Courtney Eckerle

Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy: What we can learn from Minor League baseball branding

November 4th, 2016

It’s the morning of game seven of the World Series, and two of the longest droughts in Major League baseball history are hanging in the balance. Social media across the city of Jacksonville, Florida is lit up, talking about nothing but baseball.

… and shellfish.

On the morning of the historic game that ended the Chicago Cubs 108-year drought, Jacksonville, Florida’s minor league baseball team swept in and stole the news cycle with a re-branding from the Jacksonville Suns, to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.


There he is, in all of his muscular glory. Bustin’ out the pot, and ready to play some baseball while viciously guarding the state of Florida. The shrimp that boiled the waters (wink) in the “Bold New City of the South.” 

For better or for worse, people flipped out. Whether it was praise or backlash, everyone was talking about a team that won’t have its first game for six months. 


Twitter went to work doing the marketing team’s job for them, even coming up with gold taglines like, “Shrimpin’ ain’t easy,” and promoting George Costanza to Assistant to the Traveling Secretary.

Fans dreamed about the delicious possibilities a Shrimp and (Montgomery) Biscuits matchup could bring and wondered if mascot dog Southpaw would have his name changed to “Grits.”


Soon this was even garnering national news thanks to the uproar, with Fox NewsNPR and Deadspin all writing pun-filled articles about the change and social media frenzy surrounding it.

So what can we learn about branding initiatives from this minor league mayhem?

Lesson #1. Make a spectacle of yourself  

Minor League baseball is FUN. It’s filled with names like the Savannah Bananas (praise the angels in the outfield for sparing us that), El Paso Chihuahuas and the Hartford Yard Goats. That’s the appeal, and doubling down on that value proposition is what the brand change was all about.

The organization knew that there would be a reaction, hopefully mostly positive, but definitely some negative. That is unavoidable. So why not have fun with the whole thing?

The team announced that the name would be changed at 10 p.m. the night before and that there would be an official press conference revealing the new logo at 10 a.m. the following day— which turned out to be a fantastic use of momentum build-up. It played on anticipation and gave people time to freak out, text their friends, and before you know it, the MarketingSherpa content team is pulling it up and all gathering around to watch.

If social media is any indication, we weren’t the only ones. The comments for the live feed were lit up with opinions, puns like, “who ordered the jumbo shrimp?” and people threatening to boycott. Also, people apparently used the time to get their Bubba references from Forrest Gump in order. 

Jax Shrimp Bubba

A small but growing faction of people’s hard-hitting question is: does this mean dollar jumbo shrimp night at the baseball park?

Lesson #2. Shake it off, Taylor Swift-style

As a brand, it’s hard to remember that the opposite of love isn’t hate — it’s indifference. Think of yelling as people caring loudly at you.

Before the official press conference announcing and revealing the new logo and uniforms, there was already a petition to stop the re-branding, and the announcement of the new name was met with almost universal hatred by fans.

Jax Shrimp Twitter

But post-announcement, the team went right to work. No comment on the backlash, just moving forward with re-tweeting, favoriting and liking every person who praised the change, and focusing on the positive.

If you really believe in what you’re doing, people will come around. Right after the press conference yesterday, this poll had 84% of people hating the name; by 5 a.m., 58% of people love it.

Do I personally hate the name? Yes. Will it probably breathe fresh air and style into the fan experience? I’m willing to wait and see before I buy a Jumbo Shrimp jersey just to burn it in the streets.

Lesson #3. Make sure you cover all your bases

Jax shrimp video

Post-press conference, The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp immediately switched over all Suns social media to the Shrimp official art work, name and logos. They had merchandise ready to go, and the Jumbo Shrimp’s schedule ready to be auto-placed on fan’s calendars.

The only problem is that the call-to-action at the bottom of that video and in almost every social media post put up after the press conference. wasn’t up and running properly at the time of the announcement. For prime hours afterwards, people who followed the link found this:

But even with that website stumble, the video above currently has over 155,000 views on Facebook, with the two other videos put up about the Shrimp’s brand-change receiving 16,000 and 22,000 views. Prior videos put up under the Jacksonville Sun’s moniker usually got around 1,500 and topped off at 84,000 for promoted videos.

The important thing to remember about any brand shift is: the tide will turn. May it result in all of the delicious jumbo shrimp-related events of our dreams.

Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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