Some say you can tell a lot about people's character by looking into their eyes. That may be so, but can anything be learned by staring into the bloodshot eyes of an unidentified team logo?
That's the question the new Triple-A El Paso franchise has been asking its fan base this week in advance of revealing its new team name and identity at a press conference this afternoon. In an attempt to build a little suspense for the grand unveiling of the Pacific Coast League franchise that played in relative anonymity in Tucson the past three seasons, the team released a photo of only the eyes of the character that will be the centerpiece of its logo and challenged fans to connect it to one of the five nominated names.
"It worked out great. It created a lot of interest, conversation, buzz in the market," said El Paso team president Alan Ledford, who served the same role with the Sacramento River Cats from 2002 to 2009. "People have been having fun with it. As you go through this branding process, especially with a new team, everyone will have their own opinion, so there will be plenty of discussion. The consistent thing throughout has been that people have had fun with it."
To review, the team narrowed down over 5,000 nominations submitted during a name-the-team contest over the summer to just five finalists: Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators and Sun Dogs. The favorites, according to an El Paso Times online survey, are Desert Gators (which had garnered 56 percent of the 1,410 votes) and Sun Dogs (29 percent). Both have a connection to the city that resides along the Mexico border: Desert Gators is in reference to when live alligators were on display in a local shopping plaza, and Sun Dogs is a tribute to when the city hosted a Texas League affiliate called the Sun Kings from 1961-70.
The new logo will be a production of Brandiose, the sports design and marketing company formerly known as Plan B Branding that has become a favorite of minor league teams and famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) for off-beat creations. Brandiose partner Jason Klein, along with fellow company founder Casey White, spent several days of research in El Paso and promises this one should follow in the mold of previous creations.
Without tipping his hand, Klein said the name and logo will blend together the many characteristics of the city he described as welcoming with a unique multicultural mix of people. He hopes to capture El Paso's spirit, which he said includes a population of fiercely loyal residents with a fighting spirit who also appreciate a good party. Blended together with one of the five team name finalists, the logo has potential to be truly unique.
"I think there are going to be a few surprises in this one," Klein said.
While the announcement of the name and logo will mark an exciting step toward the team's debut at a new ballpark next season—"It's the birthday, in a lot of ways of the team and franchise," Ledford said—it will also provide an opportunity for critics to voice their disapproval of the selection. Ledford realizes this is part of the playbook for launching a new franchise—it happened when the five finalists were first revealed in July and it happened when other teams held similar events (just ask the Lehigh Valley IronPigs or Richmond Flying Squirrels).
"People are passionate. We expect there could be a broad range of reactions," Ledford said. "But the one thing we have learned through this process, while sharing the name and logo with people who need to know, is that people smile when they see it. And at the end of the day, that is what it is all about. Everyone will have an opinion. Some will love it and some will wonder what we were thinking.
“But when they look at the name and logo through the eyes of a kid and think about it that way . . . they all smile. That is our aim. That is our goal in this process."
The El Paso debut also kicks off the busy offseason of franchise makeovers. The Arkansas Travelers (Texas League) are scheduled to release a new logo on Wednesday, also designed by Brandiose, followed by a third team on Thursday that Klein declined to name.