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Questions to ask when ordering a mascot costume

An organization makes a significant investment when purchasing a mascot costume. However if the person in charge of ordering doesn’t know what to ask they may end up with a sub par costume.

When ordering a mascot costume, make sure to ask your sales representative the following questions:

  1. Have you ever been a mascot performer?
    • If they say “no” then you should take this into consideration. If they have never been a mascot performer then how will they know what’s best for your mascot performer? Will they be able to effectively convey to the production staff what works and doesn’t work? Do they even have a role in the design/production process? We’ve heard performers say of some company’s creations “It’s like they’ve never even worn a mascot costume.” Often times you have seamstresses or people with a fashion/clothing background producing and designing the suits.
    • If they say “yes” ask “How long ago?” Some companies do have former mascots on staff. However, some of them haven’t been working performers in years. They may be advocating outdated methods.
    • If they say “yes” ask “For who?” A corporate, theme park, or minor league mascot has a different experience and knowledge than a full time professional sports mascot performer.
      • At AMAZING!! Mascots our costumes are designed by veteran mascot performer Kelly Frank. She spent 5 seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, and has also been a mascot for Arena Football, Major League Soccer, the WNBA, minor league baseball, minor league hockey, NCAA Basketball, Division 1 NCAA Football, in addition to being a parade performer at Walt Disney World and a seasonal character for Universal Studios Florida. She is still an active mascot performer. She tests out every costume and makes sure they have the most vision, ventilation, and mobility that is allowed with the design.
  2. Is there a charge for artwork?
    • Most companies offer a free design service. Others do not. If there is a fee ask what it includes (how many revisions are allowed, will it be in color or black and white). Also ask if the design fee will be applied to the purchase price of the costume.
      • AMAZING!! Mascots offers a free design service. We provide a basic black and white pencil sketch to begin the process, and do revisions to the black and white sketch. Once it is approved we provide a color version of the character. We retain the rights to our concept art.
      • Pencil sketch

        Pencil sketch

        Color concept

        Color concept

  3. Will we own the rights to the character?
    • Many companies include the rights to the character with the purchase of the costume. Make sure to get this in writing and have your legal department look over the agreement.
    • Other companies charge for the rights to characters. This can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. The rights to the Phillie Phanatic were notoriously purchased for $250,000 five years after his debut after the team mistakenly passed on purchasing the rights for $1,200 when they first ordered the costumes.
      • AMAZING!! Mascots charges between $175-$2,000 for the rights to our original mascot designs. The fee is based off the type of organization (corporate, college/university, high school, minor league, major league). You can avoid this fee by coming to the process with an existing character.
  4. What material is the head made out of?
    • If they say “Fiberglass” you do not want this head. These heads are very heavy and prone to cracking. This is an outdated method of producing costume heads.
    • If they say “Paper Machie” you do not want this head. Water breaks down paper, and a performer’s sweat can damage the head. Additionally this type of head cannot be washed properly. It is an old and outdated method of producing mascot heads suited for hobbyists and cosplay, but not professionally made mascot costumes.
    • If they say “ABS Vacuformed plastic” this isn’t a bad option, but it comes with some negatives. Plastic heads are far heavier than foam heads (some weighing as much as 15 pounds!). The hard nature of the head can be a hazard. Our mascot designer gave two different people black eyes while wearing two different ABS plastic heads. From a performance standpoint they are limiting (can’t face plant into a wall/hockey glass/floor, can’t “kiss” fans, etc.). The seam where the two formed pieced are glued together is often a weak point that comes apart over time. Additionally helmets are often screwed into place. This creates a pressure point and causes  weakness in the head’s wall over time. Plastic heads are more difficult to repair than foam heads. This style of head is best for corporate or theme park characters. Often an organization will need multiples of these costumes, and vacu forming is a less expensive option. Also they are an exact duplicate every time. Since corporate and theme park characters aren’t as active, they don’t mind the lack of mobility.
    • If they say “upholstery foam” this is not ideal. Upholstery foam is “open celled foam” meaning it is porous and can retain sweat and moisture like a sponge. This can lead to the growth of bacteria or mold. It loses it’s shape over time and eventually (7+ years) will rot and crumble apart.
    • If they say “Ethafoam” this is a good option. Ethafoam is a rigid closed cell foam that can be carved for details. We have encountered issues with helmets detaching from ethafoam heads. Also if it is carved there may be an issue with creating exact duplicates as carving leads room for error.  We have found that most companies that use ethafoam  use metal mesh in the mouths to keep them open. This is a terrible idea. Over time the metal rusts due to the performer’s exhalations. The metal can also come detached from the face and expose jagged edges, like we found in this costume head. If you chose a producer who uses ethafoam make sure that they don’t use metal mesh in the mouth.
      • AMAZING!! Mascots uses microcell foam. This is a lightweight closed cell foam. It maintains it’s shape over time. Because it is closed cell it does not absorb sweat and does not break down over time. For some features we use open celled “filter foam.” We use this for cheeks, noses/beaks, and eyebrows. We only use it in places that will not come in contact with sweat. Occasionally we produce duplicates of existing costumes using filter foam. This is not our preferred method (filter foam does absorb sweat and will break down over time) but do it upon client request.
      • Micorcell foam

