Sunday, May 31, 2009

Never is a business

I grew up spending parts of my summers on Cape Cod and going to Cape Cod Baseball League baseball games. Played by college students using wooden bats, the non-profit CCBL has been a spawning ground for major league players (in 2008, 205 major leaguers in 2008 played on the Cape at some point) for decades, which is why I read with surprise that MLB is dropping the hammer on CCBL teams for trademark issues. Really? The Harwich Mariners have been around longer than the Seattle Mariners and you're going after them for not using an MLB-approved vendor for jerseys, hats, etc.? As a result, some teams like the Orleans Cardinals (my "home team" when I was on the Cape) are no more, electing to change their names to stick with local vendors and keep their costs low.

As a marketing guy, I understand the value of a brand and the need to protect a trademark but the now-former Orleans Cardinals had been around forever. Seriously, if there was going to be a challenge or weakening of the trademark, it would have happened already. It seems clear that what this is actually about is the dollars to be gained via the MLB licensing fee, its financial agreements with vendors who saw a slice of the pie that they didn't have, and all cloaked in the legalese of trademark protection while the threat of MLB withholding $100,000 in support is used to force compliance. Good for the renamed Orleans Firebirds as they updated their their red bird logo and switched to another name. While I'll probably always think of them as the Cardinals, fans on the Cape will enjoy the same great baseball and the Firebirds and local Cape vendors will enjoy a merchandising bonanza. Play ball!

No comments: