JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The announcement came months ago: The Jacksonville Suns were becoming the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. It didn't sit well with everyone. Since it's not your typical team name, many of you were asking why the change?
"First of all, this is all about fun," said Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp owner Ken Babby. "It's about creating great value and a great experience for our fans of minor league baseball here in Jacksonville. We will have a new chapter and a new name, a new identity."
That new identity, the Jumbo Shrimp, is a big departure from the Suns, the long-time name of Jacksonville's Double-A baseball franchise. Babby purchased the baseball team from the Bragans, the local legendary ownership family of the Suns, but, he's not entirely new to minor league baseball.
Babby bought the Akron Aeros a few years ago, then changed their brand to the Rubber Ducks, a nod to the community's history as the Rubber Capital of the World -- with the Goodyear, Firestone and Goodrich tire companies. He says he is sure the new Jumbo Shrimp brand is already a big catch here as well
"This is not just your run of the mill shrimp," said Babby. "These are tough, gritty, hard-working shrimp that epitomizes the people of Northeast Florida. And, you can see it, and it's fun, and this is something that we are excited to show off to the community."
Creating the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp brand
The name and brand change was nearly a year-long process. Babby told News4Jax he wanted a name that embraces the heart of Jacksonville's identity and heritage. He also wanted a name that relates to what minor league baseball has become "affordable family fun."
Working with a creative team from San Diego called Brandios, Babby and his crew looked for the essence of living in northeast Florida, even spending time in the area to explore.
"We brought Brandios to Jacksonville. They spent a few days here, spending time in the community, coming to events and coming to games, talking to the fans and the team -- really trying to determine what Jacksonville is all about."
Babby said he didn't step on any toes by trying to design the Jumbo Shrimp logo himself. Early sketches developed into more sketches, including red, white and blue to represent our rich military community. The seafood, Mayport and the St. Johns River also added because of the connection to the River City.
"This is a way for minor leagues to differentiate itself," Babby explained. "We are not trying to be the NFL team in town or any other sports team we are about affordable family entertainment. And that is what the Jumbo Shrimp are here to do and we are excited about it."
By the end of the creative process, three final logos were revealed to reflect what's important in the local community.
- The animated shrimp expresses "affordable family fun."
- As for that tenacious expression and posture on the shrimp, Babby says that shows the determination and resilience of Jacksonville's community. For example, he says, it was demonstrated by the response to Hurricane Matthew.
- Jacksonville's name is on the uniforms and represented by the "J" in the primary Shrimp logo
- The hometown shown by the state of Florida with the shrimp holding Duval County.
- The Shrimp Boil logo represents the "melting pot" diversity of the community.
- There are also the natural water features which appear in the logo and word marks.
Babby said he knew that creating a new identity would face some opposition, but he says at this point, he thinks the tide has turned in favor of the quirky moniker.
"I think sometimes people believe these rebranding or identity changes are just to sell hats and t-shirts. And, we are thrilled to be able to do that. The reality is the cost that goes into creating a brand like this, and then developing it and then enrolling it and the marketing behind it are greater," Babby explained.
As for any other names that were considered, that seems to be a big secret. Babby will only tell us the management staff and the creative design team from San Diego worked through "collective thoughts" and "feedback" and "tweaks" for direction.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp merchandise
Babby told News4Jax he has heard from fans who hated the new name at first, but seem to be coming around. There's even a T-shirt to reflect it, which says "Haters Gonna Hate."
"I try my best to put myself out there. If you don't like the name you can send me an email Ken@JaxShrimp.com and we can start a dialogue and I would love to invite you out to the game or invite you down to the ballpark to have a conversation with you about why we did it. And why we are excited for the future, our entire team is just giddy for April," said Babby.
The entire country -- even beyond -- seems to be giddy for Jumbo Shrimp. As of last Christmas, the team had already sold merchandise in all 50 states, and also shipped to Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The team said some of its most popular merchandise being sold includes a baseball cap with the main Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp logo, with the shrimp flexing its muscles. Another hot items is a T-shirt that says "Shrimp & Grit."
You can find all available Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp merchandise on the team's online store.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp season and ticket information
The minor league baseball season begins Thursday, April 6, with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp home opener Wednesday, April 12, at 7:05 p.m. at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
Season tickets and single-game tickets are available now on the Jumbo Shrimp website. As Babby promised, there are single game tickets starting at just $5. You can also purchase season tickets starting at $455 for the full, 70-game season. That breaks down to about $6.50 per ticket.
If you enjoy fireworks shows, you can buy the fireworks plan. You'll get 15 games starting at $120. There's also a weekender package for Friday, Saturday and Sunday games, with prices starting at $235.
For more information, call the Jumbo Shrimp front office at 904-358-2846.