Monday, November 26, 2007

Updates DONE!

...well except for the nominal grammar check.

Check out,, and and let me know what you think!

Yah, 11 years and still roaring along!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

October 2005 Spotlight - YOU!!!

Mascot of the Month -
. . . YOU!!! . . . Mascot Adoption!!!

NFHS Initiates Program to Help Schools Affected by Hurricanes
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (September 30, 2005) — High schools interested in helping schools affected by the recent disasters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas can adopt a school with a similar nickname through the Mascot Adoption Program (MAP) initiated by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Schools across the United States are encouraged to initiate fund-raising efforts, or perhaps use donations from ticket proceeds, to provide funds for schools damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“As the national organization for high school sports, we have received calls from schools across America wanting to help those affected by these disasters,” said Robert F. Kanaby, NFHS executive director. “There has been a great outpouring of sympathy and concern, and I expect we will have many schools that will become involved in assisting those schools in the Gulf South that have suffered great losses.”
The MAP program will be orchestrated through the NFHS Web site, A list of the schools affected by these disasters has been posted, along with the nicknames of the schools. A total of 130 schools (92 in Louisiana and 38 in Mississippi) are included in the initial list. Schools interested in becoming involved with this fund-raising effort can find a school that has a similar nickname and choose to adopt that school by entering all the necessary information on the Web site.
When the sponsoring school completes its fund-raising activities, the school will send its contribution directly to the disaster-affected school in the Gulf South.
“Once a school selects another school to adopt, we encourage the sponsoring school to publicize, within its student body and community, the names of the school and mascot it has adopted,” Kanaby said. “Schools helping schools, student-athletes and activity participants helping their counterparts – this is a great opportunity to help these schools and individuals that are in desperate need and provide a service leadership opportunity to all.”
For more information on the Mascot Adoption Program, contact Bob Gardner, chief operating officer at the NFHS in Indianapolis.

MEDIA CONTACT: Bruce Howard or John Gillis, 317-972-6900.

(Thank you to NFHS for allowing MascotNet to publish this information!)

May 2005 Spotlight - Minnesota Thunder THOR

Mascot of the Month -
Thor from the Minnesota Thunder
Claude Duran is a veteran minor league soccer mascot for the A-League team Minnesota Thunder. Over the years he has built up a solid clientelle in unique and creative ways. MascotNet thanks Claude for offering these pearls of wisdom!

First of all, give me some background about Thor and your performance experience. Secondly, how did you get involved with the Thunder?
I started mascotting (oh geez!) 21 years ago with the Minnesota Zoo at the ripe old age of 13. When I was 14, Frito Lay came to the Twin Cities with Chester Cheetah and forgot to order up a performer for an event at the Zoo. The Zoo staff offered my services as a volunteer and they were impressed. That summer, I did some contract work for Frito-Lay. After doing minor contract work for the next few years for a wide variety of companies, I was approached by the US Olympic Committee that was organizing the 1990 US Olympic Festival that was taking place in the Twin Cities. I joined another performer with presenting Willie Win One on behalf of the Festival. The following year I was asked to train 4 performers to present 2 characters at the 1991 International Special Olympic Games. Upon hearing that I had joined the team, the number of characters, and performers necessary to achieve that function, began to grow. By Day 0, we were operating 40 mascots with 150 performers for the entire run of the Games. I wont even begin to describe the cleaning process every day!

