How to find a mascot performer
The only thing that is more important than an amazing mascot costume is an amazing mascot performer. They truly do bring your brand to life. A talented performer transforms your mascot from a “person in a costume” to a memorable character. Dancing, juggling, prop use, and crowd interaction are just some of the skills a true performer brings. How do you get someone like this? Simply put, treat your performer/s professionally and compensate them for their time. You invested in your costume, now invest in your performer. How to find someone like this, not simply put…
Business Organizations Businesses should be the most aware of brand presentation, yet when it comes to mascots, they are one of the worst offenders. The majority of corporate characters, even highly recognizable ones, are usually staffed by part time or temp employees with little to no training on how to perform as a character. I have seen multiple occasions when companies have shipped out the costume and let event organizers staff it with any body available. ADVICE– Always know who is in your mascot costume! How old are they? Do they have health issues? A criminal record? Have they been trained how to react to a scared child? An abusive one? This is not just an issue of poor brand presentation. It can become a legal issue (performer punching abusive child) or even child endangerment. To avoid facing the problems of an unknown and possibly untrained performer, you can:
- Have a member or members of your staff dedicated solely to performing as and escorting your character. Make sure they have cleared a background check and a physical exam. Make sure your mascot receives proper training on performance, costume maintenance and legal issues. If you don’t feel that your company can properly train your performers and escorts, hire a professional organization to help you. I personally recommend Amazing!! Mascots, Inc.
- Look for a local mascot performer. If you can’t find a member of your current staff capable of being a performer, look outside your company. Put out a “mascot wanted” job posting in the newspaper, www.gameops.com, or www.mascot.net. Call your local sports teams and colleges/universities. You may be able to hire one of their performers or even back up performers for part time work. Theme parks have numerous trained performers as well. Even though these performers already have experience and some training, it may not be enough. You should still train your performer on legal responsibilities and run your own background and health check. Any performer, no matter what their level of experience is, could benefit from training.
- Contract a professionally trained and experienced performer. There is a nationwide network of past and present professional mascot performers and theme park workers. Several companies have a database of experienced performers with references for staffing corporate events. They are:
The pay scale for corporate mascots varies. My recommendations are as follows
- Member of your staff trained to be the mascot with no prior experience, $10-$25/hour (plus the cost of professional training)
- Theme park character performer $15-$30/hour
- Sport team/college mascot with one year minimum experience, $20-$50/hour
- Sport team/college mascot with over 3 year’s experience, $50-$150/hour or more
The more experienced the performer, the more you should expect to pay. The cost is worth the value of having an experienced performer. If you start off with an inexperienced performer who undergoes training and shows improvement, bump up their pay. Don’t waste your money training an employee if you don’t want to invest in keeping that performer. Remember, you get out what you put in to your mascot program.
High Schools High school cheer coaches are often in charge of the mascot. Depending on the state of the mascot program, a coach can have a hard or easy time finding student volunteers. If the mascot costume is in good shape, performers are treated with respect, and the administrator is attentive a school could recruit several students to perform as the mascot. Schools that lack these elements may have costumes that go unfilled. To improve the status of being the mascot, you can:
- Invest in a good looking, professionally designed mascot costume. It’s a lot easier to convince someone to wear a clean and good looking costume over an old smelly one. For a professionally designed custom mascot, expect to spend a minimum of $3,500 with costs averaging $5,500 and up to $8,000. Low cost “stock” characters are available from $500-$2,500, but as their prices indicate, they are not custom and are like their price, “cheap.” To purchase a new costume you can look for funds from the PTA, student activities fund, or have your own fundraiser (car wash, candy sale, flower deliveries, etc.)
- Offer perks allowed to athletes. Leaving class early for the game, recognition in the yearbook, a letter man jacket, etc. While you are not paying the students you are compensating them for their time.
- Highlight a the possibility of college mascot career. Many colleges offer partial or full scholarships for mascot performers. These students usually enjoy perks such as traveling to away games, performing at championship games, and participating in national mascot competitions (UCA Nationals, Capital One Mascot Challenge). Working as a high school mascot is a great way to get an extra curricular activity that could add value to their college applications.
To search for mascot performers at your school, put up bulletins, put an ad in the school paper, or make an announcement over the PA system to promote the try outs. Cheerleaders and members of the drama club are a great resource for finding performers. They can often times be the mascot or know people with personalities that would fit. For the audition, spend at least 5 minutes interviewing each student. Try to get a feeling of their sense of judgment. They need to be able to think before they act in costume to avoid any embarrassments. After the brief interview you should conduct the physical part of the audition. Have the hopefuls come prepared with a 2 minute skit, dance, or other demonstration of their performance skills. Before they perform the skit, test their performance abilities by asking them to show you how they would react to common situations such as:
- The team scored a touchdown/point/run
- You just scared a small child
- Someone from the other school just said something rude to you
- The cheerleaders are leading a cheer
- Your team just got scored on
- You see a pretty girl/guy
- Different types of music (fast, slow, rock and roll, disco, hip hop in 10-20 second spurts)
If you have multiple people auditioning but only one costume to audition in at the very least you should allow for 5-10 minutes between candidates to allow the costume to air out. If possible, contact a local costume shop and rent a costume or two to speed up the audition process. If you are lucky enough to find multiple qualified candidates you could establish a mascot “team” of performers and escorts. If some performers are better than others, establish a JV and Varsity status. The varsity mascot can perform at the larger sporting events while the JV covers some of the smaller events. Make your selected performers take a sports physical to make sure they can handle the rigor of wearing the costume. Consider investing in training for your high school mascots. The Universal Cheerleaders Association offers affordable training camps throughout the country.
Colleges/Universities Many college and university mascots rank as some of the oldest established characters out there. The Penn State Nittany lion dates back to the 1920’s, five decades before the San Diego Famous chicken hatched the modern sports mascot industry. Sebastian the Ibis from the University of Miami dates date to 1957.Albert the alligator has been prowling the University of Florida since 1970. Aubie of Auburn University started off in 1979. The list goes on. Top mascot programs earn their respective schools recognition through national competitions (UCA nationals, Capital One Mascot Challenge), appearances in the community, and appearances on Sports Center and other commercials. These programs also foster future professional mascot performers. As with high school mascots, most college mascot programs are overseen by cheer or dance coaches or former cheerleaders/dancers/mascots working as a coach. Most schools rely on several students to serve as performers and escorts as a part of a mascot team. Interest in the school mascot depends on the traditions of the school and the way the program is run. Some schools attract dozens of hopefuls to auditions while others attract none. A good school program should strive to provide:
- Full/partial scholarship or stipend for service as a mascot performer. This allows your performer to dedicate more time to working as the mascot rather than working another job. By compensating the mascots you allow them to feel like professionals and foster an attitude of responsibility. A mascot that may loose his/her scholarship for poor decision making will be more likely to think before they act.
- Offer perks allowed to athletes. Priority registration, out of state tuition waivers, trips to road games, etc. This adds value to being the school mascot. A student who receives these benefits is more likely to work to keep these perks.
- Send your performers to mascot camp. Going to a college mascot camp is a fun and unforgettable experience. Your performers will learn the basics of performance while meeting a network of college mascot performers. The Universal Cheerleading Association offers multiple college camps. Amazing!! Mascots offers mascot camps which can be held on campus.
- Allow your mascots to participate in national competitions. The UCA College mascot Nationals and the Capital One Mascot challenge are two of the biggest college mascot competitions.
Many schools run an audition process similar to a high school audition. They solicit applicants and invite them to an audition. Auditions usually consist of:
- 2-5 minute prepared skit with props and music
- Dancing to multiple music selections
- Prop use
- Demonstration of emotions/character
- Demonstration of school cheers/fight songs/traditions
- Demonstration of physical fitness (pushups are common)
- Q and A session. “What would you do in ______ situation?”
- Out of costume charades/dancing
- Walking/acting in the personality of the character
They also interview the candidates and sometimes require a written essay and references. Again, schools that offer scholarships or stipends attract a higher quality applicant pool.
You can read all about a major college mascot program by clicking here.
Professional sports teams at all levels post job openings on Teamwork Online, Work in Sports, and Gameops.com. The pay rate depends on the team and the value they place on their mascot. Some organizations employ multiple full time staff members to run their mascot program, and others get by with part time performers. Full time salaries range from $30,000-$70,000 with some teams offering six figure compensation. Additional salary is made through commission on paid appearances (Birthday parties, seat visits, deliveries, etc.) Part time salaries range from $25-$200 an hour and $50-$500 a game.
Teams can use any of the previously mentioned methods to locate a performer. It is advisable to hire/contract a mascot company or performer to help select a suitable candidate. Local professional sports mascots are usually available to consult for a fee. They will be an insightful judge to help screen potential hires.
At the professional level, the interview process should be more involved. Applicants should demonstrate skills such as event coordination, budgeting, marketing, and sales.
Teams generally announce the opening, accept resumes/highlight tapes, do phone interviews, then select a 3-6 candidates to audition.
If you’d like to know more about finding a mascot performer, feel free to contact us at AMAZING!! Mascots, Inc.
~Stay fuzzy my friends.
Posted on January 31, 2013, in amazing mascots, bulldog mascot costume, costumed characters Chicago, custom costume, custom mascot costumes, eagle mascot costume, how to clean mascot costume, how to find a mascot performer, lion mascot costume, mascot costumes, mascot costumes Chicago, mascot performers, mascots, MLB mascots, NHL mascots, tiger mascot costume and tagged bulldog mascot costume, costumed characters, custom mascot costumes, eagle mascot costume, easter bunny, mascot costumes, mascot costumes Chicago, mascots, professional mascots, tiger mascot costume. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.