Meet the Duo Behind Some of Minor League Baseball’s Unique Names

Keeping fans engaged is key to a minor league baseball team’s survival, according to Maria Valentyn, vice president of entertainment for the Beloit Sky Carp, a Wisconsin minor league affiliate of the Miami Marlins. This is where two longtime friends come in with their unique marketing ideas to attract audiences.

“Minor League Baseball has always said it’s the front door of the community,” Jason Klein, co-founder of sports marketing firm Brandiose, told CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. “Our job, I see, is to bring dignity to these cities.”

He and co-founder Casey White begin their work by traveling to communities to get a sense of its culture. They then use it to create “this whole world that reinforces this thing that they’re proud of,” Klein said.

Sky Carp subscription sales are up more than 6,000%. Valentyn credits some of that success to Klein and White.

“The idea is that no matter what kind of day you had before the baseball game, you can drive around and get into this other world where there are mascots playing with your kids,” Klein said. “There’s entertainment on the pitch. There’s silly names. There’s promotions, and they all reinforce everything you love about your community and the fact that it’s celebrating a story that means a lot to you by as local.”

The two, who became friends in kindergarten, started the company in hopes of creating the ultimate high school mascot.

“We sent 150 letters to every minor league baseball team across the country, and one wrote back to us, and they said, ‘If we like it, we’ll buy it. And we turned my bedroom into an office at my parents’ house, and Brandiose started,” Klein said.

They are the origin of teams such as the Richmond Flying Squirrels, El Paso Chihuahuas, Akron Rubber Ducks, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and, one of their most iconic feats, the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

“The ownership group was very hesitant to use the word trash in their name,” said Lindsey Knupp, vice president of marketing for the team.

But the raccoon-in-a-rocket logo took off with fans after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the team’s first season.

“We sold $2.3 million worth of merchandise before playing a Trash Pandas game and helped stay afloat there,” Knupp said. “It kept all of our employees, full-time employees here. It kept the business from going under and we were able to get by.”

The Trash Pandas now have some of the highest attendance rates in minor league baseball and sell more merchandise than other teams.

But the success of the Pandas wasn’t enough as the pandemic had a negative impact on Brandiose. So the two created The Clink Room, an online forum where aspiring designers around the world can bring their baseball cap visions to life.

“He literally saved our business,” Klein said of the effort.

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