Minor league baseball teams are constantly looking for that next big thing that will set them apart in a crowded branding landscape. Over the years, teams have tried fan activities between innings, giveaways, discounted food and drinks, rebranding with wacky team names, and promotional nights with one-game specialty uniforms, to name just a few strategies.
In the past offseason, three teams (with a fourth coming soon) have dipped their toes into what they hope is the next big thing. The El Paso Chihuahuas, Round Rock Express, and Hartford Yard Goats have all unveiled emoji keyboards based on their brands. Those three teams, as well as the Richmond Flying Squirrels, who will be the next team to unveil emojis, are all clients of Brandiose, who got the idea from an unexpected source.
“Someone sent me this video, it was the story of Frozen as told through emojis,” said Brandiose partner Jason Klein. “I was like, this is such a minor league baseball idea, the emojification of characters. So we pitched it to the El Paso Chihuahuas last summer. They launched in October and have had thousands of downloads.”
The effect of the emojis, Klein said, is to spark conversation. “I could send you a regular laugh-out-loud emoji face,” he said. “But if I sent you a Round Rock Express with Spike laugh-out-loud, somebody’s not expecting that, and they’re going to ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ And that advertises the team.”
The emojis focus not just on the teams’ brands, but the larger community. For instance, Hartford’s set includes references to Mark Twain, the distinctive architectural feature atop the city’s historic Colt Factory and Armory, and stadium name sponsor Dunkin Donuts.
The team emojis are available on iOS devices through the app store. The Express emojis keyboard is available for free, while the Yard Goats and Chihuahuas charge 99 cents for theirs.