The London Rippers: Success Story or Continued Controversy?

Written By:  •  Monday, March 5, 2012

When the London Frontier League baseball team revealed their bold new branding direction this past Fall, they were met with a controversy the likes of which has never been seen in Canadian minor league baseball. Coverage of the London Rippers re-brand included mentions on both U.S and Canadian National media outlets including Sports illustrated and a segment on Rush Limbaugh’s controversial radio program. Comments in the media and from baseball fans ranged from supportive to un-favourable and sometimes even hostile. Not surprisingly though once the initial upset died down, the vast majority of responses were very positive.

Unfortunately the jury’s still out on the decided opinion of Londoners themselves. Left out of the naming process and still seething about the perceived hidden meaning of the logo and character, they continue to be the most outraged by this. City council officially appealed the name but failed to have it changed and instead is working with the owners.

But lets talk about the glass half full. Yes, the branding launch was a bit of a nightmare for the team ownership but that nightmare undoubtedly provided some of the best PR that they could have hoped for. Even team president David Martin never expected the kind of reaction that they were met with the day after the launch party. Handling the controversy was “like managing a political campaign” he said and instead of bending to the pressure, the club’s management continues to be positive, talking up the team and its new identity in the media. When you look at their motives, its pretty hard to see anything but good intentions. David Martin comments “London can be a hotbed for baseball in Canada” and its location, superior facilities and the close proximity to The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame make it prime real estate for a minor league team.

London Rippers alternate jersey

Now that the dust has settled, I’m sure that even its biggest opponents can agree that the re-brand has been a success for the team. Merchandise sales have reportedly been very positive, with orders coming in from all over the world including China and New Zealand. There have been purchases from each of the 50 States including a youth team in California who have obtained the rights to use the team branding. The Rippers recently held their first Fan Fest to introduce the public to the team and its flagship team store was also officially opened to the public for the first time. It was a resounding success, and a “great opportunity to get immersed in the community” says Martin.

This year’s team will be built from scratch, from its branding to its players and staff. 30 players have been officially signed to the team so far with more heading to camp. London’s own Mike Lumley was recently hired as Assistant General Manager of Baseball operations. He comes with a wealth of coaching experience including a stint as pitching coach for the Canadian National Junior team. Its an exciting time for the Rippers and hopefully the grumblings of nay-sayers and city council will be drowned out by screaming fans.

Labatt Memorial Park - Home of the Rippers

Even if you aren’t a fan of the branding of the team, the field at which the team is based is legendary and definitely worth a visit. Labatt Memorial Park is Canada’s (and possibly the world’s) oldest continuously operating baseball park, open for 134 years consecutively, its first game was played on May 3, 1877.  Mooney Gibson, Satchel Paige, Ferguson Jenkins, Lester B. Pearson and Wayne Gretzky are just some of the notables who have played at the park.

In 2011, Baseball Canada announced it as the winner of the “Canada’s Favourite Ballpark” contest beating out over 40 other submissions. “You have to sell all facets of the game” says Martin, who plans to put on a great show this season. That includes rumours of enhancements to the ballpark which could include party rooms, box seats, locker room upgrades, and the promotions between innings will have a more “theatrical presentation” according to Martin.

The London Rippers Home opener is May 25th against the Gateway Grizzlies. Why not stop by and lend support for a great game in a great city? Thirty-seven Canadians are currently taking part in Spring training right now and without teams such as the Rippers, many would not have made it to where they are now. Support Minor League baseball, whether you agree with its marketing decisions or not. Baseball is baseball and I’ll guarantee you that the heart of the game is still there… lurking in the shadows of this controversy.

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Kristen Meyer

Kristen Meyer is a full-time marketing specialist at a graphic design firm. When she's not saving the world one-brand-at-a-time she can be found at the ballpark cheering on her Blue Jays (at home and on the road) or taking in a rugby match.

  • Bill A

    Don’t see the relevance, not in a positive way. It’s obviously an attempt to delve deeper into the sewer of history in order to stand apart from the norm. Yeah, it got them more PR than anyone could have predicted, but the acceptance of the new identity just underlines the fact that as time goes on our society becomes more admissable to things that normal people wouldn’t have anything to do with. I can see little Johnny and Sally sporting their Ripper merchandise at some picnic with as much comfort as I do with my Eagles duds. The world is going to hell on it’s own, but the last thing I want around me is anyone who thinks the association with Jack The Ripper is in any way acceptable. Even if they were careful to put a maple leaf in the logo.

  • Mark Dewdney

    I thought it was great. Too many teams try too hard to be conservative and conform to what they think advertisers want; when you’re original (not to mention cool) like this, people buy your stuff.

  • Mark Dewdney

    (Let’s be plain; I don’t think that Jack the Ripper was cool. When you examine the duds in that light, eh, I understand the outrage.
    However, human nature being what it is, our way is to minimize eventually – who knows, we might eventually see the Pearl Harbour Kamikazes or the NYC Towers…something equal parts inappropriate and still interesting…)

  • Mark Dewdney

    (And…given the OTHER connotation of “Rippers”, don’t be surprised if I wind up with a London home jersey at some point…)

  • ANDO

    I totally agree Kristen. The controversy is just another example of bleeding heart, political correctness gone wrong.