        Microcell foam

        Filter Foam

        Filter Foam

  5. How much do your heads normally weigh?
    • If they say “we don’t know” this means that they are not a company that takes the weight of the head (and the comfort/safety of the performer) into consideration when designing and building a mascot head. This is a red flag.
    • If they say “5-15 pounds” this is pretty heavy and is likely made of plastic or fiberglass. Heavy heads can lead to performer injury.
      • Our heads are designed to be around 2-3 pounds with our “heaviest” heads weighing in at 4.5 pounds. Considering that the helmet weighs 1/2-1 pounds, that’s pretty light!
  6. Is there a helmet inside the mascot head?
    • If they say “no” this is not ideal. A mascot head requires a helmet to respond best to the performer’s movements. A head that rests on the shoulder, uses under arm straps, or clips into place is uncomfortable for the performer to wear and severely limits movement. Instead of being a lively animated character the mascot often comes off as a stiff, Frankenstein moving “guy in a costume.”
    • If they say “yes” ask what type. Baseball helmets offer a nice cushiony but tight fit. But the inner foam can absorb sweat and break down over use. Construction helmets are used, but don’t offer a great chin strap system.
      • We use lightweight street hockey helmets. We have found these to offer the best fit at the lightest weight. However we encourage your performer to find a helmet that fits them and that they like best and send it to us to install in the head. 
  7. Where is the vision in the head?
    • If they say “eyes” ask how much of the eye is see through. Some companies only make the black/iris of the eye see through. For best eye vision make sure that all of the area is see though.
    • See through eyes

      See through eyes

    • If they say “mouth” tell them to make sure it has as much peripheral vision as possible. This will be limited by the design. Also a lower jaw will limit the vision. You want as much vision as possible and may have to compromise on the look of the design to achieve this.
    • Wide open mouth

      Wide open mouth

    • If they say “neck” ask if it’s a sewn in screen or if it’s athletic mesh. A sewn in screen can be pretty obvious in a character and show up as a darker circle. Athletic mesh that has yarn crocheted into it hides it a little bit better. This method is best used in characters with longer fur. Vision through the neck takes some getting used to and can be less sanitary if you have multiple performers.
    • Neck vision

      Neck vision

      • We use all three vision options. The option chosen depends on the final design.
  8. Does the head have any vents?
    • If they say “no” this means they are a company that does not take the performer’s comfort into consideration.
      • We put a vent at the top of the mascot head. Hot air rises so we find it is the best place to put it. We sometimes put additional vents by the character’s ears.
  9. Do you put a fan in the head?
    • If they say “yes” that’s nice. Ask if it pulls air inside the costume or sucks stale air out. Fans work best in low impact corporate characters that stand around in one place.
      • We DO NOT put fans in mascot heads. Our experience with fans is that they ALWAYS break. The wires become disconnected and the battery terminals rust over time. They create noise which hinders the performer’s safety. We have also seen a fan become detached while on and cut the performers head. If you insist we will install one for an additional fee.
      • Broken, as usual

