The Phillies new 2008 Triple-A affiliate has selected a nickname from a list of eight choices. Presenting: The Lehigh Valley IronPigs. [Link]
According to the Morning Call, over 3,500 contest entries, 10,000 online votes and 10 focus groups were used to generate what amounts to one of the worst nicknames in all of professional sports.
Justified as a nod toward Lehigh Valley's steelmaking history, pig iron is the primary raw material used to make steel. This, of course, is baloney. As I write this, marketers are undoubtedly burning the midnight oil developing the fuzzy pink mascot, the junior mascot, the deputy mascot, the hat, the hat with ears, the hat with ears and a snout, the stuffed animal, and of course, the hot dog cannon ... and there’s something just a little grotesque about that last one.
Besides IronPigs, a name that couldn’t ring any less with residents of the Lehigh Valley, there were several slightly less ridiculous choices from the list of eight finalists, including Gobblers, Crushers, Phillies, Phantastics, Vulcans, Keystones and Woodchucks, each annoying in their own unique way.
Sure, this is a little cynical. In time, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs could resonate the way "Chattanooga Lookouts" does. But I doubt it. In 10 years, IronPigs will still reverberate as the end result of some focus group, organized by women in tight buns and men who get manicures. Baseball as I once knew it is sliding away under a tank of colored balls. It's a fight purists lost decades ago. The bosses in LV, admired for their minor league business savvy, know the game is only a fraction of the draw.
They are, in the cold-hard words of the Morning Call “Keenly aware of the rich marketing potential of a quirky name. The minor leagues, a half-billion dollar industry, are full of Mudcats, Warthogs and Crawdads. Team officials took the task seriously, hiring one of the nation's top sports marketing companies, Plan B Branding of Florida, to oversee the process.”
Because nobody knows quirky, attention-grabbing branding quite like ... tah-dah! ... Plan B Branding. An appropriate name, considering Plan A could have easily been "anything but IronPigs."