveleski Stadium will be getting a $10 million facelift.
Speaking of improvements, the Toledo Mud Hens are making available a customized Firefox add-on browser.
Sez the team: The add-on is complete with a scrolling Hens’ news ticker, video and image updates, Hens’ downloads, and much, much more!
Are any other teams doing this? The Mud Hens are the first I’ve seen.
Finally, while I do my best to ignore Christmas-related endeavors until after Thanksgiving, the first item of the Williamsport Crosscutters’ “Eight Weeks of Cutters” gift guide caught my eye (and you know how painful that can be).
It’s the Boomer plush doll!
And — hey! — I almost forgot: It’s Gratuitous Video Friday! Today’s selection is an old promo for “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!”, one of the most funny, subversive, and ahead of its time TV shows ever made.
Hey Sony! Release more “Mary Hartman! Mary Hartman!” on DVD!
Also, you would have watched the “Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: In 3-D! On Ice!” that aired last night on Fox. In said special, there was a brief shot of Isotopes Park, home of the PCL’s Albuquerque Isotopes. The team’s name is inspired by The Simpsons, in particular the episode in which Homer stages a hunger strike in order to protest the Springfield Isotopes’ re-location to Albuquerque.
In my mind, this is the best team name backstory in all of Minor League Baseball. It also provides tremendous fodder for a documentary whose purpose is to explore the cultural impact of The Simpsons. But, alas, all viewers were treated to was one external shot of the stadium. This was disappointing, considering the fact that director Morgan Spurlock and his crew spent an entire August day at the ballpark interviewing fans and players. But that’s just the way these things go. Hopefully the club will get the recognition it deserves in 2020’s 30th Anniversary special.
In the interest of keeping things random, I’ll now move on to an entirely new topic: The Brooklyn Cyclones. The club will be celebrating its 10th season in 2010, and has just released a new logo commemorating this milestone. Observe, if you’re into that sort of thing:
The Cyclones’ always excellent blog has an interesting write-up on the logo, along with an exclusive look at those which did not make the final cut.
And speaking of logo design, I’d like to draw your attention to the just-launched Studo Simon blog. The Kentucky-based brand-identity firm has solidified itself as one of the top logo designers in all of Minor League Baseball, churning out crowd-pleasers such as THIS on a regular basis.
I shall close with yet one more nugget of random information: Chuck Smith has just been sworn in as mayor of Woodmere, Ohio. Smith pitched in the Minor Leagues for 15 seasons, and in 2008 served as pitching coach for the Lancaster JetHawks (he also spent time with the Florida Marlins in 2000 and 2001). Smith joins Yakima’s Dave Edler as the only mayor I can think of off the top of my head who had previously played professional baseball.
Who am I forgetting?