Connect with us

General

Minor League Baseball’s Merchandise Enjoys Major League Sales

Minor League Baseball announced record-setting merchandise sales for 2017, with licensed goods surpassing $70.8 million for the first time in history.

John Collins

Published

on

merchandise

Earlier this summer, Minor League Baseball announced its record-setting merchandise sales for 2017, with licensed goods surpassing $70.8 million for the first time in history. This milestone marked a 3.6 percent rise over 2016 sales, which hit record-setting levels as well.

The tremendous popularity of MiLB merchandise is certainly understandable, given many of the unique names and creative logos you come across when canvassing teams around the league.

As MiLB Chief Operating Officer Brian Earle noted, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority.”

He attributed much of the league’s record-setting merchandise sales success to the teams themselves, as they “have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

If there’s one man qualified to speak about Minor League Baseball and its remarkably effective branding — which is what’s ultimately driving these record-setting merchandise sales — it would have to be Paul Caputo.

Not only is Caputo a regular contributor to the website SportsLogo.net, which covers a variety of leagues, teams, their logos, and branding, he’s also the author of an entire book devoted to sharing the stories surrounding the compelling identities of these Minor League Baseball teams.

Entitled “The Story Behind the Nickname: The Origins of 100 Classic, Contemporary, and Wacky Minor League Baseball Team Names,” Caputo’s book is basically a compendium outlining the success and effectiveness of Minor League Baseball’s branding and marketing that continues to drive fan interest and merchandise sales.

With unique names, fun logos, and an emphasis on creativity, teams throughout MiLB have been lauded over the years for their originality. Many times, as Caputo mentioned, fandom and merchandise purchases have absolutely nothing to do with any sort of team, franchise, or even location allegiance.

“By its nature, Minor League Baseball is less about the product on the field and more about the brand and fan experience. People are more likely to buy something fun and interesting without regard to the team affiliation or location.”

On a personal level, Caputo noted he owns “a handful of Las Vegas 51s gear, which I bought when they were a Dodgers affiliate and kept when they became a Mets farm club — even though I live in Colorado and root for the big-league Phillies.”

Yet, interestingly, it turns out the majority of these names and identities aren’t just concocted out of thin air. When Caputo first became interested in MiLB names and logos, he couldn’t help but think many of them were simply designed to be outrageous. As it turns out, when he started looking into it, the curious logo-hound discovered that he was “pleasantly surprised that not only did they have significance, they have a very particular meaning specific to the local community.”

Proving just how carefully conceived MiLB team identities are, Caputo explained the origins of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, pointing out that “the steel mills of eastern Pennsylvania forged pig iron and a team with a gritty, metallic logo is perfect for the area.”

Not only did the Lehigh Valley IronPigs capitalize on a clever name and cool logo, they made sure it had meaning and was designed with intention to really “forge” an effective identity.

Turns out other teams like the Akron RubberDucks and Binghamton Rumble Ponies have some interesting, compelling stories behind their branding and identity as well. The RubberDucks play in an area where the tire industry is prominent; the Rumble Ponies play in the Carousel Capital of the World. As Caputo pointed out, “every new Minor League name means something to the local community. For that reason, I do find them more interesting than MLB team names and logos.”

Each team’s identity and brand is designed with a very specific, deeply-rooted intention. It’s that strategy that makes the branding so effective, and merchandise so compelling. MiLB team names and logos really tap into fan passion and enthusiasm. Caputo recognized Jason Klein of Brandiose and Dan Simon of Studio Simon as the designers behind many of the league’s coolest logos.

Now, MiLB branding and marketing was obviously particularly salient and effective this year, driving a whopping total of merchandise sales across the league. Brian Earle credited much of that to Minor League Baseball’s licensing partners, such as New Era Cap, 47 Brand, Bimm Ridder, Majestic, Original Retro Brand, Nike, and others. As he stated, they’ve “continued to support the MiLB’s growth through innovative designs and a high-quality product that meets consumer demand, and has provided MiLB with a vehicle for current and future growth.”

In addition to that, 2017 saw an influx of what Caputo termed the “Whacky Era,” where teams are adopting temporary brands with food-based nicknames or connections to some sort of cultural heritage. Those temporary identities, like the Fresno Tacos, Staten Island Pizza Rats, and Trenton Pork Rolls, lend themselves to the creation of additional lines of merchandise enabling fans to express themselves.