Fast forward a few more years (and over the characters that have confidentiality contracts still enforce) and we come to the 1996 Atlanta Games. I did a variety of appearances up here in the Twin Cities as well as operations in Atlanta during the Games. A mascot in the Olympics? Hardest work you'll ever do but grab the chance if you ever get it. More mascots and a few more years later, I was approached by the organizing committee for "The People's Celebration" which was the inauguration party for the new Governor, Jesse Ventura. (Yes, I did vote for him and I do apologize.)
Anyway, their intention was to make this party open to all and were inviting all mascots from across the state to attend the welcoming. Knowing that I had many contacts in the mascotting world, they contacted me for assistance. I started going over the roster with them on all the mascots currently on the "guest list" and noted those that they had omitted. One of those omitted was Thor from the Minnesota Thunder.
I had been introduced to Thor the year before (which also happened to be Thor's first year) at a Thunder game. He was having a mascot day at one of his games. I extended a welcome and offer for any assistance that I could provide however I never heard from him again. Now with the party approaching, I contacted the Thunder and offered them the opportunity to attend the party. They remembered me from the previous year and stated that they would like to attend however they were not happy with the performance that Thor #1 had done for them and did not intend on bringing him back for another year. So in the absence of having a performer, they would have to decline even though they would really like to attend. I offered them one of the people that I had trained (as I was already booked for that night) but also stated that we should talk and I might be able to assist them on the upcoming season. They accepted and handed the costume over to me that night. Contract negotiations followed shortly there after. Thor was an incredible challenge as most of the fans hated him not to mention most, if not all of the players. I had my work cut out for me. The challenge: Announcing that a new Thor had arrived without announcing a new Thor had arrived. What was set out before me by Thunder management was: Make Thor popular and a value add to the game or he dies with the end of the season.
Holy beeschnockers! The things I did that season! From clothing changes to costume structure modifications to stunts to massive amounts of appearances, all to get more and more contact with the public and our fans. I even had a tuxedo modified for my first game as it was on Mother's Day and I went into the crowd to give my mom her gift and a rose. This simple gesture was something that the Thunder fans had not seen before so they knew someone different was here so give me a chance. All my efforts throughout the season paid off as Thor rocketed from a bottom of the barrel rating on the annual fan survey to one of the top 3 things fans love about coming to a Thunder game that season. In fact, when we won the Championship that year, I was approached by Thunder management with a Championship medal that was given to all the players. What was said to me when that was handed to me will remain with me forever, and I am not ashamed to say that I was glad that I was in costume at the time as only a few would have believed that my eyes looked the way they did just due to sweat getting into my eyes.
The reign of Thor #2 continues to this day. He is now considered one of the top mascots in the league, I am proud to say.

At the time what characters were you "competing against" in your market for appearances? I will not compete against the other characters in my market and generally, there is no competition for appearances either. The main reason is if a certain vendor wishes to create a soccer based event, why would they contact the basketball team for their mascot. Generally, sponsors wish to create a feel or have a goal in mind and if they are utilizing your services, they are not looking for just any mascot, but rather a specific mascot in mind.
The other thing to consider is that sometimes the appearance and the trade are disconnected. For example, my main credo is "if you are non-profit, I am non-profit". I refuse to charge schools, hospitals, or other community organizations and will donate my time to support their cause. However, in doing so, I have met many people who I have gone to later and asked for their support with nothing more than "game day name mention", program placement, or general acknowledgment. Basically, this makes competition a non-existent factor within a local market.
In fact, I encourage mascots to communicate with each other on experiences, trades, and provide assistance to each other when acquiring trades. I keep the other Twin Cities mascots in the loop if I am able to get something that they will benefit from as well. When I acquired my go-kart by trade, I knew that no other go-karts would be offered up so I extended to the other pro mascots, "if you need it, let me know and I'll loan it to you". By working with, and not competing against, the other mascots in your area, you will gain access to their sponsor networks as well.
(Besides, its more fun at joint appearances if you are all co-workers and not competitors!)

Why did trade become an important factor in your appearance program? Trade became an important factor simply because I needed things but had not much to offer other than my services. It surprised me to some extent that people put more value on the appearance I would offer at their location contrasting the offer of in-stadium inventory. For example, I obtained a $1600 go-kart and the sponsor wanted it used in the parades that I did off-stadium. Originally, I had offered in-stadium use but he felt that he would get better impression counts out-of-stadium. Hence, the go-kart was
introduced into out-of-stadium operations. I quickly found that both items that I wanted as toys, and additionally, items that would benefit me personally, were available to me where cash may not be. For example, at one point, I had sponsors for my health club, groceries, gas, truck maintenance, and athletic clothing. The grocery sponsor was unwilling to give me cash but was willing to give me gift certificates. So what's the difference to me? I would have needed to pay for groceries out of my own paycheck so in essence, I was getting cash or rather, keeping my own. Even more so, it was a grocery business that delivered your food so I didn't even need to go out to the grocery store anymore!
Ask someone to part with money for a cash sponsorship, you will have much more difficulty than if you ask them to part with product. Find that product that allows you to do your job and personally benefit.

