Two things a pro sports franchise must do: ingratiate itself with the local community, and never stop luring the next generation.
Business openings, hospital visits, birthdays ... few things make a true fan happier than tying the event to the local team. Of course, players and coaches only have so much free time. The solution: send in the mascot. At the game, bringing young children for their first taste of the local NBA or Major League Baseball experience can be a special event for a parent. You hope your 6-year-old enjoys it, and wants to do it again. Problem is, at that age, he’s unlikely to remember much about the players or the final score. What he will remember: the mascot. Nothing, save for perhaps food, will play a bigger role in getting junior to return.
Benny the Bull, who’s been entertaining fans at Chicago Bulls games for more than four decades, keeps a killer schedule that goes way beyond the Bulls’ 41 home games a season (or more like 50 including the preseason and playoffs). Benny does 250 events a year, from appearances at Chicago businesses and charities to private parties.
The work ethic and the athleticism he displays during game breaks at the United Center have paid off: Benny stands as this year’s most popular sports mascot. That’s the word from The Marketing Arm’s Davie Brown Index, which is based on a survey of public perception of celebrities and their influence on brands. For mascots, the DBI measures popularity by the following criteria: Awareness, likeability, attention-getting, photo-friendliness, interaction and fun. Fans were also asked if a given mascot happened to be his “absolute favorite” or “one of my favorites.”
Benny led the pack in pure likability and gets more photo requests than any other mascot in sports. His ascension to the top is something of an upset, moving against this year’s anti-NBA trend. Perhaps the trampoline-bouncing, slam-dunking hoops mascots are starting to become old hat: past favorites like the Phoenix Suns’ Gorilla, the Denver Nuggets’ mountain lion Rocky and the San Antonio Spurs’ Coyote are nowhere to be found this year. Instead, it’s been an up year for the warm and fuzzy, kid-centered baseball mascots.
In addition to old standbys like Mr. Met and the Phillie Phanatic, favorites include the Atlanta Braves’ “Homer” (basically a takeoff on Mr. Met - a guy with a big, smiling baseball for a head), the Baltimore Orioles’ “Bird,” and the Boston Red Sox “Wally the Green Monster.”
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