Black and white and Rome all over: Braves affiliate unveils new name, logos

November 16th, 2023

Rome, Georgia, got its name because, like its Italian counterpart, the city was built within seven hills and the rivers that run between them. At a ballpark event on Thursday evening, Rome’s Minor League Baseball team further solidified the connection between the two seemingly disparate locales.

The Rome Emperors have begun their reign.

While Rome remains Atlanta’s High-A affiliate, the new Emperors era marks the first time in franchise history that the club has not been named the Braves. The South Atlantic League team, established in 1968, played its first season in Rome in 2003 after relocating from Macon, Ga. Rome, as well as the other teams in the system, are owned and operated by Diamond Baseball Holdings. Prior to the 2022 season, these clubs had been owned by the Braves.

Rome general manager David Lane said the name change was indicative of a long-running industry trend in which “teams distinguish themselves from their parent organizations and give each community the opportunity to create their own unique team identity.” The team received 5,300 name suggestions from fans, settling on Emperors because of its multi-faceted branding opportunities.

“The seven hills, the three rivers, we have all these unique ties back to Rome, Italy,” said Lane. “So then we started looking at ‘what is an Emperor?’ Rome was an empire rich in history and culture, and Roman emperors were known for leading a variety of scientific and technology advances in the world.”

Nonetheless, the team didn’t want to focus the branding on, per Lane, “a Little Caesars-looking dude that walks around with a golden metal helmet.” Enter the Emperor Penguin, which enabled the club to build an identity that incorporates ancient Rome while also utilizing an animal that can be depicted in a light-hearted, kid-friendly fashion. The team notes in its brand book that while there are admittedly no penguins in Georgia, there are also “no Bengals in Cincinnati or Grizzlies in Memphis.”

“It’s the largest species of penguins and one of the largest of all birds,” said Lane. “Bestowing the name ‘Emperor Penguins’ on the largest species of penguins came from a British museum in 1844. But the name came from how the penguin rules the land and conquers whatever is in front of it. So we started putting that together and then the ideas started rolling out.”

The end result was a black, gold and red primary logo featuring the penguin looming haughtily above the Emperors wordmark, which is bookended by two Roman columns. The MMIII below the name are Roman numerals, of course, signifying the year in which the franchise arrived in town. The trim atop and beneath the wordmark features a repeating uppercase "G" and lowercase "A," a subtle nod to the state of Georgia.

The Emperors were brought to life by Dan Simon of Louisville-based Studio Simon, who has worked with dozens of Minor League teams over the course of a decades-long career.

“[Simon] has a good idea of what works and what doesn’t and was good at bringing the vision to life,” said Lane.

“I just love doing these,” Simon added in a separate interview. “Learning everything I possibly can about a particular city and then putting on my creative hat to try to think of ‘OK, what can we do with all of this information?’”

The primary logo is complemented by a variety of alternate marks, including a “Pontificating Penguin” that, per the team, features the bird “in a pose that portrays him sharing his wisdom and leadership like a true leader in Rome.” A stand-alone "R" logo, the team’s first, is comprised of curving Roman columns which recall those worn by the 1974 Atlanta Braves when embroidered on a hat.

The Emperors identity was unveiled at what Lane described as a “casual community event,” featuring live music, a red carpet with Roman columns, an inflatable igloo, and of course, merchandise for sale in the revamped team store. Later this offseason, the Emperors will introduce a new mascot.

“The world of Minor League Baseball is ruled by unique and quirky team names,” said Lane, mentioning entities such as the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Amarillo Sod Poodles, Fayetteville Woodpeckers and Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. “At last, Georgia’s most unique city has its own unique Minor League team name.”

The Rome Emperors will make their on-field debut on April 5, opening the season at home against the Hickory Crawdads.