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
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!
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
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.
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:
- 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
- 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
This week the corporate mascot world was startled by the introduction of McDonald’s new mascot, “Happy.” The public was not humming Pharrel as they embraced the new icon. Rather they bashed it in standard social media terms as “nightmare fuel” and dubbing it “the happy meal that will eat your soul.” This is on the heels of revamping Ronald McDonald’s look to be hipper. With numerous characters with decades of brand equity, “Happy” doesn’t seem to make much sense. It can be assumed that the company thought “it worked in France!”
In the same week Chicago based Ferrara Candy company decided to revamp their iconic Lemonhead character and let him “grow up” into a blue eyed 22 year old who loves taking selfies. The giant blue BLINKING eyes, human body, and human tuft of hair give it a truly terrifying look. The team behind the Twitter account seems to acknowledge this and invoke a @TacoBell and @Skittles type of voice, so Lemon Chucky, I mean Head, might actually work as an ad campaign (just not as a costume!)
On one hand you can argue that the mascots are a success due to their social media/viral status. However I don’t think these were intended to be short term stunts but rather long term brand investments.
Here’s my advice when it comes to designing a mascot: HIRE A MASCOT DESIGN COMPANY!!! I’m positive both of these characters were imaged by an ad agency/marketing firm complete with dozens of focus groups, meetings, meetings about meetings, and power point presentations. I own a mascot company, I make mascots. I would not be able to create and execute a complete advertising campaign (complete with media buys) for your company, so why would you expect an ad agency to know what works best for mascot design? An ad agency has various talented people but a graphic designer is no substitute for an experienced mascot design firm. No agency has a “mascot engineer” who knows the best materials to use or what will/won’t translate from a drawing to a costume. A mascot company will also have a vast knowledge of past and present mascot designs and what did/didn’t work about them and help minimize the risk involved in launching a new character.
We recently produced a mascot costume that was designed by a very talented branding firm. They create great logos, however when we looked at their mascot design, we knew it would not work as drawn, and knew that some features would draw criticism. We took their artwork and merged it with our own to produce a unique performer friendly costume. While other new mascots who were introduced at the time got slammed, ours was the only one to receive positive feedback. It’s because WE KNOW MASCOTS.
A major university was in the process of reintroducing a mascot after several years and called for my feedback. I looked over their proposed designs, looked into their history, read what the student body was saying online, and said only one of the designs even had a chance of getting approved. It was the one closest to their former mascot that was axed for political correctness. I never heard back from them, but awhile later read that they had scrapped the entire idea of a new mascot and are going mascot less. They spent over $50,000 in research to come up with a conclusion I made in 30 minutes.
When we begin the mascot design process I start off by talking to the team/company and finding what their needs are. How will the mascot be used (sports games, school shows, trade shows, outdoors/indoors, etc.)? What is more important for this character brand recognition or mobility/fun? Who will be wearing the costume? I then take any logos or artwork they have an come up with several pencil sketches of possibilities. The client gives feedback and I make the changes. Once the pencil sketch is approved I then create a color proof that we build the costume off of.
So the next time you’re looking to introduce a new mascot, save yourself the inevitable “Poochie” references when you present a focus group created mascot and hire an experienced mascot design firm (Like AMAZING!! Mascots.)
In my next post I will elaborate on “How To Order a Mascot Costume” to educate potential mascot buyers what to look for and what to avoid.
Stay fuzzy my friends~ Kelly
Now that pregame is over, it’s time to “tackle” the game. Since the baseball season is long, and games have no set time limit, it’s best to establish a schedule and develop a routine.The most useful thing to know before you go out are your entrance/exit points, the fastest ways to get around the stadium, and alternate break rooms. You may get stuck out somewhere during the game and need to take a quick break. Concession stands with freezers, storage closets, suites, bull pen lounges, “family” bathrooms, and offices are great escapes when you don’t have the time to get back to your dressing room. By knowing how to navigate your stadium you’re getting the maximum exposure with the minimum effort. Also it’s extremely important that you are comfortable with your dugout top and familiarize yourself with it’s dimensions. Falling off the dugout is a real danger and you, and the players below you, can get seriously injured. Check out the infamous clip of Wolfie falling off the dugout in Reno <click here> You should also watch out for the outfield walls, as they can be dangerous. Slider of the Cleveland Indians fell off the wall during the ALCS and torn his ACL. I fell off the outfield wall and broke my arm, requiring surgery to put a plate and four screws in my bone. Be aware of your surroundings!
