In a season that saw multiple rebrands across Minor League Baseball, the Down East Wood Ducks (High A; Carolina League) snared the 2017 Ballpark Digest award for Best New Logo/Branding of the Year. Brandiose stepped in to help the team create what has become a beloved, signature look.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen a photo of a wood duck but they have these beautiful, vibrant colors which Brandiose helped bring to life,” said Dominic Cotroneo, the Wood Ducks Director of Broadcasting and Media. “Green and black are our primary colors with orange and yellow as our secondary colors. The name and logos have been received extremely well.”
Initially there was backlash over using Down East instead of Kinston in the team’s name, but that has subsided as the community has grown to embrace the moniker.
“We consider ourselves the baseball team for Eastern North Carolina. It’s the smallest city to have a full-season team in all of minor league baseball. We love Kinston and do a lot within the Kinston community but we wanted to appeal to everyone in the area,” Cotroneo said. “There are a lot of small towns within a 30-minute drive of Kinston and we wanted those fans to feel like it was their team too.”
After announcing their name, logos, and colors, the Wood Ducks looked at ways to expand the brand’s reach to bring in more fans. That also meant a strong branding presence in Grainger Stadium.
“We had so much help getting the brand out there. Bill Ellis with the Kinston Parks and Recreation department was extremely helpful. He does so much with our community. He talked to our GM Wade Howell and the two of them thought of ways we could plaster Kinston with Wood Ducks.”
With the help of the city, the Wood Ducks logo found its way to the town water tower past the outfield fence, the concrete leading to the concourse, and a few other places.
“Our bathrooms are even branded. Instead of them saying men and women, they say drakes and hens. The we have wood duck facts located throughout the concourse. Everyone loves it.”
How much do they love it? According to Cotroneo, merchandise sales have been incredible.
“About three to four weeks before the season started, we had lots of people coming into the office to ask if our merch store was open because they wanted to stock up on gear. Opening night was fantastic,” Cotroneo said. “The park was packed and lots of people wear wearing hats and jerseys. We sold out of hats halfway through the season and had to order more.”
And while the logos have been popular, the jerseys have garnered their fair of attention as well.
“One night we gave away 1,000 replica jerseys. We opened the gates at 4:30 for a 6 p.m. game and there was a line of at least 2,000 people wrapping around the ballpark,” Cotroneo said.
It’s been a successful year for the Wood Ducks, including a league co-championship. But for the front office, seeing everything come together with great reactions from the community makes them even more excited for 2018.
“When baseball left Kinston, it left on a sour note and the community felt left behind. The fans have come back in droves and we’ve had strong support this season,” Controneo said. “We are successful by making our fans feel at home. We try to make them feel like they are hanging out with neighbors and there happens to be a baseball game. We have so much planned for 2018 and we can’t wait to share it with them.”
As noted, this was a good year for MiLB branding, and this was one of the toughest decisions we made this award season. We want to recognize two other rebranding efforts with Honorable Mentions.
First: the new logo and branding unveiled by the Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). The new logo is both retro and local, with a reference to parent St. Louis Cardinals as well. “The passion surrounding our ‘Authentically Memphis’ rebrand has been overwhelming from the moment we introduced it,” Memphis Redbirds President/General Manager Craig Unger said. “Being able to connect both with the excitement surrounding the City of Memphis and the history of the St. Louis Cardinals was at the forefront of our design process, and fans embraced this model from day one. We cannot wait to grow and evolve the brand in the coming seasons.”
Second: the rebranding of the New Orleans Zephyrs to the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). A tribute to the Mardi Gras king cakes where small plastic babies are sought after, “Baby Cakes” represents a new Louisiana tradition and underscores a fighting spirit and dedication to family fun. The new identity encompasses many Mardi Gras themes, starting with the team colors of mixing the Zephyrs’ dark navy blue with gold, purple and green. The primary logo is a baby, wearing a crown, emerging from a king cake while swinging a baseball bat. “We are proud that Baby Cakes Nation and our logo has been embraced,” said Baby Cakes President Lou Schwechheimer. “It has been amazing to see divers in Honduras, Mountain Climbers in Nepal, cyclists in Paris and Cakes fans throughout Louisiana proudly sending us photos from their travels across the globe showing their NOLA pride.”
One last note: the logo and branding for the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League), and a recognition caught up in circumstances. The team began play in 2016, but ballpark issues forced the team to play the entire season on the road. With the opening of Dunkin’ Donuts Park this season, we saw the branding in action. So the logo was unveiled in one year and the ballpark branding in another. Both were outstanding, albeit unveiled over two award seasons, and worthy of mention.
2017 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
Best Ballpark Renovation (MiLB): Fluor Field, Greenville Drive
Broadcasters: Howard Kellman and Mick Gillespie
Past Ballpark Digest Logo/Branding of the Year winners:
2016: Columbia Fireflies
2015: Daytona Tortugas
2014: Akron RubberDucks
2013: Hillsboro Hops
2011: Joliet Slammers
2010: Richmond Flying Squirrels