How do trades work for Thunder? The process of trades works quite simple at the Thunder. If it only applies to Thor, I can work the trade any way I wish. For example, if I trade for a product in exchange for an appearance, I do not need any clearance for that. However, if I bring in inventory from the Thunder (ad banners, stadium announcements, material distribution in-stadium), I need to loop in our marketing team who will review the agreement. This is done for two reasons. First to make sure that the inventory is available, and two that we will be able to fulfill all the contract terms.

What is the most unusual kind of trade you've secured over the years? The most unusual trade that I have worked on was actually benefit a local fire department fundraiser. My local fire department began selling chicken wings at a summer festival to raise money for community outreach programs and firefighting equipment a few years ago. After obtaining donations for the wings, booth construction and other supplies, they were left with two expenses: the paper boats to put the wings in and wet-naps. Believe it or not, the cost of those two items combined is about $400 (for the amount needed). Knowing my ability to obtain donations and sponsorships, the fire department asked me if I could help them out. After contacting a few local suppliers, I was able to find a soccer fan/store manager who was willing to give me the items in exchange for an appearance and the ability to have a rider in my go-kart in the beginning of a Thunder game.
So in essence, the equation is something like this: Paper food boats + 2 boxes of Wet-naps = 1 :30 minute personal appearance + 1 :02 minute go-kart ride.

How do you approach your sponsors for a trade? This is going to seem like an obvious statement but simply ask. When you contact a company, ask to speak with someone who could help you with sponsorships or marketing and go from there. Be professional and prepared. You should be ready with a brief summary of what you are doing, what you need, and how it will benefit the sponsor. Have details such as how many people will see their donation or will be in attendance of the event(s). The more specific details on benefits that one offers helps the sponsor create a better value for themselves. I will give you two descriptions to the same event. Which one would you consider more valuable and/or more professional?
  1. I need to borrow a convertible for a local parade.
  2. The Minneapolis Aquatennial Grand Day Parade is one of the largest parades in the Twin Cities area. This year, the organizer estimates that over 200,000 people will watch the parade go down the streets of Downtown Minneapolis. The Minnesota Thunder was lucky enough to be once again invited to participate in this year's parade. We wish to make great impact but need some assistance on obtaining use of a vehicle that would help make that huge impression. Are there any vehicles that we could use that day from your stock for the parade? We were thinking something along a convertible but open to any ideas you think might work.
Which one would you answer yes to? With the first one, I limited your choices and impression of the event. The second I gave you a picture of where your benefits will come from: Largest parade in Minneapolis, 200,000 people, and most importantly, I didn't limit your offer. Will I get a convertible, a pickup truck or a Hummer SUV? Each of these will make a great impression and satisfy my needs but even though I would have thought the Hummer SUV was more than I would have thought I could get, the sponsor may feel that its perfect for them to roll.
Approach your sponsor with a partnership, not a request for assistance, and
you will be more successful.

What value is a typical trade worth to your sponsor? This is a difficult question to answer because we are attaching a number to non-specific things. I can give you an arbitrary number of what I think my appearance is valued at based on my time and impact that I feel would benefit the business. But conversely, my sponsor will create their own number. For example, I have been asked to answer these questions. What is it worth to MascotNet to have these questions answered? I don't know. I am
sitting on my deck, enjoying the sun and tossing a ball to my dog right now. What is this time worth to me or more so - what do you think this time is worth to me? The key to remember is do not make assumptions on what you think the value of a given item is to someone else. Worth is something only each person can answer for themselves, and in a trade each person offers something that they think is worthwhile in exchanged for something they think generally has at least a bit more worth than what they have offered.

