Rumble Ponies, Baby Cakes, Jumbo Shrimp, and Fire Frogs. These are the four new nicknames for Minor League Baseball teams headed into the 2017 season. Are they different, more outrageous names? Yes. However, when Minor League Baseball is full of names like Biscuits, Mud Hens, Isotopes, Yard Goats, and Muck Dogs, teams have to find a way to get their brand to stand out, even if it is controversial.
The Florida Fire Frogs not only had to deal with rebranding, but also with moving their entire organization.
Before landing in their new home of Kissimmee, Florida, as the A-Advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, the Fire Frogs were known as the Brevard County Manatees and were the A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The new name came from a mixture of two fan submissions: Fireflies and Coquis. Coquis is a frog native to Puerto Rico, a country in which many of Kissimmee’s residents trace their heritage, according to milb.com.
The goal of the rebrand was not only to bring the community together to games, but to also have the brand reach beyond the border limits of Kissimmee with the inclusion of Florida in the name.
The Double-A affiliate of the Mets changed from the Binghamton Mets to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies to tap into the city’s standing as the “Carousel Capitol of the World,” according to milb.com.
In another article from Minor League Baseball, it was stated that Jacksonville changed its nickname from the Suns to the Jumbo Shrimp to tie into the community.
General Manager Harold Craw stated in his interview with milb.com that, “The Jumbo Shrimp brand is built directly from Jacksonville’s community heritage and allows us to integrate and bring to life what we are about…affordable, family fun.”
Perhaps the biggest and most controversial of the rebrands came out of New Orleans, where the Zephyrs changed their name to the Baby Cakes.
The name and the logo had mixed reviews. For some, it went too far even in the crazy world of Minor League Baseball.
The Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins went one step further, though, as each child born in Louisiana this year will get lifetime passes to Baby Cakes games and one baby will win full tuition for four years to the Louisiana college of their choosing, according to ballparkdigest.com.
So why rebrand? Why spend the money to remake merchandise, uniforms, signage, advertisements, etc.?
It just so happens to be extremely successful. According to ballparkdigest.com, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Akron RubberDucks, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, El Paso Chihuahuas and Biloxi Shuckers have all rebranded in recent years and all were in the top 25 of MiLB merchandise sales in 2014 and 2015.
We have already seen success from the Baby Cakes. Senior Vice President and General Manager Cookie Rojas stated in an interview with wwltv.com that after five weeks of the name being changed, the team surpassed sales from all of 2015. The franchise was always in the bottom half of sales in the MiLB. Now, they are in the top 10.
It is also worth nothing, that upon a simple Google search of each team, the first thing to show up for 3 of the 4 was a link to the team store.
What seems to make a successful rebrand in Minor League Baseball is outrageous nicknames.
One of the more recent obsessions has been with the Montgomery Biscuits, as you can preorder a hat that is actually designed to look like a biscuit.
The four teams that have completely rebranded for the upcoming season, don’t just feature absurd names with no meaning, they all came as a result of wanting to tie the team into the community.
The Fire Frogs have the tie-in to the Puerto Rican heritage of Kissimmee and the Rumble Ponies pay tribute to the six carousels found in Binghamton.
The Jumbo Shrimp tap into the water and cuisine found in Jacksonville, along with the fun environment that baseball brings, while the Baby Cakes embody all that is Mardi Gras, with the colors and the tradition that small, plastic babies found in king cakes for the holiday.
With every team finding a way to make their new name actually mean something to the people that live around the ballpark, it will be interesting to see how it reenergizes the communities around the team, and around Minor League Baseball in general.