        Broken, as usual

  10. Is the neck attached to the head?
    • If they say yes, ask if it can be removed. Necks soak up a lot of sweat. It’s best if they can be detached from the head and washed.
      • We build our necks to the client’s specification but strive to make them detachable. Some designs do not allow for detachable necks. We also offer costumes with the neck built into the body (tucks into the head) or with necks that are attached to lycra hoodies. Hoodie necks allow the bottom of the mascot head to remain open creating maximum airflow.
  11. Is the costume body lined?
    • If they say “no” this is not ideal. The fur can be pulled out from behind. The friction caused by wearing an unlined suit will accelerate this. However unlined suits are slightly lighter.’
    • If they say “yes” ask what it’s lined with. Some lining just adds unnecessary weight/heat to the costume. We’ve seen suits lined with thick cotton fabric and even quilt padding!
      • We use lightweight athletic mesh to line our costumes.  We find that this adds to the life of the fur body while adding a minimal amount of weight.
      • Lined mascot body

        Lined mascot body

  12. Can the hands detach from the costume?
    • If they say “no” this is not ideal. Hands are the highest wear part of the costume. They get dirty and worn out faster than the rest of the suit. Buying a new pair of hands/gloves is less expensive than having to send your entire mascot body back to have the old hands removed and new hands attached.
      • Our hands are connected with velcro and snaps. We make our hands detachable so they are easy to wash and less expensive to replace. We make them connect with snaps and velcro so they are less likely to get misplaced.
  13. Can the feet detach from the costume?
    • See above entry for hands.
  14. What is the average lifespan of the different fur options?
    • If they say “what??” then they have not been testing fur for it’s durability and are likely using whatever fur they see fit, or is cheapest.
      • We can let you know the expected lifespan of your fur options. We have been observing and testing fur for years. We make note of the different fibers, thicknesses, and asses their lasting powers. Basic shag fur, for example, has a short lifespan and needs to be replaced more frequently. We prefer to use deluxe long pile fur and plush fur options.
  15. Is the costume machine washable?
    • If they say “no” do you really want this costume? A costume that needs to be hand cleaned, or taken to a specialty cleaner will take up a lot of time and resources. As a result the costume often ends up going unwashed and gets smelly fast. Also dry cleaning just sprays a layer of chemicals on the costume and is not an effective cleaning method.
      • Our costumes are machine washable. However you must use a machine without an agitator. An agitator can/will tear the costume. Our heads are washable by hand.
  16. Do the feet/sneakers have internal straps so the performer can secure their own shoes inside?
    • If they say “no” this is not ideal. Feet that are worn as “slipper” do not offer optimal arch support or responsiveness.
      • Our feet are built with straps to secure the performer’s own shoes inside. We find that this allows for the best mobility and foot support. Our feet are also built to be lightweight and durable. We can even make the cover detach from the base for easy washing.
      • Shoe strap system

        Shoe strap system

  17. How do you make your mascot bellies?
    • If they say “foam sandwiched between mesh” this works, but we have found it to make the costumes unnecessarily hot.
      • Our bellies are made out of athletic mesh and five to eight 1/4 inch pvc tubes. We do not use foam to pad out bellies as we find that it makes the costume much hotter and does not add to the character’s over all shape.
      • Get in my belly

        Get in my belly

  18. Do you offer any annual maintenance with the costume purchase?
    • Most companies do not offer annual maintenance with your purchase, and some charge up to $400 for a cleaning!
      • We offer a free annual cleaning with minor repairs for the life of the costume! You just pay shipping to and from the studio. We deep clean the costume and fix any tears we see. If we assess that the costume needs advanced repairs (zipper replacement, knees patches, hands replaced, etc.) we will give you a written estimate and will only make repairs if approved. We find this service valuable to keep our characters looking their best. We want you to have an AMAZING!! Mascot for years!

If you can think of any questions we didn’t answer here, or would like more information on ordering a mascot costume, please feel free to contact us using the form below:

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How to write your mascot’s biography

how to be a mascot

Creating your mascot’s back story is an important and often over looked part of defining the personality of the character. A good back story helps establish the character, explain who he/she is, and provide motivation for the performer to develop a unique persona. The personality of the mascot helps dictate his actions and habits.

One of my favorite character biographies was for K-O of the Brockton Rox baseball team in 2003. It was done as an interview with the local newspaper and allowed me to present the mascot’s story to the public in a humorous fashion. As a performer I always “pushed it” and this mock interview does as well, with a few jokes that probably should have been edited out.