What do you promise your sponsors in return? There are two things that I can recommend in this area. First and foremost, remember this: Under promise and over deliver! This is key to building the possibility of future trades or sponsorships. If your contract calls for a :30 minute appearance, do a solid :45. Doing a birthday appearance? Bring a gift for the birthday child. Throwing in something extra for nothing always leads to good impressions, regardless of the cost (or lack thereof). For example, the situation I cited above regarding the "most unusual trade", initially, the go-kart ride was not included. Since I did not mention it originally, it became "icing on the cake" when I made my appearance for the birthday kid. Let's take a moment to consider what "additional" cost there was to that component. A ride in the go-kart that I would take out anyway at the start of the game... What is the cost for that to myself or the Thunder? Time to explain to the kid what to do, and that's it. However, the impression that it made on the child, the family, and the supporting organization? Immense. Actions like that help create goodwill.
The other thing to remember is to use the phrases "What can I do for you in exchange for your assistance?" or "What do you think is fair?" There have been many times where I was prepared to do 5 appearances, for example, for the items that I wanted but instead of saying "I will do 5 appearances for you", I said "How many appearances would you like me to do for you?" and the sponsor asked for 3 appearances. By doing this, you capitalize on two things. 1. Your sponsor knows the value of the product that they are offering you better than you do, and 2. No one wants to appear too greedy (for the most part). Think to your own life. If I were to walk up to you with a bag full of 100 candy bars and say "Take as many as you want but there is a limit so don't take too many" and I did not tell you what that limit was, how many would you take? Think about that for a second. The answer to what the limit was comes in just a moment.
So in this situation, you don't want to appear to greedy but want to get the most that you can. So in taking the amount of candy bars you did, you take what you feel happy with but feel modest enough that you don't expect a "Sorry - you took too many." People don't like hearing "no" so they will self regulate in most circumstances. This rings true as well during trades. Unless you are going extremely high dollar (over $2000 or so), I would not approach with a basic offer but rather a "I would like to hear what would make you happy". Anything over $2000, have a basic offer and add "I would like to add some more things to this but would like your input". Understand the concept?
(And by the way, the limit of the amount of candy bars you could take was 99, because I wanted one. How many did you take from me? If you answered anything less than 99, I capitalized on your not wanting to appear greedy but made you happy and now have some more candy bars to go offer someone else too. See where I am going here?)
Moral of the story: Let your sponsors help guide your offer, don't show your cards right from the get-go.

What is a good suggestion for building long-term relationships with your clients? Can you give an example? Consistency in everything you do and everything you believe. Since day one, my belief is that I am here to help the community. I have consistently been present at community fundraisers, parades, and benefits - all free of
charge. The performance I do today places me in contact with the sponsors of tomorrow. No appearance is "not worth it" and no appearance is without a payoff. Each appearance elevates your standing in the community and therefore, your marketability. For example, I attend the Minnesota Special Olympics Games every year. Some of the people I encounter, I see year after year. After about 3 years of attending this event (as well as a few other Special Olympic events), I needed to approach one of the people I met through Special Olympics for accessories for my truck. Instead of cold-calling a bunch of companies, I got a hold of this volunteer directly and asked for his assistance. Since we already had that relationship, I was easily able to get the product I needed with no offer extended by me other than use of the product on the truck. The company name was on the product so advertising was already included.
Think about the appearances you do today. Each person in charge or there could be a contact for a future contract. Your local school carnival is run by parents who have jobs "in the real world". Volunteer your time for them and one day it will return to you ten-fold.
But consistency does not just mean you continuously support your community alone. Consistency also extends to how you perform. Are you on time? Are you professional? Do you present a product that others would like to invest in? No one buys a stock that is up today and down tomorrow completely at random. People buy stocks that perform consistently well today and increase their performance quality over time.
Give your sponsor something that they want to invest and you will only need
to ask.

