When I detail the value and importance of a team mascot, I typically receive one of two reactions. Those who think it is silly and irrelevant smile condescendingly, and those who get it, who understand how important the mascot is to the development of the team’s brand, and how rigorous the actual job is for the person in the costume.
There is often no middle ground in their reactions.
A mascot is not just a way for an MiLB team to interact with kids: it connects with people, establishes and furthers a team’s identity and message, and creates a positive image and conditioned promise to the general public.
We have covered the major difference between MLB and MiLB, but a strong mascot allows those MLB teams to still create a great experience for fans even if they aren’t winning, and to also engage young fans that are too young to know the score but still want a pleasant sensory overload.
Coming back to the MiLB lens, seeing a giant, friendly stuffed animal makes kids smile. When kids have a good time, and tickets are affordable, a family will come back. The necessity for family friendly prices and value is touched upon here, but that topic merits its own article, so I won’t go into extensively now.
Let’s look at a few key factors needed for a team to have a strong mascot.
How Teams Pick A Mascot
There are two things at play here. One is the actual mascot design and the other is the person who plays the mascot and wears the costume.
More then the players, the mascot is the face of the team, a living, breathing embodiment of the logo; someone fans can identify in the ballpark and the community. Teams and even non-sports companies have opened up their mascot design to fans, to allow the general public to pick how they their mascot could look.
Financially, smart teams know how to monetize their mascot through sponsorship logos on its jersey, retail merchandise for kids, and mascot-branded giveaways. As mentioned above, it is not just sports teams that see the value of having a mascot. The business world is also taking notice of its importance.
The mascot is so important to the industry and inclusion to their city that a few companies are beginning to specialize specifically in this aspect of the business.
The person in the mascot outfit obviously needs to be energetic, but they also have to understand the role the mascot plays. Similar to a good salesperson, they have go out and seek opportunities.
For example, kids to high five, opportunities for photo ops, being chased by fans, and infants to stare at while they become accustomed to a giant furry animal in front of them.
Keep in mind, the majority of their work is in a heavy outfit in the middle of the summer, so to say the outfit gets hot is an understatement. Most outfits have room inside for ice packs and even a fan in the head. Very few things are more annoying than not being able to wipe sweat off your actual face when you are in the mascot costume.
It’s a Full-Year Job
I took incredible pride in how our teams’ mascots were portrayed and how often we took it into the community. Our mascot would go to birthday parties, civic parades, Little League Opening Days, children’s hospitals, and events around the city. We even unexpectedly went to see elderly fans in the hospital.
We went everywhere, it was our way of saying: “‘we are YOUR team, not just in-season. You are not too far away and inconvenient for us, we hope that we are not too far away for you’.”
It’s easy for teams to NOT attend that 8am Saturday appearance 45 minutes away. Trust me when I tell you, those appearances are where teams generate the most amount of credibility. Showing the community we cared, and not just going to primetime events in the heart of the city, built a ton of emotional equity and integrity to our team.
Those who know, know
People that have worked with companies and teams that have a mascot understand its importance, prestige of the position, and how careful and meticulous the position needs to be.
An example of this is I was recently a reference for a former mascot (let’s call him Dan). This job had nothing to do with being a mascot; it wasn’t even with a sports team. The HR representative had kids and had been to his local MiLB stadium a few times and completely understood how much Dan had to learn about consistency, following instructions, always being ‘on’, being the symbol of the organization, and the nature and importance of the mascot.
Needless to say, this experience was vital for Dan. To this day, he is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn all the valuable traits of being a mascot.
Many companies do not even allow the person in the mascot to tell people they are the mascot. On their resume or LinkedIn, they are in ‘community relations’ or ‘HR’ or some long explanation about creating memories through sport.
That is because those companies want to maintain the aura of the mascot, and not have another face associated with it.
I know of a few large corporations, with brand name global mascots known throughout the world, with the following protocol:
- They cannot tell people their job
- They cannot change in front of others, so nobody knows who they are
- They cannot be in the same room as other mascots because they want to be the center of attention
- They have to enter a building through a back door, or somewhere away from the public, so nobody sees them walking around with a super large bag
Ideally, a team has a mascot or team van with no seats in the back so the mascot can get changed inside and then magically pop out of the car to surprise kids and fans.
From a financial perspective, a mascot van not only serves as a marketing tool at all of their appearances, but also serves as a great sponsorship opportunity; many team vans have company logos on them.
Think of Your Own Memories
Sports fans typically don’t think about mascots as important, but if they think to their childhood, they’ll likely have fond memories of their local mascot, or highlight reels of clips and bloopers of iconic mascots like the San Diego Chicken, Philly Fanatic, and two-sport star Youppi!
People really appreciate when something they love goes out of their way and over-delivers for them. It not only makes a great memory and photo, but also helps makes fans for life.