Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winners and losers of this off-season's MiLB rebrand frenzy

It's that special time of year when, in the midst of holidays and MLB hot stove, minor league teams have been launching new initiatives to spark interest and sell merchandise.

We've seen new colors, new nicknames, new uniforms and impending relocations getting the complete press release attention throughout the month of "Logovember" and beyond.

Let's take a look at some of the winners and losers of this off-season's newest brands and goods.

Some teams with local ties supplemented their current logos with updated colorways.  Reading went black while Lehigh Valley has gone gold.

Per a press release from the Triple-A Phillies affiliate, the IronPigs: "These uniforms represent what we as an organization think of our fans -- the 'Gold Standard' in Minor League Baseball," said Kurt Landes, President and General Manager of the IronPigs.



And via a release from the organization's Double-A affiliate, the Fightin' Phils shared: The Reading Fightin Phils announced the return of the R-Phils Black R-Train uniforms to be worn as part of Throwback Thursdays for the 2020 season...The black jerseys and hats were worn as an alternate home uniform during the early 2000's. Notable players to have worn these jerseys include Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.



I surveyed the ultimate media/fan hybrid known as "Kram" from renowned Lehigh Valley focused sports blog Noise Nation for his thoughts on the two Phils affiliates' barrage of merchandise and he offered the following remarks: "I love when the teams try new things and keep things fresh. It was a good idea to come out with this gear prior to the holidays, for gift-giving reasons. It's good that the organizations do this without sacrificing their 'brand identity'. I'll reserve judgement on the merits of the individual releases until I see them on the field--I was completely wrong about the 2019 R-Train R-Phils throwback until I saw it on the field."

Reading, of course, re-launched their former Reading Phillies "R-Phils" uniforms last season after a complete rebrand to the name Fightin' Phils back in 2012.

My thoughts are simply that these offerings look appealing.  The IronPigs are always superior with their logos, branding and merchandise at every turn, with the exception of their full blackout uniform from 2014 that, thankfully, has gone away and did not last very long.  Reading, when they stay away from food items like pretzels, wieners and Whoopie Pies, typically take the field with wonderful looks.

Thus far my favorite logo release of this off-season belongs to Reading, which also updated its Copa de la Diversion concept, which celebrates Hispanic heritage.  The design, which features a Mexican pro wrestling or luchador mask, jumps out to me, a long-time choreographed combat sport fanatic.



Outside of the Phillies organization, another favorite of mine this off-season would be the Tigers Class A short-season team the Norwich Sea Unicorns.  The logos feature a narwhal outfitted as a sea captain with an anchor and a bat-harpoon.  The navy blue and gold colors look remarkable and I immediately gave these logos and hats my approval. 


The Twins' Class A Advanced team in Ft. Myers, FL updated their Miracle name to the Mighty Mussels.  While the colors and logos strike me as having allure, the Mussels' physical mascot may very well leaving children running and hiding due to his scary appearance.



The primary loser is the Boston Red Sox's relocating Triple-A squad announcing a change to the nickname "Woo Sox".  While a name that abbreviates similarly to BoSox isn't the problematic issue, their logos are considerably weak and disappointing in a landscape where business and sales are the primary focus of minor league clubs.  The explanation I read about this logo choice was that the team's future home, Worcester, is the place where the smiley face was invented.  Okay.  If that's what your town is known for and that is your region's primary claim to fame, you've got it pretty tough and additional insights from me here would likely just be putting salt in the wound. 



Another update that strikes me as inadequate is the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate, the Wichita Wind Surge.  So many questions arise and, seemingly, fans hate the name.  Per the team's assistant general manager, some guy, "Wichita is the air capital of the world, and we're paying homage to the wind.  It's a might force."  Stop it right now, some guy!  Air capital?  Just stop making complete fools of everyone with ties to that team.



Other notable brand announcements from the current off-season are the Missouola PaddleHeads as well as the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.  Both of those are pretty decent.

While many of the updates and designs are handled by the same company, Brandiose, there are certainly hits and misses with the launch of fresh gear and modernized identities.  One remark from my friend Tug Haines really summed it up either way.  As he stated on Twitter this week, "Off-season minor league team Twitter is the try-hardiest."  It surely is.  Nobody tries harder and that's certainly an endearing quality of minor league baseball.

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