Yesterday, Reading Phillies GM Scott Hunsicker, with the help of a comically large Acme-style crate, announced that, on November 17, the team will unveil the results of its rebranding efforts, which will yield a new name, logo, and uniforms.
The immediate reaction was largely negative. It came on Twitter, in the comments of this Reading Eagle article, and in the existence of this “Reading Phillies: Do NOT Change Your Club Name” petition on Change.org.
Also, in Hunsicker’s personal email and voicemail.
I heard about the change last night and, like most of you, was confused, since sentiment toward the R-Phils is overwhelmingly positive… largely because of their stellar (and fun) marketing efforts. So, before spewing snarky venom through this here megaphone, I wanted to hear more from Hunsicker.
I spoke with him this morning, and here’s everything you need (or, may want) to know about the name change and some highlights from our conversation.
After 46 years as the Reading Phillies, the longest affiliation with a Major League club in America, the R-Phils, as they began calling themselves in 2008, will change their name, logo and uniforms. Why? Hunsicker says it’s to differentiate the team from the Phillies. But – a very important but – they want to do so without distancing themselves from the big club in any way, shape or form, something Hunsicker admits would be a mistake.
There are two general reasons for the change. The first one is kind of ridiculous.
There is the nomenclature issue of the AA affiliate sharing the same name as its nearby parent. Hunsicker says people actually show up to R-Phils games expecting to see the Phillies. Really. Plus, some confusion is created on the radio, presumably on stations closer to Reading than Philadelphia, when scores are given for two different “Phillies” results.
The other reason for the change, the main (real) one, is to create an individual identity for the team. Hunsicker likes to use a box metaphor (and perhaps it’s not just a metaphor– the team will literally pull its new branding elements out of a crate on November 17) to describe it, thusly: Everything about being a fan, of any team, gets put into a box, and while he admits that up to 90% of the stuff in the R-Phils box is tied to the concept of the Phillies, there are some other items – like Baseballtown, America’s Classic Ballpark, and other uniquely Reading items – that separate the R-Phils from the big club. So, they want a new box.
The team is working with California-based Brandiose, a sports marketing firm, on the rebranding process, which represents a culmination of an ongoing internal dialogue the team has been having since as far back as 1992, when Hunsicker first joined the organization. The name and primary logo will change, as will the uniforms. [Hunsicker says the soon-to-be-renamed R-Phils will have the most uniform and cap combinations of any minor league team.]
The mascots, including the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, will remain.
The organization went halfway in distinguishing itself from the big club in 2008, when they began using the “R-Phils” moniker as a secondary name. But R-Phils is a long way from a brand new (or, new brand) name and logo, and Hunsicker wants to be clear that the move is a way to differentiate, not distance, the Reading Phillies from the Phillies.
“It has nothing to do with walking away from the Phillies. Quite frankly, people that have called me stupid about the name change would be right if we were just abandoning all that the Phillies represent to us.”
“But for those people concerned that we’re turing our back on the Phillies or anything like that, nothing can be further from the truth.”
It’s an obvious point, but one that Hunsicker reitereated. He assured me that the rebranding will make it clear that the Reading _____ are closely tied to the Phillies.
Still, people are mad.