Below is the entire interview, originally published on July 13, 2003 in the Brockton Enterprise

Meet K-O

Below is an interview with Brockton’s newest celebrity, K-O the kangaroo. K-O, who stands seven boomerangs tall and weighs 2,416 baseballs (or roughly the same as a baby elephant) serves as mascot for the Brockton Rox minor league baseball team. We sat down with K-O before a recent Rox game

The Enterprise: Where were you born?
K-O: I was born at the Marsupial Medical Center on Kangaroo Island in Australia. They say I weighed 100 pounds, which is pretty heavy for a joey.

Enterprise: How did you start working for the Rox?
K-O: Well, the GM of the team Dave Echols was on a scouting trip to Australia. I happened to go to grammar school with Craig Lewis, the player he was scouting. Even though I’m a “boxing” kangaroo, I love baseball. Craigh got me a tryout in front of Dave. I played my best game ever, but Dave told me I was the worst ball player he’d ever seen, of any species! He did however think I would make a great addition to the Rox as the team’s mascot.

Enterprise: Speaking of your boxing career, what is your record?
K-O: It’s currently 42-0, all knockouts.

Enterprise: Who are some of the boxers you have faced?
K-O: Well they weren’t really boxers. More like that guy who keeps saying, “Momma said knock you out,” Barney, some guy who pulled my tail, a mime, several Yankees fans, and even though he won’t admit it, the Famous Chicken.

Enterprise: Do you have to be in shape to be a mascot?
K-O: Oh, I’m in great shape! That is, if you consider “pear” a shape.

Enterprise: What is your family like?
K-O: Well there’s my mom and pop, and my older brother Syd. We’re all in the entertainment industry. Pop was the spokes ‘roo for “Kangaroo Krunchies” a very popular sugar-coated chocolate cereal in Australia; Mom has been the featured attraction at the Kangaroo Zoo for over 10 years; Syd took the stage name “Jack,” moved to LA, and became a movie star.

Enterprise: What did you want to be when you grew up?
K-O: A firefighting-astronaut-cowboy who plays shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.

Enterprise: Are kangaroos endangered?
K-O: No, we’re actually so numerous they’ve started making kangaroo burgers. The best thing about Brockton is they don’t serve kangaroo! the food an beverage director has been leaving me threatening notes though, stuff like “i bet you taste like chicken!”

Enterprise: What do you do for fun?
K-O: I’m actually an avid belly dancer. I spend several nights each week at “Madame Bonapart’s Belly Dance Academy for Bulbous Marsupials” on fifth street. I also enjoy base jumping, extreme water ballet, poodle shaving, frisbee golf, full contact shuffle-board, making brownies, extreme bingo, underwater basket weaving, saying “wicked” a lot, extreme cribbage, parking my car at Harvard yard, and chasing my tail.

Enterprise: If you weren’t a mascot, what job would you have?
K-O: A male model for “plus size” clothing.

Enterprise: How do you prepare for a game?
K-O: I start off by eating 25 hot dogs followed by five trays of nachos with cheese, two orders of chicken fingers, a bowl of clam chowder, two bowls of chili, two double cheeseburgers, a partridge, and a pear tree. I then listen to some music to get me pumped up. Right now my pump up music is “Dare To Be Stupid” by Weird Al and “Taco Flavored Kisses” by J-Lo. I then make sure the visiting team’s cooler is emptied of regular Powerade and replaced with fish-flavored Powerade. I take the visiting teams’ boxer shorts and fly them on the flagpole as well.

Enterprise: Do you have any game day superstitions?
K-O: I feel it’s unlucky to take a bath during a home stand. If I take a bath, I know the team is doomed. Some people have started to notice the odor of my dedication. I’m not stinky, I’m lucky.

Enterprise: What is your favorite part of the game?
K-O: Hugs! I am the all time leader in hugs received per game with an average of 3,420 hugs. I am also the world leader in the dispersal of kangaroo kisses with a minimum of 2,101 fans receiving smooches at each game. I also enjoy all of the free snacks I find stuck in my fur after a game. There’s nothing like furball covered Cracker Jacks, believe me.

Enterprise: What is your least favorite part of the game?
K-O: TAIL-PULLERS!!!! It hurts, its mean, and if you pull my tail don’t be surprised if you get a bucket of popcorn dumped on your head.

