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Mascot Programs with Erin Blank
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Erin Blank has been involved in the professional mascot world for 11 years. Erin is currently the Mascot and Kids Club Coordinator and runs the popular mascot web site, mascot.net. She has performed at nearly every level and built mascots (literally) and mascot programs for teams in nearly every sport. Erin joins us for the September Interview.
Gameops.com: What are the keys elements to building a good mascot program?
Erin Blank: There are three elements to building a good mascot program: The costume design, the performer, and the marketing behind the character. Mascots who don't have one of the elements don't work as well as ones that do, and mascots who have lasted the longest and are the most successful have all three elements working for them.
In costume design, the key is to create a unique and appealing costume that fits your audience. College mascots need be sharp and clever to appease the student aged body, while minor league mascots should be softer since the audience is made up of families and kids. Most of the successful NBA mascots are a bit edgier and real since their ticket base is generally older and more corporate.
Costumes need to not only look convincing, but need to allow the performer to animate in a convincing manner. Many costumes often lack in either one of these characteristics. It's crucial to the performer to have a grace period of "breaking in" a new costume to see its limitations and propose alterations to improve his or her performance.
The second element is finding the right performer who understands comedy and how to work with the promotion department. They also need to have the correct skill set. Performers with a hockey team who can't skate will not have credibility with "educated" hockey fans, although there are many great hockey mascots out there who can't skate. They enhance their grace, or lack thereof, with slapstick clumsiness. The performers also must be a fan of the team and enthusiastic about the team, since you really can't fake that. Finally the performer must understand the game and it's intricacies.
The final element of a good program is to put some marketing behind the character. As a team you must develop a game plan. Determine how to best incorporate your mascot into the game, contests, skits, advertising, community programs, charity events and team merchandising.
The marketing aspect is the most important and the one that is most often overlooked. If you don't highlight your mascot, you are telling your fans that it is not really an important part of the team. Then when you need your mascot to represent the team, it wont carry the same value.
Gameops.com: What is the best way to incorporate you mascot into your game?
Erin Blank: You really have to look at it from your fans perspective. Look at the age groups of the fans, and ask how they might want your mascot to be perceived. Are your fans conservative aficionados or younger fans looking for a carnival with a game going on in the middle?
For example, the WNBA mascots are more energetic and play a bigger role with the fans, because the audience is much more youth-oriented and less sports purist.
Gameops.com: Once you have found your mascot what sort of guidance should you be giving them?
Erin Blank: The more you can verbalize your expectations the better. A good first step is to give them the rules of your sport or league. In baseball, a lot of mascots think they can just go off and run around wild like the Chicken. So teams need to be clear about what is allowed and encouraged and what is not.
Major League Baseball actually has rules stating that a mascot can not incite the crowd. If an umpire feels like the mascot has done this, they can report it to the league and the league has the authority to fine or suspend the mascot.
As a Game Operations Director, you also should get familiar with your mascots skills and capabilities, both in and out of costume. Can your mascot ice skate? If so can they also safely skate in costume. Some skills wont translate into a costume as well as others and it's important not to put your mascots in positions where they can not succeed. Like rappelling in a huge inflatable.
Not gonna happen...
I also think it's great to invite your performer into your daily routine once in a while. Let them see all the other things a Game Ops director has to juggle. When I first started working in my team's office, I finally realized why my mascot role was where it was at.
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