The Blue Jays once dominated Pop Culture Toronto, Ontario and practically all of Canada. From day one, the ownership group of Labatts, CIBC and Howard Webster (namesake of the Blue Jays Rookie of the Year award) wanted to “sell the sizzle”, emphasizing on making the Blue Jays a larger than life entity by mass marketing the team.
In the early years, fans of the team could purchase anything from Canvas Shoes to Ear Bud Radios & even Hockey sticks, all of which donned the classic logo created by Toronto marketing firm Savage and Sloan Ltd. The merchandise was a hit and flied off the shelves even when the team was kicking around the cellar of the American League.
When the team began to win in the early 80’s, the trend continued as the hysteria surrounding the Blue Jays swept across the country. Dominion, a sponsor of the team in the 80’s launched an entire line of Blue Jay related products including Popsicle’s, Granola Bars, Milk, you name it. Both Bobby Cox and George Bell appeared in commercials for McDonald’s, CIBC ran a series of Blue Jay related commercials & Ontario Hydro even got in on the act taking a stab at the opposing pitchers in the process. Baseball was money and everybody wanted to cash in on Toronto’s Big League squad.
Continued success (and a run of Post Season appearances) brought more attention to the team which in turn translated into more sponsorship’s and catchy marketing gimmicks. By the time the Jays moved in to SkyDome the team was a full on phenomenon drawing fans from across the across the world to marvel in a team that could do no wrong. After the Blue Jays secured their first World Series championship in 92, Coca Cola jumped on the chance to get involved by running out collectible cans to go with a catchy song that linked their slogan “ Always Coca Cola” with the Blue Jays.
Following the strike shortened 94 season, fans began to dwindle as the novelty of being a Blue Jay fan started to fade. Despite having back to back Cy Young Award winners (Hentgen and Clemens), on e of the most feared power hitters in the game with Carlos Delgado (145 RBI in 2003) and a Rookie of the Year in Hinske, attendance figures continued to drop falling from 4,057,947 in 93 all the way to 1,495,482 in 2010 (lowest overall totals for home attendance since the 1981 season). The sizzle was sold.
Remnants of the glory years still exist, tucked away in corners of Toronto, the rafters at SkyDome and the hearts of Blue Jay fans across the world. The Loose Moose still features one of the largest wall murals of Roberto Alomar in existence, The Old Spaghetti Factory on the Esplanade is home to a stained glass window with images of Cito Gaston, Kelly Gruber and others imprinted on it, the batting cages at Playdium are surrounded by images of Carlos Delgado… the list goes on.
In 2011, the team introduced a new logo similar to the one that started it all in 76. Once again the merchandise began to fly off the shelves prompting a resurgent in some interesting (baseball related) sponsorship’s. For the first time since the Labatts era, a Blue Jay logo has appeared on beer cans across the GTA, Lesters now sells Hot Dogs that feature the new insignia on the package & you can find Blue Jays endorsed Sunflower Seeds and Peanuts in your local grocery store, courtesy of David Roberts.
Perhaps the team is making a comeback in the popularity department. Time will tell.
I’ll leave you with some of these gems from the past. (via Youtube.)