There has also been the Spanish-language Copa initiative that saw many teams temporarily rebrand with a more Hispanic identity, like the Durham Bulls becoming the “Toros,” and Albuquerque Isotopes the “Mariachis.” These temporary rebrands and promotional uniforms create an additional sales stream for MiLB merchandise.

Looking at the list of the Top 25 teams leading the way in sales published by MiLB, there are some interesting notes to point out.

  • Six teams have made the list every year.
  • They seem to have been able to capitalize on team history, nostalgia, and established brand passion.
  • Eight teams made the 2017 list after not making it the previous year; many of which include rebrands like the creation of the Hartford Yard Goats and the Jacksonville Suns becoming the Jumbo Shrimp. 
  • Four major league teams had two affiliates reach the Top 25. No word yet on whether or not that success has any carryover to the minor league farm system. 

Below is the list in its entirety in alphabetical order, as MiLB does not provide order by rankings:

Top 25 MiLB Merchandise Sales

Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies, Triple-A)

Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays, Triple-A)

Charlotte Knights (White Sox, Triple-A)

Columbia Fireflies (Mets, Single-A)

Columbus Clippers (Indians, Triple-A)

Durham Bulls (Rays, Triple-A)

El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres, Triple-A)

Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres, Single-A)

Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers, Double-A)

Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies, Double-A)

Indianapolis Indians (Pirates, Triple-A)

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins, Double-A)

Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies, Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds (Athletics, Triple-A)

New Orleans Baby Cakes (Marlins, Triple-A)

Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals, Triple-A)

Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox, Double-A)

Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies, Double-A)

Rochester Red Wings (Twins, Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats (Giants, Triple-A)

Salt Lake Bees (Angels, Triple-A)

South Bend Cubs (Single-A)

Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners, Triple-A)

Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers, Triple-A)

Trenton Thunder (Yankees, Double-A)

A Communication major from the University of Southern California, with eclectic experience in the sports, business, and the entertainment industry, John Collins is the baseball writer at Front Office Sports. An avid sports fan and highly opinionated writer, John is of the firm belief that Bull Durham is far superior to Field of Dreams and looks forward to you telling him otherwise. Reach out: John@frntofficesport.com any time!

General

Adam Silver Wants More Gender Diversity

The NBA commissioner states his desire to get more women into the sports industry. The NBA currently has a 31.6 percent ratio of women in team management.

Front Office Sports

Published

on

adam-silver-gender-diversity

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

If Adam Silver has his way, 50 percent of the new incoming NBA officials will be women.

That number applies to coaches too, Silver said speaking at the Economic Club of Washington.

How do the leagues stack up?

The following numbers, outside of MLB, come from 2018 reports put together by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida. MLB is the first league to have a report done on it this year.

1. NBA – 31.6% of team management are women / 37.2% of team professional admins are women

2. NFL – 22.1% of team senior admins are women / 35% of team professional admins are women

3. MLB – 28.6% of team senior admins are women / 26% of team professional admins are women

4. MLS – 26.5% of team senior admins are women / 31.6% of team professional admins are women

5. WNBA – 48.6% of team VPs and above are women / 58% of team managers to senior directors are women

6. NHL – No report done

Quotes from Silver… 

“It’s an area, frankly, where I’ve acknowledged that I’m not sure how it was that it remained so male-dominated for so long. Because it’s an area of the game where physically, certainly, there’s no benefit to being a man, as opposed to a woman, when it comes to refereeing.”

“The goal is going forward, it should be roughly 50-50 of new officials entering in the league. Same for coaches, by the way. We have a program, too. There’s no reason why women shouldn’t be coaching men’s basketball.”

That’s not all Silver wants to see change…

Silver, who has been adamant about getting rid of the one-and-done rule, provided some clarity as to when that might be achieved.

According to the commissioner, the 2022 NBA Draft will likely be the first one since the 2005 NBA Draft to allow high school players to go straight into the league rather than playing a season in college first.

Citing “active discussions” with the NBPA, Silver noted that they are still “a few years away.”

Continue Reading

General

“I Thought This Was a Good Deal”: AAF Vendors Speak Out

Amidst the spring football league’s collapse, countless vendors are still waiting to get paid for services rendered.

