Baseball traditionalists beware. Protect thy eyes for this post will surely burn them with the power of a thousand Brandiose winged-devil-sun-dogs.
At least six minor league teams will field new nicknames over the next two seasons, with four of those teams having already revealed their finalists. As expected, there isn’t a Chief, Bear, Hawk, Sox, Brave or any other name that teams used to roll out. Instead, the future names of these four teams are bound to be bizarre and illicit a furious response from their supporters, as well as local headline writers and national bloggers. This, we know, is all part of the grand name-the-team plan.
Exactly when the craze of teams rebranding as food arrived in minor league baseball is not clear. Perhaps it was the IronPigs adopting alternative bacon logos.
Or maybe it was the Fresno Grizzlies, home of the biggest taco food truck celebration in baseball, sporting some mighty cool Tacos jerseys.
Either way, the fad has become a phenomenon in minor league baseball.
The Staten Island Yankees, with their season-opener in the New York-Penn League around the corner, have joined the food fray and will become the Staten Island Pizza Rats for their five home games on Saturday nights this season.
The new Amarillo franchise set to make its debut in the Texas League next season announced the five finalists for its new name earlier this week. As expected, the choices are hardly traditional, which of course is the new minor league tradition.
Whether people love or hate the idea of a baseball team being named the Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky, Long Haulers or Sod Poodles is not really the issue. What matters is that people are talking about it, that local and national media are reporting on it, and that fans are visiting the team’s website to vote on it.
This is all part of the Brandiose tried-and-true formula for launching a new franchise. The company that has worked with 63 minor league teams on their identities and is responsible for leading the minors down this path of silliness has followed this script for more than a decade to help introduce everything from a Jumbo Shrimp to a Flying Squirrel. Brandiose’s golden rule: Attract attention. It’s key to building a brand.
Minor league baseball hasn’t been the same since Jason Klein and Casey White arrived nearly two decades ago and began reshaping the industry by designing team names and logos with a flair for the outrageous. The lifelong friends from San Diego have taken their company Brandiose to new heights, working with roughly half of the sport’s teams and leading the industry that strives for family-friendly entertainment to a new level of silliness.
Brandiose has created many of minor league baseball’s top-selling (and most outrageous) brands, including the El Paso Chihuahuas, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Omaha Storm Chasers and Richmond Flying Squirrels. Their approach has not been embraced by everyone, with some observers questioning whether teams are going too far off the beaten path, but Klein and White wouldn’t want it any other way.
What follows is my conversation with Klein on how Brandiose has evolved while changing minor league baseball, and what the future might hold for himself and White, and minor league baseball as an industry. The transcript has been edited in parts for clarity.
Your story is pretty well known within the Minor League Baseball community, beginning with landing your first client, the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, out of college. What was that experience like and how did it shape your careers?
Being so close to Disney growing up, we loved the idea that a story transported you to another world. We took that approach of storytelling with our work and built the brand around a character named “Gem Dandy.” We didn’t really know what the Diamond Jaxx was [about], so we invented this additional story about the diamond mines in the hills of Tennessee.
The brand was great, a lot of visual elements to the story, pickaxes, the character had a handlebar mustache like the Pringles man, which had the naming rights to the park. But there are no diamond mines in the hills of Tennessee. So, I think that was the biggest lesson, that you have got to do your research. So from that point forward, we started travelling and doing on-site research for every brand we created.