If possible give your mascot an introduction sometime after the first inning, mid 2 being an ideal time (the theory being that not everyone is in their seats yet during the 1st). You can announce the character, he/she makes his/her entrance, and does a quick skit, dance, or T-shirt launch. It’s a great way to let the crowd see the mascot and know that he’ll be around during the game. Check out Orbit of the Astros introduction <Click here> This was done pre game, but could easily be done in game.
Mascots are often used to accentuate promotions. Work with your game director/promotional staff and determine which promos they mascot should be at and know when/where they are. One of the most common on field mascot promotions is the mascot race. Another is musical chairs. Normally I would budget 6 outs for a promotion. I would use 3 outs to get to position and be in position 3 outs prior. While you’re waiting for a promo, either interact with the crowd, or hide away in a tunnel/hallway. You should never be seen just standing idle clearly waiting for a contest. It makes you look like a bored intern in a costume.
Skits are another great way to entertain the baseball crowd. There are many common skits, such as the Dance off, where the mascot attempts to get someone (planted player, umpire, fan, opposing mascot) to dance. The person is reluctant at first, but then breaks out into a dance, like this skit with Raymond and the Oriole Bird, the Greenville Drive game and the Eugene Emeralds. An easy skit is the “mascot streaker” where the character runs out “naked” and is pursued by security.For the “Slow Dance request” skit, the mascot finds a pretty lady who he wants to dance with, but has to argue with the sound guy to play the correct song. Watch Raymond perform this routine <click here>. Another is the “mascot in drag” routine where the mascot puts on a dress and serenades an umpire or player. The Phanatic took it up a notch by dressing up as Lady Gaga and dancing. <click here> There is also the mimic/Monkey See Monkey do skit where a fan has to do what the mascot does. Check out Thunder from Lake Elsinore performing this <click here>. If your budget allows it, you can get real creative and create prop based skits, like Raymond’s tear away skit, which was adapted from a Famous Chicken bit <click here>. The grounds crew field drag is another opportunity to perform. Here Parker of the Fresno Grizzlies and his “Drag Kings” performing a dance to “Soulja Boy.” The “Mascot Evolution of Dance” is another popular routine, where the mascot dances to a variety of popular songs. Parker reworked the skit into the “Evolution of Hip Hop“. Watch YouTube and look at what other mascots do. Feel free to “borrow” the skits, as most mascot performers do. I suggest that you find some twist or unique way to make it your own.
In the minors it’s easy to get time to perform, but in the majors where every inning break is sponsored and time is at a premium, it’s much harder to get time. One way to “sneak” skit time in is by piggy backing on a promotion. Here the Tampa Bay Rays mascot and the Texas Rangers mascot serve as contestants for the Pappa Johns “Dance for your dinner” promo <click here> A great place for “found time” are pitching changes. These breaks are usually not sponsored and offer time for the mascot to strut their stuff. Since pitching changes are random, it’s next to impossible to perform a live skit, so video skits are a better option.
Video skits are easy and impactful ways to engage the crowd with the mascot. With the Rays I did several “sing-a-longs” that got the crowd going, such as “Living on a Prayer” and “Minnie the Moocher.” Video skits are great because they can be used over and over again. You can theme them for special events, like Father’s Day (Raymond goes Fishing with Dad) or for specific opponents (Raymond vs the Rally Monkey, Raymond vs Wally the Green Monster)
The 7th inning stretch usually features the mascot. The character hops on the dugout and pantomimes the stretch. After the stretch there is usually 60 seconds of “pump up” music. The Winston-Salem Dash dances to the song “Ice Cream and Cake.” You can also invite fans up to dance with you like the Phanatic does.
