How I Took on a $600 Million Sports’ Organization, And Won…

Meet Jordan Stark, he’s  an artist, a designer, and a native of San Diego, California.

And in 2010, Jordan had a crazy idea: to petition the San Diego Padres to bring back their original uniform colors, orange and brown. The campaign, he says, started as a whim, but has since grown to hold immeasurable significance for him and those who support it.

I was really excited to talk to Jordan because Front Yard Frontier is at the core about building community. And, his story in particular, is about the power of sports to bring people together and the importance of a community in taking ownership of their city’s shared  history, heritage, and legacy.

How did you become a Padres fan?

I was raised in San Diego and grew up playing baseball and soccer. In the late 80’s my parents bought season tickets one or two seasons, and that sealed the deal. From then on, I was a hardcore Padres fan as a kid. Then in the early 90’s the Padres changed their colors, and traded all their fan favorites. It hurt a lot of fans including my older brother and Dad. My brother eventually became a Dodgers fan, and I became apathetic towards the Padres and the politics of all team sports throughout middle and high school. I then moved to LA for college and slowly started to get back into baseball and soccer. I was disenchanted by the Padres, and had lost the connection I had as a kid, and so I started to follow the Dodgers for a couple years. It was by moving back to San Diego and founding the Bring Back the Brown campaign that I was able to reconnect with the team of my youth, and once again be that fan.

Tell us the story of how you started the Bring Back the Brown Campaign?

In 2010 my (then) business partner and I decided we wanted to make a brown and orange Westside Love hat. Without thinking too much about it, we chose those colors as the San Diego colorway in a line of merchandise we were making at the time. We were both 80’s kids, and grew up watching the San Diego Padres wear brown and orange, so brown SD hats were naturally the colors we gravitated towards. Around the same time we were talking a lot about San Diego’s identity; specifically how we believed the narrative at the time was detrimental because of selective story telling. The idea was thrown out that instead of just making a brown hat, wouldn’t it be compelling to do something more substantial? I mean after all, why did we feel so strongly about those colors after all these years?

We sat on it for a couple weeks, and began to notice something. Throughout San Diego, particularly in areas with a lot of old-time locals, a lot of people were still wearing brown San Diego Padres gear. I threw out the idea that it would be interesting to see the results of a petition calling on the Padres to Bring Back the Brown. The idea struck a cord. We felt strongly about it, and were maybe both naive and arrogant in thinking we could actually influence a $600M organization as two individuals. Over 5 years later, it turns out two individuals can do a lot.

Why was the initiative important to you?

Several reasons. While the premise is fairly lighthearted, the sentimentality of the game is close to hearts. That only grew as we began to read and hear stories of other people who felt the same way. People in San Diego, and all across the country were immediately nostalgic when learning about Bring Back the Brown.

But also, for us, the metaphor of Bring Back the Brown became historical, geographical, and ethnological. Talking about the Padres and San Diego without ever mentioning the colorful relationship between America, Mexico, Spain and Native American culture is a disservice. Sail boats, beaches, the zoo, the Navy, and Shamu isn’t the full summary of San Diego, and it certainly isn’t the story of The Padres.

How did the campaign evolve and what were the eventual outcomes?

We knew from conception that if we moved forward with it, we needed to be committed for a long haul. It wouldn’t be a sprint, but a marathon. A potentially very very long marathon. But first to test the idea out, we reached out to the most ardent Padres fans and bloggers we could find, to see what they thought about Bring Back the Brown. Almost unanimously every die-hard fan we reached out to full-heartedly supported the idea.

The next step was reaching out and meeting with local businesses to see what they thought. Most of them loved the idea, and built promotions around the campaign. A local printer we were friends with agreed to produce 2000 “Bring Back the Brown” posters for the cause — free of charge. The support of businesses added strength in the form of legitimacy to the campaign.

Hand delivering 1000 BBTB signatures & comments to the Padres CMO Wayne Martello

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Hand delivering 1000 signatures and comment to Padres CMO Wayne Partello

 

Season one received a lot of pushback from people who posed that brown was ugly, often referring to it as the “color of poo.” However, every season after, the support was steady. By season 4 new ownership and a new front-office entertained the idea. That same year, we were interviewed in Sports Illustrated, and had recently gained twitter support from: Chief White House Correspondent for CBS, Major Garrett; Executive writer for The Late Show w/ David Letterman, Eric Stangel; a large portion of the NBC channel 7 news; a large portion of the ABC channel 10 news; and nationwide support in articles by ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and CBS Sports, etc. By mid-2014 word of a movement to “bring back the brown” had reached a tipping point, and there was no going back.

Now that the Padres ARE bringing back the brown, what are your hopes for the impact of your message?

The most we could do, and the most we ever wanted to do was our part to add some color to our city and history. Failure or success, we felt the act added character to our social fabric. It was an exercise that allowed us to take some ownership of our hometown.

The job isn’t quite done yet considering they’re only bringing it back for Friday home games. So there’s still some work to do! However, I suppose our hope is that it excites San Diegans and Padres fans to dig in their heels, and take more ownership of their city and team.

What’s next for you?

I hope to actively continue pushing the campaign during baseball season, until brown is more comfortably rooted in the identity of the Padres and not prone to be thrown out again. But I’d really like to lend the experience I gained from BBTB to a cause bigger than baseball and San Diego, so I’m still evaluating what I should dive into next.

Thanks, Jordan, for sharing your story with us! I hope it inspires others to look for ways they too can get involved in their communities in ways big or small.

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