Robert Silverman

Published

on

aaf-stiffed-vendors

Ultimately, it was the little things that best told the story of how dire things had gotten for the Alliance of American Football (AAF), an ex-team social media manager said. Starting in Week Five, social media managers no longer traveled with the team for road games. Even before, they’d doubled up on hotel rooms. The final bit of penny-pinching was the most bizarre: For the eighth and final AAF game, social was told Getty’s photographers would not be in attendance. Instead they would have to rely on “generic images,” making the job vastly more difficult.

Less than a week later, on April 2, the chaotic, short-lived lifespan of the spring professional football league, launched in March 2018 by filmmaker Charlie Ebersol, the son of venerated TV producer Dick Ebersol, came to an abrupt end. A little over two weeks after that, the AAF filed for bankruptcy, as first reported by Front Office Sports.

In the aftermath, stories like the social media manager’s have become ubiquitous. A  former player was sent a medical bill for treatment received during training camp. Scores of others reportedly had to cover their own airfare or were sent four-figure bills for hotel rooms. There was the class-action lawsuit filed by two players, claiming that ownership misled them about the league’s long-term fiscal solvency. Founders pointed fingers at one another after the debt-ridden league came crashing down. All manner of now ex-employees, from team officials to players,  learned they were out of a job thanks to social media.

The league’s bankruptcy filing revealed that $48.3 million was still owed to a variety of creditors against a $11.3 million in concrete assets, a scant $536,160.68 of which remained in the league’s bank accounts. Moreover, the AAF informed the thousands of creditors that any attempts to recoup their losses would be pointless right now, because, per Sports Business Journal, its coffers are entirely bare… “If it later appears that assets are available to pay creditors, the clerk will send you another notice telling you that you may file a proof of claim and stating the deadline,” the filing states.

But like the social media manager, many of those selfsame creditors began to suspect the AAF was on rocky financial ground long before the league officially pulled the plug.

Shortly after Tom Dundon, the majority owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, who built his financial empire on the backs of subprime auto loans, bought a majority share of the financially-strapped league, he started to cut corners, looking to pare down expenses by any means necessary according to a report by Sports Illustrated. “As soon as Dundon took over, our f——— expense reports were getting approved out of Dallas,” where Dundon Capital Partners’ office is located, a former mid-level AAF employee told the magazine. (Dundon did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent via the Carolina Hurricanes. The form to contact Dundon Capital Partners on their website was removed at some point in the past few months )

With the AAF bleeding millions each and every week it remained in existence, per USA Today, Dundon deemed it necessary to scrimp and save wherever possible including on the margins. So vendors—companies that supplied locker room supplies, traveling equipment and more—were approached hat in hand and offered less than the full amount owed by the AAF.

READ MORE: AAF Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

While AAF officials served as the point of contact, two sources involved with the negotiations told Front Office Sports that the debt-clearing plan was conceived and ordered by Dundon’s financial team. If that meant exploiting AAF officials’ pre-existing relationships with vendors and playing on the faith placed in the league, so be it. As one former AAF official told Front Office Sports, it was “just a shit situation.”

Some of the companies did take the lowball offers, but others refused to accept less, insisting on full payment. It didn’t matter. Both paths led to vendors getting stiffed by the AAF. Dundon’s financial team kept stalling, promising the equivalent of “the check’s in the mail,” right up until the moment when the AAF closed its doors for good.

Now those vendors have been reduced to poring over the bankruptcy filings. They know all too well that, despite being out five or six figures, they’re way at the back of the line, trailing giant conglomerates like MGM and Aramark which are owed millions. And they’re not happy about it.

“I definitely feel scammed,” one vendor said.

(more…)

Continue Reading

General

Team IMPACT Aims to Make Bigger Ripples in College Communities

The eight-year-old nonprofit has big plans to continue impacting children, their families and college communities throughout the country.

Avatar

Published

on

Team IMPACT Colleges

Photo Courtesy Team IMPACT

Team IMPACT has already connected 1,700 children to more than 600 schools and 50,000 student-athletes, but there are even bigger plans on the horizon for the nonprofit that works to alter children’s lives.

Team IMPACT  began with the goal of influencing the lives of children suffering from chronic or life-threatening illnesses, with an eye toward creating a ripple effect within their communities. Team IMPACT partners a child aged 5-through-16 with an athletic team for at least two years to help increase their confidence and reduce stresses like anxiety, depression and social isolation that often accompany their illnesses.

