Out of seemingly nowhere, the Cleveland Indians have announced that their AA affiliate in Akron has changed its official nickname from the Akron Aeros to the Akron RubberDucks.
According to the Aeros’ owner, this is the logic behind the change:
“During this rebranding process, we listened to our fans,” said Akron RubberDucks owner Ken Babby. “It was evident that our fans wanted to honor the history of Akron and the rubber industry while creating a new identity that was fun, exciting, and family-friendly, just like our baseball team. We are proud to move forward as the Akron RubberDucks and look forward to creating many amazing memories for our great fans.”
My cursory knowledge of Akron did not allow me to realize that the area is known for its production of rubber. After some research I’ve learned that apparently the city is lovingly nicknamed “Rubber City” and the “Rubber Capital of the World.”
Between 1869 and 1915, the four major tire companies Goodrich, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and General Tire were headquartered in Akron. Two popular neighborhoods in town, Goodyear Heights and Firestone Park were built during the rubber boom as the city had hit a housing crisis. While the 1910-1920 days saw Akron be the quickest growing city in America, once the Rust Belt hit, there was a massive period of decline in the city as the major labor unions went on strike.
During the 2000s, the production of rubber has been cut in half from its peak nearly 100 years prior. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is still the 6th most principal employer in the company with 3,001 workers as of Akron’s 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
The RubberDuck GM had this to say:
“It was important to us that the new name was tied to Akron’s heritage. The rubber industry has deep roots in this city, and with the new Goodyear headquarters and the Bridgestone/Firestone Technology Center, it has a promising future,” said Akron RubberDucks general manager Jim Pfander. “We want the Akron RubberDucks to reflect the city’s proud history, but also a new generation of fans with a new era of fun at Canal Park.”
Akron’s major university, the University of Akron, even played its home football games at the Rubber Bowl from 1940-2008 in the southeast district of town.
It seems that the logic behind using the name Rubber is a fitting one for Akron. Well, at least it honors it historically. Creatively, going with RubberDucks is a fairly awesome move for the public relations and marketing side, especially for a minor league baseball team. Baseball is not exactly a booming sport in Ohio so I imagine that the team will get a bit more publicity as the nickname becomes more of a “stunt” to get people into the yard.
Hey, you might as well do something borderline wacky if you want to make some money. I’m all for the nickname and logo.