Key points to remember:
1. Under promise, over deliver.
2. Be professional.
3. Present quality consistently.
4. Don't be afraid to ask.
5. Don't be afraid to hear "no".
6. Be prepared.
7. Don't underestimate your value.
8. Don't assume the value of what you are asking for.
9. Partner with your sponsor and fellow mascots.
But most of all:
10. You are a mascot. One of the most powerful marketing tools out there.
Never forget it and don't let ot
hers forget it either. Use that power to
benefit and support your community and companies will want to stand by your

April 2005 Mascot Spotlight - Monte, U Montana

Mascot of the Month -
Monte, the University of Montana Grizzly

MascotNet brings you a featured mascot each month, providing new insights to improve your program. This month we are honored to bring you Barry Anderson, recipient of the Capital One Bowl's first "Mascot of the Year" award.
What is impressive to note about Barry's collegiate career is that his program was literally built up from nothing when he started.
After graduating from the U of M, Barry now enjoys his first season as a professional sports mascot in one of the "big four leagues".

What first made you interested in performing as Monte? There was an ad in the school paper, I just wanted to see who was trying out. When I got there I thought... "hey, I can do that" So I gave it a shot. Still waiting to find out if I made it or not.

How was the mascot program set up when you first started? Kinda loose. No expectations or set times during games to perform. I think very similar to most schools.

What skills did you have when you first started out that you found to be helpful in entertaining the crowds? Well, the dancing seems to be what people get all worked up over, but the real asset was the clowning class I took as a theater major in college. Best class I ever took.

What kinds of resources did you find (pro mascots, UM's administration, video boards, working with entertainment, other teams/coaches, performance skill training, business classes, etc.) that were helpful in developing the program, as well as yourself? Whoa, big question. Hints from the pros came later on after I was looking seriously into the job as a career. The video board was great during football games. I was lucky enough to be there when it was first being installed so I got to get my feet wet with everyone else when it came to video directing and writing. No one else really wanted to handle that stuff so I said I would love to. I think communicating to the administration my intentions of taking ownership of the character and his image (not just getting in the costume and acting like a fool) let them give me a little more slack on the leash.

You had the opportunity to be a part of a few national championships for mascot as well as varsity sports. What things did you learn on the road about other mascot programs that were integrated during your tenure as Monte? I learned that A. your struggles are the same at every school so you are not alone in the frustration of no budget and crappy costume. And B. there are lots of little details that can make life a lot easier in the suit. I recommend beginning to network with other guys in the NCAA to share skits and costume alteration ideas.

What was one thing another mascot program does you'd never want Monte to have to do? Be the mascot for Montana State.

As you looked to your pro career how did you market yourself to the teams you applied for? Your first and most important tool is your highlight tape. Take your time and do it right. Doesn't have to be fancy, just good music and great footage. Become friends with the T.V. guys taping the games. They can be your best friend...

What is the biggest piece of advice you can give an aspiring mascot? Take care of your body. You don't just take your car in when something breaks, you regularly get the oil changed, the belts, keep it clean, rotate tires... your body is the same way. Preventative maintenance is key.

What is the biggest piece of adcive NOT TO DO that you can give? Don't skip steps before you earn your stripes. Let the fans and administration get to know your "personality" before firing on all cylinders. Don't rush the process. Give respect before expecting respect.

Ten years from now, where do you want to be? With the same NBA team I'm with right now. But maybe on vacation in Tahiti.

Anything else you would like to add? Be on time, prepared and organized for every game, every meeting and every practice. Your reputation is bigger than you are. Don't give people a reason to make yours an unprofessional one.

MascotNet Spotlight

Welcome to the new, and hopefully regular, installation of MascotNet's monthly spotlight. We will attempt to give you some of the best insights from successful and enthusiastic performers and administrators out there.

If you have a suggested interview please WAIT until January. We'll get the ground moving then!

Thanks, as always, Erin