Founded in 2011 by Dan Kraft and Jay Calnan, the organization has come a long way, and now Team IMPACT CEO Seth Rosenzweig said it’s time to elevate the program’s mission to the next level.

“We’ve done a lot to evolve the program from a nice organization to a truly impactful one,” Rosenzweig said. “It’s in our name, so we should be able to live by it.”

READ MORE: 26 x 26 Targets Unprecedented Philanthropy for 2026 World Cup

To that end, the organization now has three target populations: the children, their families and college athletics. For the children, the program hopes to build confidence and establish a sense of belonging. For families, it’s meant to decrease anxiety and foster a supportive environment. The athletes, meanwhile, are taught empathy and civic mindfulness.

“If we do it right, we get a win-win-win,” Rosenzweig said.

Children are matched with teams throughout the year, with visits at games and hospitals several times during the season as well as during the offseason. The University of Michigan drafted Larry Prout, who became a national story and Team IMPACT’s most visible effort in 2017. Prout is a perfect example of how the children become part of the team and affect an entire collegiate community.

“They really become family,” University of Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel said. “They become a part of the team. And when you’re a student-athlete and you think things are so hard in life, it just puts it in perspective and just helps our student-athletes understand that their connection and the way that they give to the community is so important.”

Overall, Team IMPACT Director of Programs Amy VanRyn said there are nearly 1,500 NCAA and NAIA schools the program potentially can partner with to become a default piece of the athletic program.

“The approach we’ve taken is holistic,” VanRyn said. “We want to build a relationship with an entire campus as much as we can.”

VanRyn believes that, as Team IMPACT’s mission becomes ingrained in a school’s athletic community, it will continue to build organically as a piece of the program’s culture. Schools like Merrimack, UMass-Lowell and UConn all have nearly a dozen children matched every year.

“Once the baseball team is matched, the softball team wants it,” she said. “The competitive nature of athletes hasn’t once hurt us. That’s really how the partnerships on a campus-level start.”

VanRyn says the next step is at the conference level. Team IMPACT announced a partnership with the East Coast Conference and Great Midwest Athletic Conference on Tuesday, who will undertake a “combined effort” to support the organization annually.

“This is a great opportunity for our lacrosse-playing schools to highlight our men’s contests, bring some more attention to Division II Men’s Lacrosse and contribute to Team IMPACT, an outstanding organization that is helping so many young people across the country,” East Coast Commissioner Robert Dranoff said in a statement.

Team IMPACT has also launched a fellowship program for its student-athletes through Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. VanRyn hopes the program can serve as both professional and personal development opportunities for student-athletes who miss internships and study abroad opportunities while in-season. The fellowship program will also grow Team IMPACT’s influence, she said, and potentially foster more inter-campus and inter-conference collaborations.

An inter-school partnership of sorts has already emerged, as Merrimack and UMass-Lowell have established an annual home-and-home hockey series for the Team IMPACT families. “A lot of these families identify within a disease community or a hospital,” VanRyn said. “This gives them a different community to be a part of.”

Increasing the organization’s geographic footprint might be its greatest goal of all. Originally founded in Boston, Team IMPACT’s presence is still largely restricted to the Northeast. Rosenzweig said a large majority of the funding comes from the Boston area, including its annual Game Day Gala, which brings supporters like New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and wide receiver Julian Edelman and University of Michigan men’s basketball head coach John Beilein.

Rosenzweig hopes to take Team IMPACT national with an eventual $60 million budget, which would represent a massive increase over its current $5.5 million number, which itself is a sizable step up from its $1.25 million operating budget in 2015-16. The target budget includes $2,500 per child for Team IMPACT’s 3,000-child goal by 2022, with an eye toward continued growth.

READ MORE: Oklahoma Baseball Use Effective Communication To Create Positive On-Campus Experiences

To do that, Rosenzweig knows the organization likely needs to look at diversifying and increasing its corporate, university and medical institution partnerships. Team IMPACT has also piloted four regional staffing infrastructure plans in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Philadelphia. Within the next five years, he’d like to add seven regions, including Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Denver and Kansas City or St. Louis, with the growth then projecting into sub-regions.

“We’re at an exciting moment as an organization,” he said.

It’s an ambitious one, too. But Team IMPACT is ready to live up to its name. 

Continue Reading

Trending