Manufactured Individuality


That I am a lover of localism, minor league baseball, and nostalgia, has been well established by now. And if my sentimentality is not enough to turn your stomach, let me add my love of “authenticity” to the list of pretensions.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the trend for the past 20 years has been an increasing “corporatization” of minor league baseball. One by one the old wooden, small town ball parks have been disappearing, as MLB pulls their affiliates into larger markets and looks to squeeze as much cash as they can out of their farm system. I understand that the economics of minor league baseball have changed irrevocably. The romantic day’s of long bus rides to Podunkville, and cold showers are things of the past, and today’s prospects are treated far better than they were 20, 30, or 40 years ago. However, I really am having a hard time accepting the heavy handed MLB branding initiatives that are going on behind the scenes in the minor leagues.

Here’s a link to the only site that I can find that gives a comprehensive overview of the problem.

I don’t think I am being a conspiracy nut about this, but as you look at these different caps & logo designs it’s apparent that there is just a small handful of design templates, and one MLB appointed graphic design firm at work here.

Compare the artwork in the following three logos. I call this template, the “Ginormous Mascot with Club” design

Clinton Lumberkings

Clinton Lumberkings

Lake County Captains

Lake County Captains

Trenton Thunder

Trenton Thunder

Then there is the “Mascot Peeking Through Initials” design template:

My Beloved Muckdogs

My Beloved Muckdogs

Binghampton Bees / Mets

Binghampton Bees / Mets

Greensboro Grasshoppers

Greensboro Grasshoppers

Finally, we have the most egregious of the designs. “The Anthropomorphic Cap”

Lake Elsinore Storm

Lake Elsinore Storm

Orem Owls

Orem Owls

Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

This last one is enough to give me feverish nightmares of the Amityville Horror.

I am happy to see that Minor League Clubs have begun to drop the practice of copying their MLB affiliates nicknames, and I applaud their attempts to somehow link the club to the uniqueness of the local community by choosing nicknames that somehow connect to the history of the area. However, the heavy handed, generic, corporate approach makes me want to retch. Do they think we are that stupid? Do they think we don’t notice, or care? Do they think we will be good little consumers and lap up whatever mass produced corporate pabulum they spew our way?

Apparently yes. The preponderance of garish cartoon mascots is getting out of hand. Honestly, they are stretching so hard to look “cute” and “marketable” it’s hard to take them seriously. If I were a player I would be embarrassed to wear any of these caps. Not even for ironic purposes, which as a Gen-xer, is firmly established to be the end all, be all of fashion statements (Case in point, in 2003 the AAA farm club of the Dodgers, in Albuquerque New Mexico nicknamed themselves the “Isotopes” after the fictional Springfield Isotopes from the TV show The Simpson’s, and experienced a huge increase in merchandise sales.)

Personally, I think the “Poochies” would have been more appropriate.

The Itchy, Scratchy, and Poochie Show!

The Itchy, Scratchy, and Poochie Show!

If MLB really wants to tie the teams to their communities, why can’t they let each organization choose it’s own name, its own logo, and its own look? Wouldn’t it be wiser to allow each team to contract with local graphic artists, and ad agencies to develop their own image instead of using a centralized, corporate overlord from MLB to sqeeze them all through the sausage maker of MLB dictated branding guidelines? I think going with local control over branding would allow the teams to forge closer ties to local companies, who will become sponsors, and advertisers, and marketing partners in the community.  The result would be not only better looking business, but better business.

There’s nothing wrong with a simple letter on a cap. It’s worked for over a hundred years, and it will likely work for a hundred more.

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2 thoughts on “Manufactured Individuality

  1. Agreed. Now explain to me why we speak glowingly of all of the ameneties at a new baseball stadium that have nothing to do with baseball?

  2. Pingback: Life after the Muckdogs? « 20 Prospect

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