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The Coyote on Creating a Celebrity
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Last year I had a conversation with the world famous San Antonio Coyote and he had some interesting thoughts on their mascot program in San Antonio. So at this years NBA mascot Conference I cornered the veteran mascot for a interview so others could hear how the program and the performer work to create a celebrity, thus making the character more valuable to the team and in the community.

The Coyote's alter ego is a closely held double-top secret, so for this interview we will use the generic label "The Coyote" for his responses. Talk about your program and how you treat the character to enhance his stature.

The Coyote: We have worked to make the Coyote as big a star as possible. If he has this "celebrity stature" it makes the character a valuable asset to the team off the court as well as on the court.

I think you can manufacture a special quality and you can do it without being self-serving or arrogant. The real key is to understand that you can manufacture this celebrity only if you are earning it on the court first. Celebrity can't really be created, but it can be defined once you have earned it.

I use this analogy when I think about the Coyote and how we approach appearance and this creation of celebrity: I treat the Coyote as that guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno who doesn’t move down the couch for the next guest. Robert Deniro is important and when he is done with his interview, he doesn't shift down the couch to sit by as Jay Leno interviews Carrot Top.... Deniro's too important for that and he's got to be someplace else. I try to be that guest. So there is a benefit in being scarce?

The Coyote: It's not really being scarce. I mean I have had years with 522 appearances and 444 the Coyote is not scarce...but he's important. He is in demand. It's an attitude.

This extends to your entire presentation. The Coyote’s assistant isn't wearing baggy shorts and an untucked shirt. He is traveling with a celebrity and dresses accordingly.

As a performer it's about your professionalism and your enthusiasm. I go into it thinking the appearance will be special to them, because this appearance will be special for me. That puts me in the right frame of mind.

Whether it is two people, a private party, or 65,000 in the Alamo Dome, I go in thinking ..."Man, I hope I don't bomb."
How about some specific tips regarding personal appearances.

The Coyote:
Always have someplace to go next. Remember you are important. It's special that you are there and you don't want it to lose it's luster by staying too long.

Some specifics, for kids parties I also enter the room thinking: "Enter low." What I mean by that is that you want to enter at the kids level. If you come in as a 7-foot animal you are bound to scare some kids. Enter at their height and get tall as they get comfortable.

I also try to build a theme around every event. You can always go with your standard schtick, but to make everything special, I look for that one thing that makes this appearance unique from the other 400 this year. This works in every house, ballroom, or basketball court.

I use what I call "return comedy." I find that one thing or person that I click with and I keep going back to it for laughs. It can be the family dog or someone at the party. Last week i did an appearance at a house with a lawn alligator, and I kept going back to it through out the appearance.

Sometimes I will go with a person, like a grandparent at a party. I will keep going back to them and try to really make them feel special. Again, it can be anyone or anything. A rowdy fan, the grandmother, a cute girl court side...whatever. It works at an appearance or at a game.

I look for that something that is here now at this appearance that wasn't at my last appearance. If you can master this you will never again think, "Oh, I don't have my props, I can't to anything." Props are everywhere. So there is a balance between creating a celebrity and acting like a star?

The Coyote: Yes. I try to act like Coyote is a star, but that he got there by pretending to be a star...and that it’s all kind of ridiculous. Coyote will be waving to the lady, miming th "call me" while he walks out of the room with a trash can stuck on his foot. He's the star that still doesn’t quite get it.

And this "star-like" attitude certainly doesn't carry over to how we treat our clients. You have created celebrity with the Coyote, but is this going to work for a non-NBA guy?

The Coyote: Certainly the NBA name and coming from the Spurs is a tremendous advantage that not every character has, but it's all relative.

So if you are a minor league mascot and you act like you are nothing special...then you will be perceived as nothing special. It's an attitude...not obnoxious, but enthusiastic. Recently I have been floating the idea of a minute per person appearance structure, meaning that for every person you expect to have at an appearance you would limit your appearance to about 1 minute (except at the extremes). So if you had a birthday party with 15 kids, you should plan about 15 minutes. A group of 50 would be just under an hour... So if you have someone asking you to fill an hour for 12 kids it should raise a red flag for you.

The Coyote: I like it, obviously not at the extremes, but I think it's a good guideline. We really try to position Coyote visits as a "per appearance," not "per hour." As a performer you can feel when you have peaked, when you are on the way down and when you have overstayed your welcome. When kids start to look under your fur and untying your shoes, it was probably time to go a while ago.

Give yourself the benefit of being able to get out before you have overstayed your welcome. Anything else you want to share from your 20 years of experience?

The Coyote: Get a feather duster and use it all the time. You have got to use the feather duster. I'd love to talk more, but I have to run. I have somewhere else I have to be.
Oh yeah, that does work.

Thanks to The Coyote for his insight and time. He's a true class act and has built an outstanding mascot model for all others to consider. Podcast - June 2016
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