There are 160 minor league baseball teams that are affiliated with MLB franchises, and do they ever sell merchandise! Many small markets, although encompassing many fans of major league teams, are located too far away to attend games or are priced out of the market. This is where the minor leagues come in. When it comes to talent and ticket prices, the level of competition matters. AAA teams, AA teams and several levels of single-A teams exist in the hierarchy that feeds major league baseball teams, and the quality of play increases noticeably at each level. But when it comes to merchandise, all teams are created somewhat equal.
The combined MILB teams netted over $55 million dollars in revenue in 2013 in merchandise, and it looks like the industry is poised to rise even further. New teams such as the Hillsboro Hops, a short-season single-A club, sell lots of gear, as do teams that change their logos or their team names, such as the Reading Fightin' Phils. Hats and shirts sell for what they sell for when it comes right down to it whether its the major leagues or minor leagues, so merchandise can be a great source of revenue for these small market teams.
But as is the case in all industries, it is staying power that matters, and certain teams have consistently made the top 25 in terms of merchandise revenue. The Durham Bulls (AAA), Lansing Lugnuts (A), Portland Sea Dogs (AA), Carolina Mudcats (High A), Lake Elsinore Storm (High A), Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (A), and Trenton Thunder (AA) have all made the top 25 for 16 or more years. Indeed, small market fans are still hungry for live baseball, and the areas that have the most merchandise sales seem to be the healthiest of these regardless of the league These clubs move around all of the time in the minors, however, as fans are fickle and facilities need updating, so marketers must be on their toes. But when merchandise sales are humming it is a good indication that brand management strategy is moving in the right direction.