In his first year as owner of Double-A Akron, Ken Babby last season focused on improving the team's standing in the community by adding more promotions to the schedule and spicing up the ballpark experience with a new, oversized scoreboard.
Babby is upping the stakes in Year Two, replacing the Aeros moniker that has been a part of the Eastern League franchise since its debut in 1989. And the former Washington Post business executive has gone with an unusual choice--even by minor league baseball standards.
Meet the Akron RubberDucks.
The new name provides both a local connection--nicknamed Rubber City, Akron once housed all four major rubber companies and is still home to Goodyear and the Bridgestone/Firestone Technology Center--and a kid-friendly element.
"During this rebranding process, we listened to our fans," Babby said in a press release. “It was evident that our fans wanted to honor the history of Akron and the rubber industry while creating a new identity that was fun, exciting and family-friendly, just like our baseball team. We are proud to move forward as the Akron RubberDucks."
A tire-treaded, grimacing duck surrounded by burned-out flames highlight the team's primary logo, with the name RubberDucks written in a tread-style font. The secondary logos include a web-footed Akron "A" and the same tenacious duck making fists at the end of its tire-tread arms.
Blue Flame, Racing Yellow, Fire Orange and Tire Black become the official colors of the RubberDucks--with the team noting that they are the first to use this combination.
"It was important to us that the new name was tied to Akron’s heritage," general manager Jim Pfander said in the release. "We want the Akron RubberDucks to reflect the city’s proud history, but also a new generation of fans with a new era of fun at Canal Park."
See Also: Busy Week of Franchise Makeovers
Akron becomes the second team to unveil a new name this offseason and the fourth in a week to reveal new logos. All four were designed by Brandiose, formerly known as Plan B Branding, which has become the go-to company for minor league teams seeking an off-beat and irreverent identity. Akron's announcement comes one week after the new El Paso franchise, which debuts in the Pacific Coast League after three seasons in Tucson, announced Chihuahuas as its new nickname. The Charlotte Knights (International), which move into a new ballpark next season, revealed a new logo last Thursday, one day after the Arkansas Travelers (Texas) did the same.
Akron had a successful first season under Babby. With a plethora of ballpark promotions and giveaways, as well as a focus on marketing and group sales, the team’s average attendance spiked 11.9 percent to 4,221 fans per game. Overall, Akron attracted 295,459 fans to Canal Park, good for seventh in the Eastern League, up from 256,473 in 2012.