There’s a certain fan inside Amalie Arena who's been catching the attention of the masses during Tampa Bay Lightning home games of late. This person dons an astronaut outfit for games and sits right near the glass. You've probably caught a glimpse at some point over the last month.
Earlier in their second-round series with the Montreal Canadiens, the astronaut had some fun with Carey Price:
At first you might think it’s an ode to the Kennedy Space Center, which is about 90 minutes from Tampa. Nope.
Maybe it’s Ilya Bryzgalov? Sadly, no.
So what’s the story? It’s all marketing.
The astronaut mascot is part of a stealth marketing campaign by Tampa-based Malektronic, a Bluetooth speaker manufacturer (and also a Lightning sponsor). The astronaut was born near the end of the regular season and due to NBC controlling all the dasher board ads during the playoffs, the company has found a unique way to generate buzz.
While the astronaut does not carry any Malektronic branding -- it does wear the brand’s Rocket speaker attached to its suit -- CEO Ben Malek believes it can still draw attention to the company. Malek: “We don’t want it to be too commercial. I think it’s one of those viral things. … People will start asking questions, and that’s when it will come more to light. I think it’s more of an organic growth rather than being a straight-out ad.”
The success of the astronaut has led to Malektronic and the Lightning to near a deal for next season and has drawn interest from other NHL teams about a sponsorship. The New York Islanders struck a deal with them in December, but their move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season could up the price of a renewal. The lack of a deal going forward between the two sides would also rob us of a Gorton's Fisherman mascot sitting in the lower bowl of the new rink. A loss for us all, especially Rangers fans.
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