The bane of anyone working in baseball is the dreaded rain delay. This is a good time to take a break, but it is also a great time to do some schtick. You can get a rain outfit for the character, but if your budget doesn’t allow for a custom costume, just go buy a large yellow poncho. It will fit over your mascot easily and people will “get it.” If you have an old/backup suit you can take it out and slide on the tarp or play in puddles. Be sure to check with your groundskeeper and supervisor before doing this.
Mascot “Family” members are a great way to add entertainment to the game on Family Fundays (usually Sundays) and Mothers’/Fathers’ Day. Take your old costume or your backup costume and add accessories to make it into Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Or Grandma. For female family members a large dress, fancy hat, wig, lipstick/eyeshadow (made of felt and pinned on) and a purse work. For male characters a sports jacket, neck tie, tacky Hawaiian shirt, and a bushy mustache (fake fur fabric, pinned on) do the trick. For grandparents have the performer walk slower and perhaps give them a cane or walker. Many of these items can be found at a thrift store so you don’t have to break the bank to costume your characters.
Mascot birthday parties are a popular event at baseball games, sometimes drawing large crowds. Invite local sports and sponsor mascots to the event. If you have a budget it’s even possible to bring in out of town mascots which is a special treat for the fans. Pregame is a good time to do a group introduction and skit. If you have time, film a video skit with the mascots to show during the game (or online) like the Raymond’s house party or the Mascot card video we did. Have the mascots available to do an autograph session. Having a poster made with all of the mascots on it is a great touch. If this is not in your budget, get the mascots to take a group photo before the game begins, print off color copies in the office, and have the characters sign the photo during the autograph session.
If the team is down, consider a “rally” version of your character. In Tampa we had “Rally Ray.” They played an intro video, cued the music, and Rally Ray came bounding out during the middle of the 9th. We created a super hero style costume for him to wear. “Rally Ray” when then pump up the crowd using his drum. If you have a Rally version of your character, pay attention to the game and make sure you take a break so you have some gas left in the tank. See where you’re at after the 7th inning stretch.
If your team wins its great to “run the flag.” Get a custom flag made and run out to the field with it. It’s a nice way to end the game. If you have a “kids run the bases” post game it’s a nice opportunity to high five or take pictures on the field after the game. I was so wiped after working all game that I actually had my backup do it, which is advisable, unless you want to spend all day in costume.
That’s all for now. Look forward to Part 3: Working the crowd.
Stay Fuzzy my friends~ Kelly
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:
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.
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 doesn’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 else 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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Mileage/travel expenses
- Training for performers
- Develop merchandise: Generate revenue with your mascot through sales of items such as dolls, t-shirts, hats, bobble heads, and more.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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.
Taking proper care of your mascot costume is the best way to protect your investment. Ultimately you should designate an area to hang, store, and dry the costume. This area should be equipped with fans, a 50/50 mix of water and vodka in a spray bottle, and a repair kit (full list of repair kit supplies below). Our costume bodies are machine washable, however the more you wash the costume, the more it will show wear. If you have multiple performers, the body and padding should be washed whenever a new performer is putting on the costume. If you only have one performer, your best bet is to properly air out the costume as much as possible and wash the costume when necessary.
In order to properly care for your costume…
- PUT THE COSTUME IN THE DRYER! EVER! Synthetic fur is made of plastic. Plastic melts when you heat it. A fur costume thrown in the dryer will become a nappy ball of short, crisp, melted fur. Countless costumes have been ruined by untrained people cleaning the costume. Don’t let this happen to your suit!