Enterprise: What is something that not everyone knows about you?
K-O: That I am the uncontested, self proclaimed, “Best Mascot in New England.” I held the “Best Mascot” title in my native country and no one has challenged my title since I got here so I can only assume it’s mine. If any other mascots want to take my title and the “Best Mascot” championship beltthey’re invited to take part in my “New England Mascot Challenge!” They’ll be allowed to come perform at a Rox game, and if they can win my crowd over, they’ll be invited to the final showdown!

K-O Favorites

Book: Harry Potter and the Order of Onion Rings
Movie: Brave Little Toaster 5; Revenge of the Toaster
Movie star: Jackie Leggs
Food: Anything and everything edible, has been known to eat decorative bowls of plastic fruit
Color: Kangaroo brown
Music: Hip hop, of course
Dance move: Double whammy belly shammy shake
Hero: Elvis, the fat years
Cheese: Cheddar
Saying: “Floss daily.”
Subject in school: Tie between lunch and recess.
Baseball player: Ted Williams, unfrozen

As you can see this is a long and thorough story. We find out that K-O is a sharp witted “fat guy” who runs around knocking out mimes and a purple dinosaur. He’s pretty pompous, proclaiming himself the best mascot in New England, but also loves giving hugs. He’s a born entertainer coming from a family of kangaroo actors and he’s confident of his over sized body. He’s whimsical/random and enjoys belly dancing and poodle shaving. And he’s edgy, as that awful Ted Williams joke shows (really thought they’d edit that one out!)

This helped inspire his character and attitude. He’s fat, but he feels he’s good looking so he might have to sit down after running up a flight of stairs, but that lady he just sat next to “How you doing?” He loves to belly dance so he dressed up as a belly dancer and tried to “seduce” the visiting team. He might “talk” smack to the other team, only to run away when someone makes a move towards him.

The secret to being a great mascot performer is to develop a character and portray that character the entire time you’re in costume.

Are you upset? Be upset in character? Tired? In character. Bored? In character.

Raymond

When I came to the Rays in 2004 the only biography of the mascot was on the side of a bobble head doll that had been given away in 2002. It was long and involved hot dogs and Rays scouts. It didn’t really define who, or what Raymond was. After I went full time in 2006 I sat down to decide once and for all what Raymond was and crafted the following story:

“In early 1998, Rays scouts on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico spotted a strange looking animal. The creature, apparently drawn to the boat by the smell of hotdogs on the hibachi, climbed aboard and soon won the scouts over with his silly antics. During the excitement, a scout had a brilliant idea: make this fun loving fuzz ball the mascot for the new baseball team. “Raymond” as the scouts dubbed him, immediately accepted their contract offer of all the hotdogs he could eat, all the high fives he could handle, and the ability to shake his groove thing to countless Tampa Bay fans.

Raymond’s animal-like appearance causes confusion among fans of all ages. His fuzzy face is similar to a walrus and his bulbous blue belly likens him to a mutant manatee. So what exactly is he?

In 2005 marine biologists and zoologists made a startling discovery; Raymond is actually a previously undiscovered species of dog known as “Canus Manta Whatthefluffalus” or in layman’s terms, a Seadog. Seadogs have all the traits of normal dogs. They enjoy going for walks, playing with kids, and fetching. Unlike other dogs they are five to six feet tall, walk upright, are blue in color, and chase catfish. While other dogs live on land, Seadogs usually live in or around the water. Seadogs are well known for their fun-loving nature, passion for baseball, and general good looks.”

The #1 issue I wanted to address was exactly what Raymond was. I decided on a “Seadog” primarily because the animal he was most often called was a dog and secondarily because seadog is a term for a pirate, and pirates are a large part of Tampa Bay’s history.

We also developed a “Likes/Dislikes” section which was another avenue for humor and character definition:

Raymond’s Stats

  • Full Name: Raymond Ray
  • Birthplace: Gulf of Mexico
  • Age: Unknown
  • Height: Really tall
  • Weight: Really heavy
  • MLB debut: June 21, 1998
  • Position: Upright and locked
  • Throws: Tantrums
  • Catches: Colds
  • Bats: Scare him

Favorites

  • Color: Blue…duh
  • Food: EVERYTHING!
  • Songs: “Blue” and “Mozart’s 5th Concerto”
  • TV Show: I’d rather be reading!
  • Books: HAIRY Potter, Monsters Under My Bed, Wuthering Heights
  • Movies: “The Rookie” and “Monsters, Inc.”

