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How to run a mascot program

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So you’ve been handed the mascot program and you aren’t exactly sure what to do. You’re now responsible for keeping the costume clean, staffing the costume, and scheduling appearances. Here is some basic advice:

  1. Learn how to take care of the costume: Read our entry on “how to clean a mascot costume“. If this doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to contact us for specific cleaning advice. It is a good idea to designate an area for the costume to be hung to air out after use. Make sure that anyone you give the costume to knows how to properly clean a costume. A fur costume can easily be destroyed if someone puts it in a dryer.
  2. Find a mascot performer: Review our “finding a mascot performer” entry. If you cannot find a consistent performer, you or other staff members may have to wear the costume. Make sure anyone who gets in the costume reads our “basic character development” entry. The less experienced performer you have the more attention you have to pay to them. Make sure they are comfortable in the costume, know to hydrate properly, and take proper breaks. We recommend 20-30 minutes on, 20 minutes off for outdoors, and 30-45 minutes on indoors with 20-30 minutes off for inexperienced performers. Heat sickness is a real concern for someone who does not yet know their limits. More experienced performers already know their comfort level.
  3. Provide a mascot escort: Make sure your mascot always has an escort to assist them. This person is the mascot’s eyes and ears, seeing things the performer cannot (small children below eye level, steps, etc.) and assure their safety in case of unruly fans or other emergencies. This person should have a radio or some means to get in touch with you in case of an emergency. An escort also helps the mascot manage his/her props, preps contestants, and distributes giveaway items.
  4. Set a schedule of fees: Establish the rate for your mascot at different types of events
    • Non profit
    • Sponsor events
    • Non sponsors
    • Private appearances (birthdays, deliveries, parades)
    • Community events (walk a thons, school/church festivals)
  5. Create an appearance request form: The form should ask for
    • Event Name, date, time requested
    • Name of organization, type of organization (business, non-profit, private party)
    • Name of person making request (phone #, e-mail)
    • Name of on site contact (phone #, e-mail)
    • Address of event
    • Description of event
    • Expectations of mascot at event
  6. Create an appearance confirmation form: This is the form you send out once the appearance is scheduled. It confirms the information provided on the request form, sets the appearance time and expectations, and informs the client:
    • If parking is an issue, please designate an assigned spot for the performer, preferably close to the event, as he/she will have a large bag to carry
    • You must provide a private place to for the performer to change. BATHROOMS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE since the performer may have to place parts of the costume on the floor while getting dressed and bathrooms are unsanitary.
    • If the crowd becomes unruly, or the performer fears for their safety, the appearance may be cancelled without refund.
    • Advertise the appearance as “between the hours of” to avoid disappointing people if the mascot has to take a break.
  7. Maintain a master calendar:  Use Outlook, Google, Yahoo, or other calendar programs to keep a master schedule online. Allow your performers access to the schedule so they can manage their appearances. Send out a weekly e-mail reminder/schedule of events to keep your performers in the know and avoid missed appearances.
  8. Create a payroll spreadsheet: Keep accurate records of appearances and hours to make sure your performers get paid properly. Advise your performers to keep track of their hours in case of an error.
  9. Create a mascot program budget: Calculate expenses for the program. Items to consider
    • Payroll for appearances and escorts
    • Costume maintenance (cleaning, supplies)
    • New/replacement costume pieces
    • Mascot promotional items (t-shirts, tattoos, autograph cards)
    • Props
    • Mileage/travel expenses
    • Training for performers
  10. Develop merchandise: Generate revenue with your mascot through sales of items such as dolls, t-shirts, hats, bobble heads, and more.
  11. Develop community outreach programs: Decide how you want to impact your local community. Create programs to be performed at schools that encourage students to read, get active, recycle and more. Other popular school shows are anti-bullying and test taking techniques. Many programs rewards students with ticket vouchers to attend a game.
  12. Work with sponsorship: Generate revenue through the sale of mascot related sponsorship  School programs, promotional items, and even an overall mascot sponsorship can bring in money for your organization. Read our “how to generate revenue with your mascot program” entry.
  13. Work with marketing: Use the mascot to get your marketing messages out. Social media, publicity stunts, community events, charitable visits, all are ways to promote your character and brand.

A mascot program entertainment, community outreach, marketing, and sales combined. A successful program depends on a lot of people, but mostly on its administrator. If you ever need additional advice, feel free to contact us at amazing-mascots.com

Stay Fuzzy my friends!~ Kelly Frank, President/Owner AMAZING!! Mascots, Inc.

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How to generate revenue with your mascot

