In November, the New Orleans Zephyrs became the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), prompting a lot of different reactions, not just in New Orleans but in the entire sports community. Those reactions have translated into strong merchandise sales, and boosted the team’s overall brand in the community. It’s exactly what senior vice president and general manager Augusto “Cookie” Rojas said the team had in mind when they it considered the rebrand back in March of 2016.
“We knew we wanted to have a reboot and have something that is unique to New Orleans. New Orleans has a unique culture and we knew that would translate into some interesting ideas.”
When it was announced that the team was looking at new names, the submissions poured in.
“At one point, we had over 3,000 submissions through social media and our website,” Rojas said. “From there, we narrowed it down to 100 ideas and then down to seven. Some of the most popular were the Night Owls, the Tailgators, and the Baby Cakes.”
One of the other team names that made the final cut was the King Cakes, but Rojas saw the Baby Cakes as a chance to bring more to the table.
“Baby Cakes gave us a chance to animate the brand beyond the realm of pastry. When you hear the name, it lets your imagination run wild. When you hear a name like Baby Cakes, people came up with so many interpretations of what it could mean.”
Listening to people’s interpretations and thoughts surrounding the potential team names was a lot of fun for Rojas who heard a lot of feedback over the course of the 2016 season in the ballpark and in the community.
“I would walk around the stadium during games and sometimes sit down and listen to people’s conversations. I would walk into our gift shop and hear people talking about the names. The one that kept coming up was Baby Cakes,” Rojas said. “I was at a meeting and people said they didn’t like the Baby Cakes name, but when I asked them which name they liked better, they couldn’t remember any of the other team names. Baby Cakes was a name that kept resonating.”
The Baby Cakes name was formally announced at the end of November. The team transformed its batting cages to create an event space for 500 people who came to see the announcement.
“We scouted for locations all over New Orleans trying to find a place to host the event. It was a great call by our owner Lou [Schwechheimer] who suggested we host it in-house,” Rojas said. “It was a great event and went off without a hitch. We were so happy to get the reaction that we did. We had been brainstorming for months and announcing it was like a sigh of relief. After all that anticipation, it became excitement because now we have to deliver on our brand.”
Since then, merchandise sales have gotten a huge boost. In just four months since the announcement, the team has already surpassed sales from the entire 2016 season and that Baby Cakes gear has popped up around the country.
“I was doing a race in Mississippi last weekend. I was in the car with my wife and daughters and spotted a man with a Baby Cakes hat on from the car,” Rojas said. “Then I was running in the race wearing a Baby Cakes shirt and a man passed me running the other way wearing a Baby Cakes shirt. And walking through Mardi Gras seeing people wearing hats and shirts that we helped create is an amazing feeling.”
Rojas said the teams ticket sales, group sales, corporate sales, and sponsorships have all increased as well showing the community’s support for the new brand.
“The majority of our merchandise sales have been to people within 50 miles of our stadium which shows the support from our local community,” Rojas said. “They’re committed to what we started here. There have been fans who have told me they’ve been to a game but it’s been a really long time. This season feels like it will be an open house where we can weave ourselves back into the fabric of this community.”
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