Prediction: Bulls vs. Nuts in the Finals

A logo competition for baseball fans and marketers

When the Akron Aeros, AA minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, changed its name to the Akron Rubber Ducks in 2014, I thought maybe the team had slid a little too far to the left in the minor league baseball silliness scale (which until now existed only in my head). 

 

Silliness Scale

I was wrong. There may not be a “too far to the left” in the minor league baseball silliness scale. The sillier the better. Just ask the venerable Toledo Mud Hens, whose quirky name was immortalized in the TV show MASH, or the more recent Daytona Tortugas or Lehigh Valley Ironpigs.

There is an art to minor league team naming and it now appears to involve stepping right up to the edge of normalcy—and then taking at least one purposeful step further into the unexpected or outrageous.

Nailing it is no small matter because the right name can have a big impact on the profitability of a team. Minor league clubs depend on revenue from attendance and merchandise. Zany events that drive attendance have long been part of the minor league landscape—the Rubber Ducks have Zoolander Night coming up. Now, that approach is being applied to naming to drive merchandise sales.

It seems to be working. Offbeat, nontraditional names sell more merchandise to both the team’s own fan base and to general baseball fans who can buy gear off the Internet that was once only available at the ballpark.

Want to show you’re a baseball insider? Walk around Columbus, Ohio, with an Albuquerque Isotopes ball cap.

The challenge is, as more teams adopt quirky, peculiar names, the bar raises for quirky and peculiar. Teams have to get more creative or more outrageous to get noticed.

Which, by the way, is exactly what is happening in marketing these days. As more brands publish more content we all have to fight harder to get noticed, just like a minor league baseball team.

In fact, minor league baseball can be seen as a kind of “marketing microcosm” where the proven and traditional mingle and compete with the new and nontraditional in an immediate and measurable way.

That’s just one of the aspects that makes Baseball America’s 2015 Minor League Logomania—a 32-team bracket that asks fans to pick the best logo in the minor leagues—so interesting and so much fun. The Mud Hens, Isotopes, Rubber Ducks and Inronpigs are all represented.

If you love baseball or logo design, you owe it to yourself to visit the voting page for the first round of the tournament.

Here in Columbus, we’re rooting for those Rubber Ducks, but you can make your own picks. As the tournament progresses, we’ll see whether traditional brands, like the Durham Bulls, can still compete with upstarts like the Modesto Nuts for the attention—and the merchandise dollars—of baseball fans.

And then we’ll try to figure what it all means for the future of minor league team names—and marketing.

 

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