Cleveland Guardians, a homerun?

Cleveland Indians go for a Brand Change

In need for a Brand Change?

Established in 1894, the Cleveland Indians are an American professional baseball team, competing in the American League’s Central division of Major League Baseball (MLB). After 105 years, the team is saying goodbye to their original name "the Cleveland Indians". After months of internal discussion and external pressure, the baseball club decided that both their logo and name were no longer socially responsible and that a brand change was needed. And so the Cleveland Guardians were born.


The organization wanted something that paid tribute to its community and its franchise’s history. After 40,000 fans were surveyed and 140 hours of interviews were conducted with those fans, community leaders and front-office personnel, all signs pointed toward the Guardians being the best fit.

Cleveland Guardians' homeground, Progressive Field, looms in the background when facing the 43-foot 'Guardians of Traffic' that have stood tall for nearly 100 years on the Hope Memorial Bridge. These sculptures are meant to symbolize progress, a concept that’s now trickling over to the city’s baseball team.


Legal Checks

However, the Cleveland guardians seemed to have lost sight of the fact that there has been another sports team with the same name in Cleveland since 2013. In addition, the Cleveland Guardian roller derby team obtained a trademark registration for its merchandising in 2017. The roller derby team was convinced that there was room for only one sports team in Cleveland called “the Cleveland Guardians” and that there was therefore a trademark infringement.

The former Cleveland Indians decided not to take any risks and proposed to settle the dispute financially. After a few proposals, both teams reached an agreement and the dispute was settled amicably.

Delicacy of a Brand Change

This case shows once again that you have to take your time when it comes to changing your Brand. Especially when it is about an organisation that is in the spotlight and has so many fans and followers. Similar to European examples such as Inter Milan, Juventus and even our own Samsonite-case: while the creative outcome is the most visible, the groundwork is by far the most important factor for a successful change.

Take the time for the required preparation, the right creative solutions and thorough legal research. The Cleveland Guardians hoped to hit a homerun with their brand change but struggled to get past first base.