New uniforms and merchandise available at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs team store. (Photo by Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs fans can smell the change. The Minor League Baseball team spent 10 months putting together a rebranding strategy to keep them at the top of merchandise sales in the league. Team management decided to stick with their reputation of quirky and fun — this is the team that brought us urinal gaming systems and a funeral giveaway, after all — but also embrace designs that paid tribute to the local community. To top it off, consumer merchandise includes a scratch-and-sniff bacon T-shirt, as well as the team’s bacon cap, which sold to all 50 states within 36 hours of launching.
“We’ve been blessed to be in the top 10 merchandise sales for Minor League Baseball all six years that we’ve been a team, so we didn’t want to change what we thought was a foundation for success,” said GM Kurt Landes. “We’re a very bold, unique and creative franchise deeply rooted in the community, so took those themes and came up with three different logos, which are highlighted in three different uniforms.”
The team worked with Brandiose to design the new logos. The companies have an ongoing relationship, with Brandiose having created the original IronPigs logo and continuing to help develop designs for promotions throughout the year.
Friday’s uniform hearkens back to the area’s steel-making heritage and features an IronPigs pig head logo essentially dipped in molten ore. Friday is also fireworks night at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa., home of the IronPigs, which factored into the decision to use the hot metal logo for that day.
“We thought it would be cool if it really looked like this pig was forged,” said Jason Klein of Brandiose, who added that, though black isn’t an official color, it really stands out and helps to tell the story of liquid, molten iron.
Sunday’s uniforms highlight the team’s relationship with Philadelphia, their MLB affiliate, by using the Liberty Bell as a logo with some minor IronPigs changes. The bell design shows the Liberty Bell on an I-beam and the addition of rivets to the crack in the bell. In another tie to the area and as a brief history lesson, Landes said the Liberty Bell was actually stored in Allentown during the revolutionary war to keep it safe from the British.
And finally, bacon.
The official Saturday uniforms feature bacon. (Photo by Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
The theme for Saturday’s uniforms, featuring a bacon strip hat with “IronPigs” hidden in the marbling, has gotten the most publicity. The players will also wear pants with a bacon strip design down the side, replacing traditional pin-stripes.
“With the bacon theme, we thought, ‘Let’s go all out,’ said Klein. “Whatever it takes to make our teams famous.”
The popularity of the bacon theme has led to conversations about a bacon festival for later in the season, as well as other bacon-themed nights.
Since the launch Feb. 24, more than 3,000 bacon caps have been ordered, as well as close to 1,500 scratch-and-sniff T-shirts. There were more than 1,000 overall orders in the first 48 hours of products being available.
“It’s always the goal when you come up with a mark or logo to appeal to the fan, but it’s also the goal to appeal to a wide group of people,” said Jon Schaeffer, director of new media for Lehigh Valley IronPigs. “We’re appealing to a pop culture phenomenon and the current phase that is kind of bacon-oriented.”
In order to ramp up excitement about the new change, the team launched the Smell the Change campaign. A multimedia marketing campaign featuring sizzling strips of bacon with “#smellthechange” and “coming 2.24.14” played a part in the launch’s success.
“We didn’t just have people talking about it just after the announcement, they were talking about it beforehand as well and wondering what we were going to come up with,” said Landes, who added that during the launch event, media took to Twitter immediately using the hashtag to relay news.
The Feb. 24 event included live bacon stations, so press was greeted with the aroma of bacon as soon as they walked in. Also, the fact that there would be multiple uniforms and logos being revealed was kept a secret, so the team garnered multiple posts during the event for each time a new design would come out.
The official molten cap. (Photo by Lehigh Valley IronPigs)
The team also worked with local web developer 401! Creative to create a microsite to showcase the new uniforms. Smellthechange.com features professional photos, as well as the story behind each of the new logos and a link to the team store. No purchases are conducted on the microsite.
“We wanted to make it an experience for people to see these logos and marks for the first time in a fun way that’s a nonsales setting, but just profiling what the logos are in a unique and creative way,” said Schaeffer, who added that fun, pressure-free presentation probably brought more people into the store.
Landes credits the ownership of the IronPigs with letting management be so creative and their willingness to invest back into the team, noting that not many teams have multiple logos and uniforms.
“It takes a lot to rebrand,” he said. “We usually buy 50-60 jerseys per set for the team, so about 200 new jerseys, sets of pants, hats, plus cost of development of the logo through Brandiose and creating the microsite so that fans can see the new logos clearly.”
The team also invested in local marketing with billboards, radio and print ads.
“Certainly, we thought the cost behind the rebranding was well worth it, not just because of the publicity or merchandise sales, but continually reinvesting in our brand and making sure that we’re new and different,” he said.
“The great marriage between baseball and bacon, two great American-loved items together on apparel has been incredible,” added Landes. “We’ve been in hog heaven for the last couple weeks with all the publicity and orders.”
Interviewed for this story: Jason Klein, (619) 463-5630; Kurt Landes and Jon Schaeffer, (610) 841-7447