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No longer simply side show entertainment, mascots have the potential to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for their organizations. Some of the “revenue” is increased brand awareness in the community. The areas of direct revenue are:

mascot sponsorships

Sponsorships

  • Overall mascot sponsorship: This package usually involves logo placement on the mascot’s jersey, autograph cards/printed materials, and website. Also included are in game mentions and appearances at the local branches. These sponsorships can range from $8,500 for a minor league baseball mascot to $40,000 and up for major league sports mascots. A mascot sponsorship allows a business a nontraditional marketing opportunity that is very visual/interactive and helps draws traffic to their locations. 
  • Kids Club: Teams and businesses can offer a fan club for children. They usually offer a free membership that includes a membership card and an electronic newsletter or a premier membership that costs $15-$100 and includes a variety of items and invitations to members only events. The Nashville Predators Kid’s Club is sponsored by a local dentist. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s is sponsored by Subway. Kids clubs allow the team and it’s corporate partner to get their brand message to children and their parents and creates a database for marketing efforts.
  • School shows: The Chicago Bears “Tackle Reading” program is sponsored by ComEd, the local electric company. The Indianapolis Colts offer five different school shows each with it’s own sponsor. The Houston Rockets have numerous school shows that the charge $850 a show for, and partner with a local hospital to distribute a children’s book featuring Clutch to area students. The team receives money AND gets to bring their brand message to tens of thousands of school children annually, all while generating exposure for their corporate partners. Popular school show themes are reading, physical fitness, anti-bullying, and state standardized test preparation.
  • In game promotions: The Minnesota Wild of the NHL have Dairy Queen as a sponsor for their “mini mascot” promotion. The Denver Broncos and Minnesota Twins also have mini mascots. This allows the sponsor an unique and visual opportunity to promote their brands and draw traffic to their stores/websites through registration for the contest. In minor league baseball mascot races  attract local sponsors. In major league baseball mascot races are very popular sponsored contests with the Milwaukee Brewers Racing Sausages being the most famous. Almost every MLB team has a racing mascot promotion.
  • Giveaway items: Mascot themed giveaways such as bobbleheads, plush dolls, banks, jerseys, hats and more allow a sponsor a chance to get their logo on thousands of gifts given to the fans. Items can be customized to the sponsor like a toothbrush holder for a dentist, a piggy bank for a bank, or a soap dispenser for a health care provider.
  • In stadium/arena mascot zone: Numerous teams have created a zone/home/den/play area featuring their mascot. These areas allow for sponsor placement/integration, serve as a mascot meet and greet location, and offer photo opportunities.
  • Promotional Vehicle: In addition to giving the mascot a means of transportation a promotional vehicle is a mobile billboard for the team and any presenting sponsor. These deals generally involve logo placement on the vehicle and appearances at all mascot related events. Car dealerships are the most common partner and the vehicle is usually included in the deal.

orbit delivers

Paid Appearances

  • Deliveries: Seasonal gift basket/flower deliveries are popular ways to generate revenue with Valentine’s day being the most popular. The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers mascots deliver a gift basket and flowers to their fans for a fee. The Astros even found a sponsor for their delivery increasing their earning potential. Other holidays include Easter, Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Mothers/Fathers Day, and birthdays. For an additional fee, Tampa Bay Lightning season ticket holders could get their tickets delivered to thier home or office. It’s a great way to kick off the season. These deliveries can be advertised through social media, on the team’s website, in the team store, through e-mail blasts, and in game.
  • Birthday Parties: Appearances at  birthday parties are an easy way to generate paid appearances. Most teams offer a few options including a short visit (10-15 minutes) or a deluxe package including playing party games and other entertainment. Additional add on items are a customized jersey or additional ticket vouchers. Teams charge anywhere from $50-$800 for these visits. Birthday parties can also be held at the ballpark/arena. These packages generally include tickets, food, drink, cake, a present, and a visit from the mascot.
  • Parades: Community parades often need to book entertainment. Almost every little league has a parade. Fourth of July, Christmas, and Thanksgiving are also big parade seasons. The mascot and their promotional vehicle appear in the parade and distribute giveaway items and provide entertainment. Parades are some of the most difficult appearances, often lasting 2-5 hours including pre-parade positioning and post parade traffic, therefore these appearances generally cost more than standard mascot appearances.
  • Weddings: Many super fans want to include their team on their special day. A mascot is often a surprise guest who adds excitement to the event. College and University mascots are often booked for these events. The mascot can act as a ring bearer or just be there to cut a rug on the dance floor.
  • Seat/Suite visits: Teams can offer a personalized seat visit from the mascot in their seat or luxury suite. Groups can also book the mascot. These are quick visits where the mascot delivers a gift and takes a photo. This is a great way for fans to guarantee a visit from the mascot. They are great for birthdays, holidays, and even wedding proposals

doll

Merchandise

  • Plush Dolls: Teams offer mascot plush dolls in a variety of sizes and price points. Several teams have partnered with Build a Bear and created “build a mascot.” The teams then offer stations in the park/arena for children to make their own mascot doll. Bobble head dolls, and plush mascot hats are also great items to sell.
  • Clothing: Youth T-shirts and mascot jerseys are popular items. Adults wear mascot t-shirts as well. Other items include scarves, sweatshirts, socks, and hats.
  • Costumes: Recently Halloween costumes of team mascots have become popular. These are great high end items that help grow lifelong fans, while also advertising your team in local neighborhoods.
  • Other items: School sets, backpacks, pennants, pucks, baseballs, bats, basically any item can feature the mascot.

A properly run mascot program can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for its organization directly and increase brand value through social media and grassroots marketing. Make sure you’re not leaving money on the table and maximize your mascot program today!

If you want a personal assessment of your mascot costume and program, please feel free to contact us at AMAZING!! Mascots, Inc.

Stay fuzzy my friends~ Kelly

How to find a mascot performer

stanleyparty 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…

zing!!

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. ADVICEAlways 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.

custom mascot costume

custom mascot costume

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.

knightro

mascots for UF and UCF

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.

Sports Teams    

Rays mascot Raymond

Rays mascot Raymond

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.