Five Keys to Highly Effective Mascots

Sports marketers looking for ways to improve their mascot operations will enjoy this special editorial feature written by Joshua Duboff. Duboff is a former mascot from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is now the Editor-in-Chief of The Sports Business Exchange, an online journal for young sports business professionals. For more information on the journal, visit The Sports Business Exchange website.

March Madness. There is nothing quite like it. First round upsets. Marching bands. Cheerleaders. Second round upsets. People who love Duke. People who hate Duke. Buzzer beaters. The Sweet Sixteen. The agony of defeat. Brackets! “One Shining Moment.” The Final Four. No other sporting event offers as much joy and entertainment as the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament (for those non-believers out there, for double the madness check out the women’s tournament!). I can’t believe I have to wait another eleven months for the tournament to start up again.

There is one key ingredient to March Madness that was not included in the list above. For those of you who know me, this item’s absence seems shocking. Mascots are another aspect of the tournament that makes it so special and unique. After several years of questions about how to rate a “good” mascots, I am finally writing down my five key ingredients that make certain mascots the best at their profession.

Five Keys to Highly Effective Mascots:

1) Know The Code

Mascotting is not all fun and games. Okay, a lot of it is fun and games. However, there are times when you need to be serious and understand your role. The mascot is a very unique and honorable position to hold. You are the identity of the school. Every time you go out in public, your actions are bigger than you think. You are larger than life. You are your school’s logo. Therefore, know the code. Don’t talk. Don’t reveal your identity. Don’t be human. Know where the cameras are located. Your time will come, if it is deserved, to be recognized for your achievements. Until then, you must always act with the best interest of the school in mind.

2) Identify Key Individuals

Identify key individuals who will be your safety net throughout the season. Learn who will be able to help you if a stunt goes wrong, if sweat drips into your eye and you can’t see, or if you are just trying to get that pesky kid to stop pulling on your suit. The team, the cheerleaders, and the band are your best friends. Treat them that way. When you’re on the road in a raucous stadium, who else is going to protect your blind spots?

Additionally, identify key individuals that you know you can mess with throughout the season. Understand which students, which community members, which coaches, and which referees you can play around with throughout the season without getting in trouble. Also, know when enough is enough and when to leave them alone.

3) Love Your School

The student(s) portraying the mascot needs to love their school. Being the mascot is unlike any other job on campus. It is all about pride, loyalty, and creativity. The university will win some big games and they’ll lose some disappointing games. Win or lose, the mascot needs to always stay positive and always represent the school in the best light possible. Remember, the mascot represents the entire university. I think it is important for all incoming mascots to have a broad foundational understanding of the history of the school. They should learn not only about the history of athletics, but about the entire university.

Here’s one true test of a great mascot: does the student who is an Engineering/Biochemistry double major and has never been to a collegiate sporting event feel just as much pride in the mascot as the leader of the student cheering section? If you can answer yes then you’re in great shape.

4) Be Spontaneous

Canned material gets old. Don’t use it. When a mascot is just starting out, skits and routines are important to build the confidence of the performer. As a mascot progresses, they should ditch the routines. The more spontaneous a mascot can be the more funny they are. Being spontaneous needs no more clarification. Be fun and be original.

5) Market the Mascot/School

Mascots are literally the face of a university. You are the logo. Used correctly, the mascot can be the greatest marketing tool for an athletic marketing department and the university as a whole. Mascots are loved by the community and alumni alike. Use the mascot efficiently to promote the entire school. Find unique opportunities to involve the mascot in non-traditional formats around the state.

School visits and 5K races are great, but what about carting around a busy intersection at rush hour or pretending to be the weather person on the local news station? Once every few months, let the mascot run wild through campus. Sure they might disrupt a class or two, but the positive energy that will be created with the students is hard to match with traditional marketing.

Check out two (2) video of examples of mascots demonstrating best practices (the latter of which is Joshua Duboff performing as Sam the Minutemen at UMASS):