  • http://www.footyjumpers.com Rob M

    I found it odd that the Rippers are named after something that happened in a different city with the same name. Is there really nothing in London Ont they could have named them after and still come up with an aggressive logo?

  • mike c

    grizzlies against rippers .. sounds violent .. just like baseball should be as long as nobody gets hurt maybe a nose bleed …”he rips one into the gap – what a ripper”

  • Jason

    Rob M: This entire city is unoriginal when compared to London, England. The Thames River, borrowed street names, the name itself was not just coincidentally conceived. I’m surprised no one’s tried to put a big clock on the side of One London Place.

  • John

    Its just a name, if there is anything negative to be found in a name then someone in London will, sports has all kinds of names which could be taken negativtly, there Indians, Reds, Red Skins, Pirates, and even in London we have the London Knights which in medival times did they not kill and slaughter many people, its a name, the team the team got a whole ton of free publicity from this which can only be good for the team, I have friends in North Carolina who have heard about the team and plan on coming just from the publicity

    • Miss Svoboda

      To begin with, a comparison of Jack the Ripper to the Indians, Red Skins, Pirates, etc. is a false comparison. These things are not similar. Indians, Red Skins, Pirates, etc. are groups of people with a similar culture. There are good apples and Bad apples with in them. If they took that approach they would have named the team the “London Cockneys”. Even the Knights, while they did slaughter (Crusades) there were also good apples. The Rippers refers to one individual whose sole association in history is that of a serial killer. He was a lone individual, one bad apple. He has no saving grace, no other people with in his community who are good. He is an evil entity all by himself. Something a bit more apropos would be renaming the “Minnesota Twins” the “Minnesota Gacy’s” and having a clown as the mascot.
      While I do certainly understand that it was over 100 years ago and we have become desensitized to the actual acts of Jack the Ripper, and I am no “bleeding heart” I have to ask…How would it feel to name New York the “Bin Ladens”?

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  • Liz

    Sports of all sort have some conotation to a dominate figure or image. I wasn’t too keen when the Brampton Battalion hockey team came out in war kakies, and the Brampton Rock lacrosse team came out with a hard hitting name, but it’s those names that we are going to remember down the road. The name Rippers is cool and is obviously going to be a force to be recconded with. I say good on ya!

  • JT

    Go to London Eng. – there are tonnes of “Jack the Ripper Tours”. Get over it you PC bleeding hearts.

  • Doug Johnson

    It’s a stupid name of a pretend baseball team in a pretend country playing in a dump of a ballpark.

    • http://www.sportslogos.net/ Chris Creamer

      @Doug Johnson, wow… that comment was a waste of Internet… please don’t bother coming back to this site, cheers.

  • Jeff

    The nickname Rippers was purposely chosen to stir up controversy and publicity – a marketing decision plain and simple. I think it greatly surprised the owner of the Rippers how much backlash he received within London itself. He mistook how important it is to involve and receive the buy-in of the community when one is starting a sports franchise. In the end it won’t be the person from Georgia or Texas who buys the hat or jersey on-line who will determine if this team survives or not, it’s the ticket buying public of the London and area who will.
    The one organization that did show some class and I think will benefit from this will be the London Majors of the Intercounty League. They came out immediately and gave donations to woman’s organizations. They have been providing very entertaining and competitive brand of baseball over the past few years, and I think with the community backlash towards the Rippers that more people will become aware and support the Majors. They also play in Labatt’s Park and can be considered the true meaning of a Canadian minor league baseball team.
    In the end, only time will tell if Rippers is a correct decision or not.

  • Phil den Hollander

    I live in London, Ontario. I do not see a direct connection to the killer from accross the pond. I have been playing football for my city and I do play competitive sports and I understand the need for an edge in the name and logo. Hell we have the London Knights as our Junior Hockey team. If you feel the need to complain about a teams logo, why don’t you become a graphic designer and make up a better one? I will support this team in my city and I wish them good luck in the future. It’s a real team in a real city in a real country playing the same ol’ baseball the yanks do, and we’re pretty damn good at it too.

  • Jim Acaldo

    I must say, I like the logo..However, the branding is incredibly insulting and stupid.
    This coming from a man (David Martin) who’s history in business will surely cause this organization to fail. All you have to do is ask around Birmingham, Michigan or teams/organizations who have actually done business with Dave and his other “empire” NationaPastime Sports. npsports.com.

  • john xavier

    just the other day I read that jack the ripper has been proven to be a female, maybe now they should play softball. we know all the negatives about the rippers are from the cry baby mickey mouse Majors that are an old mans team and that think they are a minor league team. If they are so good then scrimmage the rippers and stop crying

  • mickey johnson

    I agree with JX, the majors need to stop acting like a bunch of children and get aboard with the program. At least the rippers paid to play in the stadium. the majors are behind all of this jack the ripper attitude.

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