Likes: Rays baseball, belly dancing, hugs, hot dogs, doing flips, full contact shuffle board, poodle shaving, extreme chess, reading, and KIDS!

Dislikes: Hairballs, taking baths, getting nacho cheese in his fur, falling off walls.

As a result of this clarification of who/what Raymond was, the character grew in esteem and recognition, and I stopped hearing “What are you??” as fans would tell people “He’s a SeaDog.”

When the Astros reintroduced Orbit after a decade they made sure to craft a back story and bio to explain his absence and return. You can read it on their website.  Anyone familiar with Orbit knows he’s a character and has a set personality. Establishing his bio was just step one of creating a well defined character.

So remember fellow furballs, if you want to be more than a kid in a fuzzy suit, consider yourself an actor. Create your character and be that character. A well crafted back story will help you find inspiration and definition.

 

Stay fuzzy my friend ~Kelly

How to be a corporate mascot

jvc mascot

Mascots are larger than life representatives of the teams and businesses they represent. However there are some differences between performing as a sports mascot and a corporate mascot for a business. With a corporate character, you literally are bringing their brand to life. You are the huggable, walking, dancing interactive extension of their brand. A simple misstep in costume could result in a PR nightmare for a company and damage it’s reputation online.

With that in mind here are some tips for being a corporate mascot performer:

  • Dress appropriately for the event you are attending. For example, when I recently worked a convention for medical professionals, I showed up in business attire (nice pair of pants, appropriate top.) Everyone staffing the booth I was at was in their best office attire and I was able to look professional while out of costume. While working for a 5/15k racing event, warm up gear was appropriate. Dressing business casual (Khaki pants, polo shirt) is safe choice if you are unsure of the environment you will be performing at. Dress for success! Don’t allow your value to be undermined by poor attire.
  • Make sure you are always performing in a positive family friendly manner. Some of your go to moves as a sports mascot are not appropriate in a corporate environment. “Thrusting” out a belly, or doing “booty” dances are examples of moves that should be removed from your acting repertoire. Use moves that you would do at a child’s birthday party.
  • Be aware of event restrictions. Some conventions do not allow mascots to roam the event and the character must stay at the booth. Other events are OK with roaming mascots. If you are able to roam it is a great way to expand your client’s impact at the event. Just make sure you have an escort to guide you to prevent mishaps.
  • Be aware of “competing” brands. While at an event there may be other businesses offering the services that your client does. Remember, you are not at a sporting event. These businesses are not “opposing fans.” Be respectful to other brands and if possibly, simply avoid them.
  • Always be entertaining. A lot of the time at conventions/corporate appearances there is nothing going on. No one is at the booth, or all of the customers have already seen you and are drifting away. Do not simply stand there. Stay in character. To keep myself motivated to move I often play a song in my head and dance to it. You can pass the time in a much more fun manner if you are dancing along to the cupid shuffle, or other easy go to mascot dances.
  • Be visible. If you’re at an event where you can wander around, try and figure out where you can b the most visible. At recent events those spots were: the dance floor by the DJ, the start line of the race, the entrance to the post race party. At store appearances, if things are slow, consider standing by the side of the road and waving to people. You’d be surprised how many people pull into the store/event to get a photo with the character. But be safe, stay far away from the road
  • Take breaks. Sometimes corporate clients don’t understand the needs of a mascot performer. Be safe, and set appearance guidelines that your feel comfortable with. Indoors I was comfortable with 60 minutes in, 30 minutes out. For outdoor events it varies with the weather. In hotter climates it can be as short as 30 on, 30 off. Proper breaks allow you to recharge and be energetic during your next set.
scribe america bear

scribe america bear

You’ll find that organizations often appreciate a great performer. Too many businesses “settle” for inexperienced “brand ambassadors” that are forced into costume. Once an organization sees the value a professional mascot performer brings, they’re likely to have you back for more events!

Stay fuzzy my friends!

