Mascots play a critical role for teams acting as community ambassadors and connection points. While their role in-game may be more visible, it’s this community role that is likely more important. With that, teams and mascots must devote the time and effort to maximize these appearances. This effort will make the appearances more interesting and entertaining for guests, valuable for event organizers and enhance the stature of the team and the character in their community. With that in mind, I have identified 3 ways to make your mascot appearances great and 3 ways to ruin them as a guide to improving this important team inventory.
This effort should also extend across the organization, not just the mascot performer. Both have a vested interest in making appearances the best they can be. For the team, this is often the best way to inject your brand into community. Cost efficient, flexible and reliable. Teams often build in appearances to their mascot contact if the performer is full time, and if they are paid per appearance, the hard costs rarely extend beyond a couple hundred dollars. If positioned properly, this is a small price to pay for the chance to promote your brand in your community.
Mascots are also an incredibly flexible tool, a good mascot can work a crowd of adults as easily as a crowd of kids. They are right at home riding in a parade, greeting customers at a grocery store or entertaining at a community festival. Often they are the most identifiable member of your staff as well.
Finally, your mascot is reliable (or should be). Top level athletes sometimes don’t treat appearances as their highest priority and they often have more challenges scheduling due to game, training, practices and travel. With a full-time mascot program, appearances are a top level priority and thus are easier to book, schedule and administer.
For the performer, incentives to make appearances great are different, yet just as strong. Many mascots make a significant part of their income from appearances. Being in demand can be the difference between a hobby and a well-earning job. Also being the centerpiece of a well-conceived appearance plan makes appearances more enjoyable and interesting, and will bring out the best in your performer.
First we’ll look at how to screw this up:
Three Ways to Ruin a Mascot Appearance.
This sounds fairly obvious, but no one wants to hug a smelly bear. You can be hilarious, engaging and perform amazing tricks, but a damp costume that smells like wet gym socks will be sure to make you memorable…in all the wrong ways. And people notice.
Costumes can be challenging to keep fresh and clean, but without on-going maintenance your mascot program will be doomed. Your costume provider likely gave some simple instructions with your costume, but they might not have told you that keeping a mascot costume clean can be a chore. This is especially true if you use more than one performer, have only one costume, and aren’t diligent about keeping your costume clean.
Here are a couple keys:
a. Launder regularly.
Any part of your costume that is machine washable should be washed on a regular basis. When making your costume, consult with your costumer about a design that allows for removal of any interior parts that would prohibit you from washing in a home-style washing machine, like hoops or leather features.
b. Air Dry – ALWAYS.
No costume should be put away and stored wet. Most costumes are transported and stored in bags, but no part of your costume should be stored wet. This allows bacteria to grow, causing odor, stains, and damage to the fur, seams and fabric. After each appearance you must take your costume out and air dry, hanging costumes and parts out and directing air flow with fans. If you store your costume at the arena, look into a drying chamber like this one to protect your investment.
c. Minimize Chemicals
Consult with your costumer for details, but try to limit the use of chemical sprays, like Febreeze, which can mask the odor. There is no good alternative to washing and air drying. My rule of thumb, if you washed every fourth appearance before you used Febreeze…wash every fourth appearance after you start using Febreeze. It can keep you fresher, but its not a substitute for regular cleaning.
If all of this seems obvious, it is….its just lost on a lot of mascots and teams.
Keys: Smell your dry costume and wash as needed. Always air dry before storing.
2. Come empty handed
Just like Mom taught you not to arrive at a guests house empty handed, this is a good rule for mascot appearances.
Since you are a featured guest and could be responsible for bringing gifts for hundreds of people, you will need to keep it cheap and simple. The most effective handouts are usually postcards, autograph cards, or trading cards . Often costing less than a few cents each, these are suitable mementos. As your repertoire of appearances grow, you might grow your inventory of elements. For example, bringing glossy 8×10 photos for a small birthday party with 10 guests, bringing 400 trading cards for a larger community event, or bringing a pair of tickets and t-shirt for a retirement party. You also should be armed with Sharpie markers to sign autographs, not relying on guests for a pen.
The worst case is just showing up and roaming around, this makes you look unprepared, disinterested, or left signing your autograph on napkins with a pencil…which will diminish your impact and make you look like less of a featured attraction than before you arrived.
3. Fail to Connect the Appearance with Your Team
You aren’t there because you are so funny or sweet, its because you are part of something bigger. You are part of a team, business or school. Capture that association and use it to enhance your presence and connect with fans.
Banner, signs, inflatables, sports-theme games like Pop-a-Shot) are a great start. A workable tool is probably already sitting in your team’s front office or in use on your concourse. Find a way to incorporate these items to connect your presence to the team. If you have a budget, a simple backdrop or banner can help make your appearance a larger spectacle. And interactive games are the best way to keep an audience, simply playing your sports with guests connects you to your team.
A simple audio mix is also a cost effective way. With the popularity of ipods, it’s never been easier to come with a fresh music mix. I have even looped in team relevant commercials to an audio track for public events so the visitors actually hear team and sponsor messaging while they interact.
Keys: What are you adding to the mix? Don’t show up with your costume, show up with an event. What might seem small to you, might be a huge addition to their event.
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin: