In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that at time of this writing, my wife has had me on a grain-free, sugar-free diet for the better part of a month—and I use the word better loosely. This means no ice cream helmet sundaes, no beer, and for absolute sure no delicious Southern-style biscuits.
So my judgment may be colored a little when I look at the logo for the Montgomery Biscuits, double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and think, That is the most delicious logo in the history of baseball, and I would knock over my own grandmother for a real biscuit with melty butter on it right now. I can tell just from looking at it that the Montgomery Biscuit is made from real flour rather than ground almonds.
I spoke with Sherrie Myers, co-founder of Professional Sports Marketing, based in Evanston, Illinois, which established and owns the Montgomery Biscuits. Because I have something of a one-track mind at the moment, I asked Ms. Myers about the presence of actual biscuits at a Montgomery Biscuits game.
“We’re the first team in the country to sell biscuits in the stadium,” she said, “and we still do. We have sold something like … 300,000 biscuits in 10 years—11 years now.”
And it’s not just a regular old biscuit with butter, which would be plenty. In Alabama, biscuits are a delivery mechanism for all sorts of goodness:
It’s outrageous. They put ham on the biscuit and they put chicken on the biscuit and they have honey on the biscuit, and you know, they think that’s just like a normal thing to eat. And the rest of us, the rest of the country, we’re like, BISCUITS?! —Sherrie Myers, co-founder of Professional Sports Marketing
And there’s more. The team launches actual biscuits into the crowd during games. “Some people have a hot dog cannon,” Ms. Myers said. “We have a biscuit cannon. And we shoot biscuits into the crowd.”
This may go without saying, but in my current state, I would elbow you in the gut and step on your head to catch one of those biscuits. I might even try to take on the Biscuits’ mascot, Big Mo, whom Ms. Myers describes as a “biscuit-eating, aardvarky sort of creature” who is NOT SCARY. (“If you’re under two,” Ms. Myers concedes, “you might still cry at the mascot just because this creature is big and you’re still in that stage. But there are very few kids over two who don’t like our mascots.”)
The origin story of the Biscuits’ identity is simple enough: A fan submitted the name as part of a name-the-team contest in 2003 after the Orlando Rays announced that they would be moving to Montgomery, Alabama. Professional Sports Marketing has been involved with the creation of nine teams (including the Lansing Lugnuts, their first, and the only other team they still own), and the name-the-team contest is a staple in their team-launching playbook.
“You want the community to be part of the architecture of the new approach to minor league baseball in that community,” Ms. Myers said.
The name Biscuits was a surprise when it was submitted to the contest, but the team quickly saw its potential, and more importantly, they liked the connection to the place. Ms. Myers asked, “Biscuits—how much more Southern can you get?” By 2004, the Biscuits were in business, and today the team’s unique logo has earned it a spot among the most popular minor league merchandise (through a team store called the “Biscuit Basket”) and the name has lent itself to numerous puns and promotions.
As seems to be the case with most unique logos, though, it was not well received at first. “When we announced the Biscuits in 2003 you could hear a pin drop,” Ms. Myers said, “and we were on a stage in this huge summer concert area.” Fans wanted something serious, menacing, and revered, Ms. Myers said, but instead they got campy and delicious.
But all that serious, menacing stuff is best left to the big leagues, and the focus for minor league teams is different. “It’s not about wins or losses,” Ms. Myers said. “It’s totally about the brand and the experience…. It’s very different from the Majors, and so you need to market it as family, affordable fun.”
When it comes to maintaining a high-profile brand in an increasingly competitive (and wacky) minor league landscape, the Biscuits have had success pinning their hopes on a proven formula: community involvement; a unique, place-appropriate nickname; a family-friendly experience; and weaponized baked-goods fired directly at hungry fans, some of whom have not eaten grains or sugar in weeks.