- SPRAY ANY CLEANING AGENT IN THE HEAD, other than a 50/50 mix of water and Vodka. Products such as Febreeze and Lysol will stick in the fur, and then leak out into the performer’s eyes once he/she begins to sweat. The water/vodka mix kills germs and odor without leaving behind harmful elements.
- STORE A WET COSTUME IN A BAG/BOX! Your costume must be dry before you store it. If not, the wet costume will grow mold and other bacteria putting the performer’s health in danger and creating a very stinky costume.
- DRY CLEAN YOUR COSTUME! It just sprays a layer of chemicals over the suit, failing to provide proper cleaning.
- DRY OUT YOUR COSTUME AFTER AN APPEARANCE. Hang up the body and direct a fan at it. For faster results, drape the body over a fan, allowing the air to circulate inside the costume. Put the head on top of or next to a fan. A head is very hard to clean and the best way to keep it stink free is to dry it off as soon as possible.
- WASH HIGH WEAR COSTUME PIECES OFTEN. Hands are the part of the costume that gets dirty the fastest. Jerseys as well. Both can easily be washed in a washing machine and hung to dry.
- SPOT CLEAN YOUR HEAD/SHOES: Use a spray on spot cleaner that can be rubbed in and rinsed out.
- WASH YOUR COSTUME BETWEEN PERFORMERS. It is not healthy to wear a costume that has not been cleaned. A program that utilizes multiple performers should wash costumes whenever a different performer uses the suit. For this reason it is beneficial to have multiple costumes or parts.
- MACHINE WASH YOUR COSTUME. Put it in a large washer using the gentle cycle and cold water. It is best to use a washer without an agitator as it can tear the costume. A double/triple load washer at the laundromat is ideal. Do not use too much detergent. For extra softness and scent add liquid fabric softener during the rinse cycle. Allow several hours for the costume to hang dry.
- CLEAN YOUR HEAD. Heads are hard to clean thoroughly. Your best bet is to spray a 50/50 mix of water and vodka inside the head. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe out any excess liquid. Place on a fan to dry. To clean the whole head (do not do this to paper mache or fiberglass heads) submerge it in a bathtub. Scrub a delicate detergent on the fur. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry. A full head cleaning is time consuming. You can put this off by using the 50/50 spray, making sure to air your head out on a fan, and spot cleaning dirt on the fur.
To enable you to make minor repairs on your costume, put together a repair kit. It should include the following:
- Curved quilting needles. The curved needles are much easier to use on oddly shaped mascot costumes
- Thread. Match your fur color
- Safety pins. Great for temporary fixes
- Contact cement. Great for fixing shoe soles and foam parts of the costume. If you use contact cement in your mascot head, make sure to air it out properly (several hours on a fan)
- Hot glue gun. Great for temporary fixes. Does not last long on shoes or plastic.
- Duct tape. You’ll find a use.
- Additional chinstraps. In case something happens.
At AMAZING!! Mascots we put a lot of time and effort into creating the best possible mascot for you. Make sure your costume continues to look great by caring for it in the proper manner. With mascot programs, you get out what you put in.
Stay fuzzy my friends~ Kelly Frank, President, AMAZING!! Mascots, Inc
Custom mascots and more! www.facebook.com/amazingmascots
Welcome to the latest and greatest blog about mascots and how to be a mascot performer. I have been peforming as a mascot for over a decade and have been designing/producing costumes for just as long. When I first started as a performer, there was very little information available for me to learn from. I started this blog to help aspiring and current mascot performers and administrators learn about the art of “mascotting.”
You may be thinking “The ‘art?’ Really? Isn’t it just some idiot jumping around in a fuzzy jumpsuit?” And that’s probably why your mascot currently sucks.
A mascot is a living breathing extension of your brand. It’s the huggable, interactive, high fiving advertisement for your organization. It is important to make sure your performer is well trained, the costume is maintained, and your “mascot marketing” has a solid plan behind it.
This blog will help your mascot grow. Keep checking back to read the latest entries. Until then, please enjoy my highlight reel:
Stay fuzzy my friends. ~ Kelly