Things are looking up for the New York Mets. The Bernie Madoff case is settled (though the related debt will linger awhile), and the team is finishing up a winning April. Topping off the good news: the club's longest serving member, Mr. Met, stands as America's favorite sports mascot in 2012.
The simple, perpetually grinning veteran with the giant baseball head nosed out the Phillie Phanatic in the latest fan survey done by The Marketing Arm's Davie Brown Index, which measures people's perceptions of celebrities and their influence on brands. Measurements used by the DBI for sports mascots: awareness, likeability and breakthrough, the last of which refers to the degree consumers take notice of the mascot when he appears at the stadium and on television, plus the degree to which people are able to match a mascot to his team (a mascot named Mr. Met would seem to have little trouble there, while the San Antonio Spurs' Coyote might have his work cut out for him).
Mr. Met goes all the way back to the franchise's early Polo Ground years, when his image appeared on scorecards and yearbooks. The live character debuted in 1964, the year the Mets moved into Shea Stadium. As a National League expansion franchise whose original core audience was comprised of recently abandoned fans of the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, the Mets set out to distinguish themselves as a fun, family-oriented alternative to the corporate, buttoned down Yankees. A simple, kid-friendly mascot set that tone.
The Mets have mostly kept the character low key over the years -even shutting him down altogether for awhile. You've never seen Mr. Met ride around the field on an all-terrain vehicle or bait umpires. But his duties have increased during the club's struggles at the gate in recent years. Mr. Met has become more active on television, starring in a series of ads in which, for example, he appears at the windowed door of an office conference room and distracts a couple of young corporate staffers from a boring meeting with a "Let's Go Mets" clap.
Mascots have become a big part of business in recent years – a key piece of brand identity that attracts kids (first fans) and scores points at hospitals, schools, business openings and other local community events.
While Mr. Met is a favorite for his light-hearted humor, the more zany and aggressive mascots still carry plenty of influence. The Phillie Phanatic, who has won this poll in the past, places a solid second this year. And the Phanatic's "mentor," the San Diego Chicken, puts forth another strong showing at No. 4. Even though the Chicken now freelances, having cut formal ties with the Padres years ago, he remains one of the most recognizable and appealing mascots out there.
Other baseball mascots making the cut: Miami's Billy the Marlin and Boston's Wally the Green Monster, along with the popular themed racers, Milwaukee's sausages and Washington D.C.'s presidents.
The rest hail from the NBA, the other sports league where lots of intermittent breaks in the action lend themselves to mascot routines. While baseball mascots tend to be Muppet-like and light hearted, their basketball counterparts are athletic and daring. The Phoenix Suns' Gorilla, who first popularized the trampoline-bouncing, slam dunking pro hoops mascot, continues going strong as a fan favorite. Joining him are Chicago's Benny the Bull, San Antonio's Coyote and Denver's Rocky, an entertaining mountain lion.
The top five:
5. Wally the Green Monster (Boston Red Sox)
4. San Diego Chicken (freelance)
3. Benny the Bull (Chicago Bulls)
2. Phillie Phanatic (Philadelphia Phillies)
1. Mr. Met (New York Mets)
• See more mascots
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