“Joes” A No Go

Greenville-based Erwin-Penland (a division of Hill Holiday) was recently charged with creating a new identity for the city’s baseball team, a Boston Red Sox affiliate in the Class A South Atlantic League. They landed on the Greenville Drive, after Major League Baseball rejected their first choice, the Greenville Joes—as in hometown hero Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Greenville Online: “We ran it up the flagpole, and professional baseball turned us down,” said Craig Smith, team president and one of the franchise’s three co-owners. “We even appealed, and it was denied again.”
The Joes name was “off the charts” in its popularity, according to Smith, being preferred by a 2-to-1 margin over Drive, which was the second-most popular moniker.
“The gap between one and two was large, and then the gap between two and the rest of the names was large,” said Joe Erwin, president of Erwin-Penland, the marketing firm that helped create the team’s new name and logo.
Erwin said his firm, along with team representatives, “evaluated a list of potential names gathered from community sources” before making the final decision. Other finalists included the Grits, the Greensox, the Fireflies, the Fire Ants, the Copperheads and the Flying Squirrels.
“We were devastated when ‘Joes’ was rejected,” Erwin said. “We all loved that name and loved the connection to Shoeless Joe. The ‘Joes’ really resonated with a lot of folks.”

Greg Cordell of Brains On Fire, a Greenville identity firm, is not pleased with this compromise.

Since when did baseball become more about regional economic development than about fans and players? (Michelin, BMW and ICAR are all in our backyard.) I’m no dummy. I know professional baseball is a business, but a business isn’t baseball. Players, fans, hot dogs, peanuts, cold beer on sunny afternoons, the dreams of little boys and girls, relaxed smiles and good clean fun on warm summer nights – those are the things that make up baseball.
Who wants to be reminded of big corporations at a baseball game? Is nothing sacred anymore? It’s bad enough they have to ugly up the outfield with ads. And what nine year-old aspires to be a “Drive?” Is anyone really thinking about this? There isn’t even a hint of competitive spirit or passion in the word.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.