The Reading Phillies have little reason to change.
After all, this is the franchise that topped the Eastern League in average attendance last season for the sixth time in the past seven years. This is one of the best-run operations in the business, which has transformed a 61-year-old stadium into one of the premier venues in the minors through a series of renovations—including a $10 million facelift before last season. And this team, beloved in its community, puts on one of the best shows in the minors with a cast of characters that includes the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor and the Mascot Band.
Yet, ready or not, change is coming to Reading. For the team announced over the weekend that, after 46 years as the Phillies, it is changing its name as part of a major rebranding effort.
"We've come to realize we want our fans to be able to have their own brand," Reading general manager Scott Hunsicker told the Reading Eagle. “We want to be able to celebrate our association with the Philadelphia Phillies, yet at the same time give our fans their own name so that they can wave their flag even more proudly as fans of the Reading franchise."
The team will unveil the new name, logo and uniforms on Nov. 17. They’re partnering with the sports marketing firm Brandiose (formerly Plan B Branding), which they have worked with on previous projects including new logos and jersey prior to the 2008 season. Brandiose is a creative outfit that was behind the name and logos for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Richmond Flying Squirrels—a pair of the more unique monikers in the competitive minor league landscape, but also two of the more successful franchises in the sport. Klein indicated that Reading’s new name won’t be quite as outlandish as those two, but rather will play off of Reading’s history and tradition.
“There was only one team name that made the most sense we had these conversations (with Reading’s front office) and I think that after the unveiling, fans will see that it is not a departure or a 180-degree turn (from the current name),” Klein said in an interview Monday afternoon. “We’re sort of doubling down on their relationship with the Phillies and everything that they are known for . . .
“This was not a traditional process where internally we are pitching ideas. It was a how do we go deeper into our story and is there a name that allows us to do that. And if there wasn’t, I don’t think the process would have gone much further. It wasn’t where we were going to change the name and what’s the best name. It was is there a name worthy of changing the name?”
And Klein says there is indeed such a name. And it will be married next season with a new uniform design that he would only describe as cutting edge.
“People will be wowed,” he said. “We are doing something with uniforms that has never been done before. They are going to have a uniform design that is classic and is unlike anything has been done before in minor league baseball.”
Klein has experience in this area. It was Brandiose that turned the changed the Casper Rockies to the Casper Ghosts and dressed the team in glow-in-the-dark hats. They also designed the Spokane Indians’ secondary logo, which is written in the local Indian tribe’s native language of Salish.
However, the group’s previous hits don’t mean the Reading community is united the idea of change. Fans have developed quite an attachment to the R-Phils after 46 years. A Facebook group called “Save the Reading Phillies” has over 2,000 members and an online petition asking the club to reconsider the name change had over 700 supporters.
Few name unveilings or changes in the sport are immediately embraced by the community. There were similar responses in Lehigh Valley and Reading. Storm Chasers wasn’t an immediate hit in Omaha, neither was TinCaps in Fort Wayne. But each has become one of the top selling merchandise brands in the minors. However, none of those had Reading’s history, success and a fanbase that takes enormous pride in its sports teams. So, Hunsicker (who was named Eastern League executive of the year) and Klein may have a tougher time selling the new name.
"People are going to be excited when they hear the name and see the new iconic looks," Hunsicker told the Reading Eage.