When the Rochester Red Wings and Syracuse Chiefs did a rebranding night last year, they hit home runs at the box office and the merchandise stands. The Buffalo Bisons were apparently taking copious notes.
After three days of teases on Twitter, the Bisons let the drumstick out of the bucket Thursday as they announced they will wear special uniforms and change their name to the "Buffalo Wings" for seven games over the remainder of the season against the Red Wings.
The Herd will play as the "Wings" against Rochester – who will play the series as the "Plates" – in a four-game set June 14-17 in Coca-Cola Field and a three-gamer Aug. 28-30 in Rochester's Frontier Field.
The Bisons have introduced a new Wings team logo, jersey design and red and orange color scheme to be used in those games. And, of course, gear will be sold online and in the ballpark gift shop during the next homestand that opens Friday night against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Get your wet naps ready...
introducing 🔥 #BuffaloWingsBaseball 🔥
— Buffalo Bisons (@BuffaloBisons) May 17, 2018
The designs were all done in house by Michele Lange, the Bisons' graphic designer. Many minor-league teams that do rebrandings have contracted the work to outside vendors.
"We probably started looking at this in the fall when the season ended and Michele put together several color combinations, logos, styles and choices for us to look it," said Bisons vice president/general manager Mike Buczkowski. "We would kind of mix and match, pick what we like from this one and combine that with the other sort of thing."
From the team's description: "The Wings logo features a chicken wing drum crisscrossed with a celery stick and the name 'Wings' drizzled above the wing in bleu cheese. The logo also includes ‘Buffalo’ written in medium sauce-orange on top of a BBQ-red colored diamond with a bleu cheese home plate."
On the field, the Bisons/Wings will wear a solid BBQ-red top with the Wings’ logo across the chest and bleu cheese numbering on the back. The BBQ-red on-field cap includes a white face and a wing that is about to be dipped into bleu cheese to form the letter ‘B’ for Buffalo. The players' socks will be celery green.
"I think the blue cheese writing, the big wings, the blue cheese writing on the back on the jersey all look great," Buczkowski said. "And the players wearing green celery-colored socks really adds to the whole package."
The Red Wings and Syracuse Chiefs had huge success with rebranding nights last season. Rochester became the "Plates" after the city's famous "garbage plate" delicacy and a crowd of 13,281 that was the fifth-largest crowd in Frontier Field history showed up. Things went so well that the team is using the name and the uniform for all Thursday home games this season.
Syracuse, meanwhile, drew its largest crowd of 2017 when 8,345 showed up for a night when it became the "Salt Potatoes" in honor of its own local dish. The Rochester-Syracuse rivalry is being ramped up this year with two "Duel of the Dishes" nights where the Plates will meet the Salt Potatoes, June 21 at Frontier Field and Aug. 25 at Syracuse's NBT Bank Stadium.
Elsewhere, the Yankees' Double-A team in Trenton, N.J., is rebranding on Friday nights this year from the "Trenton Thunder" to the "Trenton Pork Roll" in honor of the state's favorite processed meat. That promotion starts this week. In the Interntional League, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs are becoming the "Cheesesteaks" on June 10 in a salute to Philadelphia night.
"Lehigh Valley had gone heavy on its bacon theme too and teams in the Pacific Coast League had fun with it (the Albuquerque Isotopes became the 'Green Chile Cheeseburgers')," Buczkowski said. "They would come to the Winter Meetings saying, 'Here's what we did, it was well received and a lot of fun.' It got our wheels turning as to what we could do and the chicken wing was an obvious connection."
Aside from increased ticket sales, there was overwhelming response to merchandise sales and the Bisons expect quite a bump in that area as well. Last season, Rochester initially had Plates gear on back order and Syracuse reported it got Salt Potatoes orders from 39 states.
"When I first heard about those last year, I thought it will be another alternate jersey to wear and it was kind of cool," Buczkowski said. "I was most familiar watching what happened in Rochester. I was really surprised. I thought it would be good but you didn't expect it to get to that level. Rochester created a merchandise line and they took it to a different level. The response was tremendous."