Upper Levels Reign In Licensing Game

Image credit: Brendan Rodgers with the Hartford Yard Goats played for a team ranked among the top 25 in minor league licensing in 2017.

Minor League Baseball recently released its annual list of the teams that ranked among the top 25 teams in terms of licensed marketing sales, and there were some usual suspects and some newcomers. As usual, the list wasn’t ranked, so it’s unclear which team was the overall winner, but there were six teams that continued their streaks of dominance. Those six—the Durham Bulls, Trenton Thunder, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, El Paso Chihuahuas, Sacramento River Cats and Columbia Fireflies­—have found themselves on the top 25 list every year since its inception in 1993 or for the entirety of their franchise’s existence.

There were seven newcomers to the list this year: The Reading Fightin Phils, Buffalo Bisons, Rochester Red Wings, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Albuquerque Isotopes, New Orleans Baby Cakes and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. The Baby Cakes and Jumbo Shrimp, it should be noted, did not exist in 2016 and made the list in their first year of existence.

This year’s list featured a slightly wider swath of teams than in previous years. Last year, 20 major league clubs placed affiliates on the list. This year, that number increased to 21 clubs. Four big league teams—the Marlins, Padres, Phillies and Rockies—each placed two affiliates on the list. 

One trend that immediately jumps out is the way the list skews toward upper-level affiliates. Sixteen of the 25 teams on the list play in Triple-A leagues, and six more play in one of the three Double-A leagues. That leaves just three at low Class A, and none at high Class A, that found their way on to the list. That’s a change from 2016, when the Lake Elsinore Storm represented high Class A. The same was true in 2015, when both the Carolina League and Florida State League were shut out.

Overall, clubs sold $70.8 million worth of merchandise in 2017, besting the record they had set in 2016 by 3.6 percent.

“Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations,” MiLB COO Brian Earle said in a statement announcing the totals. “The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

Team (Major League Affiliation) League
Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies)# Pacific Coast
Buffalo Bisons (Blue Jays)# International
Charlotte Knights (White Sox) International
Columbia Fireflies (Mets)* South Atlantic
Columbus Clippers (Indians) International
Durham Bulls (Rays)* International
El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres)* Pacific Coast
Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres)# Midwest
Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers) Texas
Hartford Yard Goats (Rockies)# Eastern
Indianapolis Indians (Pirates) International
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Marlins)# Southern
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies)* International
Nashville Sounds (Athletics) Pacific Coast
New Orleans Baby Cakes (Marlins)# Pacific Coast
Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals) Pacific Coast
Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox) Eastern
Reading Fightin Phils (Phillies)# Eastern
Rochester Red Wings (Twins)# International
Sacramento River Cats (Giants)* Pacific Coast
Salt Lake Bees (Angels) Pacific Coast
South Bend Cubs (Cubs) Midwest
Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners) Pacific Coast
Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers) International
Trenton Thunder (Yankees)* Eastern

* = Made the list every year or each year of the team’s existence

# = Team returned to the list after not appearing in 2016.

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