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New Face of the Cleveland Indians: A Proposal

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland

Cleveland--[A letter to Bob DiBiasio, Cleveland Indians Vice President of Public Relations on October 7, 2009]

I am writing all the members of the Cleveland Indians front office as a lifelong fan, but more importantly, a design student with a proposal. This off-season there will undoubtedly be changes made to the club and I strongly feel an image overhaul could compliment the youth movement for the 2010 season; one that will usher in a new coaching staff and showcase the new core of Sizemore, Choo, and Cabrera. This is their time to ditch the same logo that decades of losing sported 25 years ago.

Let me first start by stating my background is in architecture, with a Bachelor’s Degree from Kent State University. I played baseball at Kent for three seasons and am now 23, in my second year of grad school. I am pursuing a dual-degree MBA and Master's of Architecture with graduation in May. While taking a Marketing Strategy course I wrote a thesis on the brand identity of professional sports franchises. I looked at the case study of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays "exorcising" their demons by dropping "Devil", but specifically focused on the 2002 Anaheim Angels. They switched back to the traditional red color and "A" logo. It ushered in not only a new wardrobe but an entire mindset transition. The Mike Scioscia era is now synonymous with winning in red, and the navy pinstripe days of Jim Edmonds were forced to be forgotten. Unfortunately, this is the case currently in Cleveland. The Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee era is gone. Help the fans move forward with a change of uniforms. Otherwise, we will always ask ourselves why those players still are not in them.

A spike in winning percentage can obviously come from offseason acquisitions, but you cannot discount the power of the other moves (i.e. hosting an All-Star Game, changing an image, or moving to a new ballpark like New Busch Stadium and Jacobs Field). We all know the big-budget free agents will never be signed by the Tribe and Progressive Field is not going anywhere for 50 more years, so why not try something else?

I live and die with the Cleveland Indians. I attended 11 games last season in a year that we were all but mathematically eliminated by May. My friends and I waited through the 3 hour delay in the freezing rain in this year’s home opener, which ousted the snow we sat in two years ago. My fanhood can never be questioned.

The attached proposal is something I want to be taken seriously. My motivation is taking a page from the city of Pittsburgh, of all places. They have a great system in place by uniting their sports franchises by a single color palette. This has also been done more recently—and lesser known—in Seattle with their NFL and MLS teams. The Seattle Sounders have tried to capture football fans into futbol fans by sharing the Seahawk green. For Cleveland, this could bring casual Cavs fans on the Tribe band wagon and vice versa. They can push each other to get that first championship in decades. Merchandising can be done at either the Q or Progressive and promotions could showcase the other team.

As you will notice the jersey colors shift so that red has now become Cavs “wine” with the gold accents. My second alteration is simple. It is the reason there are still unhappy Native Americans throughout the world still flooding blogs and probably also your mailbag every day. It is the reason I have to maneuver around protestors at the Home Opener every season. I love Chief Wahoo, do not get me wrong. I was devastated when he was shrunk on the caps after the 2002 season. At the same time, I agree that he needs an overhaul. Taking a page from the Angels, going back to the glory days of the past helps. The ’48 Wahoo is way over-the-top with stereotypical features, but at least the skin color is not red and he won a World Championship. The Cavs secondary color makes a nice color for a new Wahoo, updated to still have the smile and eyes fans are accustomed to, but looking more distinguished and realistic. We have to remember the Indians name should honor the culture, not mock it.

I fully understand that this would spell a giant sunk cost of changing merchandise. It would also make many fans disappointed. It would date 10 shirts in my closet, my Indians jersey, two of my hats, and my bullpen jacket. I validate it by saying that the stock for throwbacks is huge. Look at sometime. They are selling the Coop Collection of hats from the mid-to-late 90s and kids my age are gobbling up hats like the D-Backs in white like crazy. The current Wahoo would never be forgotten, and will show up in the stands regardless.

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