Lunch with an Innovator is a monthly speaker series hosted by the Taylor Institute in which students from the University of Akron have a chance to meet and engage with marketing leaders from NE Ohio. Often, these speakers are graduates of the university and the various marketing majors in the College of Business Administration. February’s session featured Jim Pfander from the Akron RubberDucks. Brenna Mack, a Sales Management and Marketing Management double major, attended today’s event and shared her thoughts on the session.

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended the Taylor Institute’s Lunch with an Innovator speaker series and had the opportunity to hear from Jim Pfander, GM and COO of the Akron RubberDucks, the Minor League AA Affiliate for the Cleveland Indians. His discussion was very intriguing; it focused on the uniqueness of marketing a minor league baseball team. Jim discussed how most companies market their final product, and in this case, the product on the field, but in minor league baseball you can’t control wins and losses. Instead, you have to focus on marketing the overall experience; ensuring that the fans have an incredible time at the ballpark no matter what the outcome of the game is. It was interesting to hear everything that goes into promoting the experience as a whole and I definitely think it is a strategy that more companies should implement. Regardless of whether the final product is controllable or not, I think the experience is becoming more and more important to consumers. Thus, it would be wise for companies to consider taking a hint from minor league baseball marketing departments.


Another subject that Jim spent time discussing was the importance of a solid brand identity. He explained the integral role that an effective brand strategy plays in the marketing efforts of a minor league program. He specifically talked about the rebranding efforts that the organization went through a few years ago when they became the Akron RubberDucks. Jim shared with us that the criteria they followed when deciding on the new name:

1. Is it fun?
2. Does it appeal to kids?
3. Does it allude to the history of the city?

Ultimately, they settled on a name that excels in every category, the RubberDucks, which is probably why the new brand has been successful since its debut. All in all, it was a very interesting discussion that enabled me to learn more about the peculiarities and strategies implemented by Minor League Baseball organizations.

By: Brenna Mack