The Atlanta Braves own four of their Minor League affiliates. On Friday, Triple-A Gwinnett became the first of those teams to assume its own unique identity. The Gwinnett Stripers era has begun.
The Stripers name -- and corresponding logos -- pays homage to the plentiful striped bass of Gwinnett County's Lake Lanier. This man-made body of water is located in close proximity to the team's suburban Atlanta home of Coolray Field, which opened in 2009 in conjunction with the Triple-A Braves' relocation from Richmond, Virginia.
"I don't like to throw words like 'historic' or 'momentous' out there, but this is significant," said North Johnson, Stripers president and general manager. "We're the first team the Braves have had in their stable to not use 'Braves' as their moniker. We've gone through a painstaking process to make sure we do it the right way."
Gwinnett's new look was designed by San Diego-based Brandiose, a design firm whose work is prevalent throughout Minor League Baseball. The primary logo features "Gwinnett" in blue and "Stripers" in red, with these colors referencing the team's continuing connection to the Atlanta Braves organization. Swimming alongside the wordmark is a green-striped bass. The home cap features a striper bass preparing to take a bite out of a baseball-baited hook. Green is the prevalent color on the team's home jerseys, which appropriately are striped.
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Johnson said the shift to a unique name was necessary because Gwinnett is "unlike any Minor League team, of the 160 out there."
"We're wholly owned by the Braves, play in the same market and share the same name," he said. "No one else I'm aware of has those three pieces attached. And this is what we've dealt with over the years, little brother trying to play in big brother's backyard. ... We needed our own identity, needed to know that when we put our name on TV, billboards and radio, the fans know exactly what it is they're hearing and seeing."
The Stripers name was a particularly surprising choice, since it was not included on the list of "Name the Team" finalists that Gwinnett announced in July. That list included Buttons, Gobblers, Hush Puppies, Lambchops, Sweet Teas and Big Mouths. This last moniker was the one that got away; in its place came the Stripers.
"Big Mouths was the name that we centered on. The design work really resonated, and Lake Lanier is only a stone's throw away," said Johnson. "Initially we loved the shock value of being the Big Mouths, we were looking to push names like the [New Orleans] Baby Cakes into the rearview mirror. Really take it to another level. But as we went through the process, we realized Big Mouths doesn't really come out of your mouth easily. It's a mouthful, if you will.
"This got us talking about other bass fish in Lake Lanier, and the striped bass kept resonating," he continued. "Lake Lanier is one of the best striped-bass fishing areas in the world. We found that no other teams use the moniker 'Stripers.' So all of a sudden, we had something that's easy and fun to say, and from a logo and marketing perspective, it's also a lot of fun."
All of Gwinnett's rebranding process was carried out in conjunction with Jason Klein and Casey White of Brandiose.
"They have a great process, and I had had the advantage of working with them previously in Myrtle Beach [with the Pelicans] when we rebranded there," said Johnson. "They follow a template, and pretty much everything they said was going to happen, did happen. When the [team name finalists] were announced, they said to make sure we have thick skin because 99 percent of social media is going to be negative. But they said that's a good thing, as they've found that the worse the social media comments are, the better the end result."
Gwinnett also solicited feedback from in-house designers working in the Atlanta Braves organization.
"We got some great suggestions and tweaks," said Johnson. "Like the 'G' on the road cap was initially more round, but we ended up making it look more like a home plate. And initially the 'G' wasn't red. It was more of a peach color, keeping a Georgia peach theme, but we decided that looked too soft."
Now that the Stripers name and logos have been unveiled, Johnson is looking forward to the response.
"I think that once our fans take the time to look at what we've done, they're going to be excited as well," he said. "And it should appeal to outdoorspeople, whether they're baseball fans or not. Our primary hat is just a big bass fish, and anybody can wear that."