~Kelly

How to be a baseball mascot part 1, pregame

allstar2008

Modern sports mascots as we known them today started in baseball back in 1974 when a college student working as a radio station chicken mascot performed at a San Diego Padres game.  The Famous Chicken, as he’d soon be known, performed for the station for 5 years before breaking free and holding his “Grand Hatching” in 1979. His popularity inspired other teams to get characters of their own and the mascot industry was born. Characters such as the Phillie Phanatic (1978), Fredbird/Cardinals (1979) and Orioles Bird (1979) have stood the test of time while others (Dandy/Yankees 1980, Ribbie & Rhoobarb/White Sox 81-88) faded away.

Baseball is the perfect venue for a mascot. The pace of the game, with its’ inning breaks and pitching changes, create multiple opportunities for a mascot to strut his/her stuff.

Here are suggestions on how to perform as a mascot at a baseball game, based on my 13+ years of performing at ballparks:

Pregame

This is a great time to mingle, greet fans, and with players. It is one of your best opportunities for spontaneous  crowd and player interactions. Greeting fans at “gates open” is a fun way to welcome customers into your park. If you schedule it as a photo session it is possible to get sponsors involved.pigsegway

After greeting people at the gates, head to the field about 15-30 minutes prior to game time. Use this time to stretch with the home team, harass the opposing team as they warm up, and cruise around on an ATV or other mascot vehicle.

Interacting with opposing players is a delicate dance. While the majority of ballplayers are welcoming, some are not. I suggest starting your antics at a distance, judging the player’s reaction, and gradually moving in. If a player tells you to go away, leave. Try and find someone else. Just because you’re a mascot raymond stretchesdoesn’t mean you need to be a jerk. Over time you may even develop a relationship with certain players or entire teams. I spent years goofing around with the Orioles and knew they could be counted on to have fun, leading to some memorable interactions such as this video <click here>. I also cultivated a relationship with Angel Berroa which lead to this funny moment <click here> while working a game in Kansas City. The master of pregame antics is the Phillie Phantic.  He has tried to arrest a Mets player, grown impatient with umpires, and just been a general goof. The Pirate Parrot also has great pregame antics.

Playing with umpires is much like working with the players, except they actually have the authority to eject you from a game. Umps are under a lot of stress and are subject to the verbal beatings of the crowd. In the majors I pretty much left them alone, except to occasionally salute them or wedge my way into their pregame conversation when the lineup cards are delivered. In the minors they were more game to play. Try and introduce yourself to the umpire crew before the game. By letting them see the person in the suit they’re more inclined to play with you.

On big games, you can use this time to pump up the crowd. During the 2008 MLB playoffs I would ride out to center field with my drum and some signs. I would rev the engine to get the crowds’ attention. Then I would bang on the drum to get them pumped up. I then set the signs on the ground so they could see what they said. One read “Tampa” the other “Bay.” I would gesture that left field was Tampa, right field was “Bay” and then do a 1-2-3 count and start the cheer side by side. After that cheer I’d pick up the drum and do a series of 3 beats leading the entire crowd in a “Let’s go Rays!” chant.

Generally pregame schtick goes on until either player introductions or the anthem. If they introduce the opposing team its a great time to head over to the opposing side and be unimpressed with their lineup. I would often give sarcastic claps, yawn, or just fall asleep on the field. When they announced the pitcher I would pantomime throwing a pitch and batter getting a home run.  After the low energy of the opposing team, it’s a good idea run over to the home team side and react as they introduce your players. You can flex your muscles, beat your chest, act like you knocked it out of the park, etc. You can even develop a certain move for each player.

Once it’s time for the anthem, it’s time to chill out. Do not be disrespectful. It’s best to just stand still, remove your hat (if possible), and listen to the anthem. The anthem singer is excited for their moment, let them have it. Once he/she is done, feel free to give them a hug, bow down to them, kiss their feet, or act as their escort off the field.

Next up is usually a ceremonial first pitch. Again be respectful of someone elseplay ball how to be a mascot moment. A mascot can either act as a catcher or umpire. After that it’s usually the “play ball” kid. This is a young fan or fans that gets to “say those magic words” to start the game. I would just stand near them and high five or hug them once they were complete.

And now it’s game time! And after all of that, it’s usually time to take a break and get ready for 9 innings of baseball!

To be continued…..

Stay Fuzzy my friends~ Kelly

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.