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Volume 22 No. 14
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Appeal of MiLB merchandise continues to grow; sales hit $70M in 2017

Changing its name to Jumbo Shrimp produced record sales in Jacksonville.
Photo: Edwine Pierre Louis

Minor League Baseball and its 160 clubs in the U.S. and Canada combined to generate a record $70.8 million in merchandise sales last year, according to data scheduled to be released this week by MiLB. 

MiLB saw a big jump in sales of merchandise that sported logos that are no longer used. The Phoenix Firebirds moved when Diamondbacks came to town in 1997.
Photo: hat photos courtesy of Minor League Baseball

That’s up 4 percent from 2016’s $68.3 million and marks the category’s eighth straight annual increase. 

The bulk of the revenue represents sales of team-branded apparel, headwear and novelties. However, the total also includes a record level of licensing fees and royalties paid directly to MiLB through baseball trading card contracts and the use of historic club marks, a grouping that increased by approximately 34 percent. 

Similar to the previous two seasons, 2017’s top 25 list is dominated by teams from Class AAA. Last year, 16 triple-A clubs made the list. By comparison, just eight made the list in 2005.

Memphis Chicks: Bo Jackson’s first MiLB team when it was double-A.

Sales were bolstered by a pair of clubs that debuted new names in 2017. The Class AA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, which had played as the Suns for most of their 55 years of existence, experienced record sales. The AAA New Orleans Baby Cakes, known as the Zephyrs from 1985 to 2016, saw similar success at the cash register.

The most notable absence is the Class A Lake Elsinore (Calif.) Storm, a team whose glaring-eyes logo had made the list each year since 1998.

Casper Ghosts: The logo glows in the dark.

Looking ahead, Kurt Hunzeker, MiLB vice president of marketing strategy and research, said the organization’s campaign to attract more Hispanic fans should push merchandise sales even higher. As part of MiLB’s “Copa de la Diversión” campaign, 33 clubs rolled out locally inspired Spanish-language on-field identities for a minimum of three games, with some hosting up to 10 games.

Hunzeker said the effort is one of the biggest business initiatives in the organization’s history and that a little more than halfway through the overall 165-game program, sales of New Era caps are 300 percent above projections.