Published on February 25, 2019, at 4:13 p.m.
by Mickey Kennedy.
Mascot Gritty has taken the sports world by storm since his introduction a few months ago. With his large googly eyes, orange fur and wild behavior, he isn’t just popular with fans of the Philadelphia Flyers.
So, how did Gritty become an internet sensation? In an interview, one of Gritty’s designers said, “If Gritty had come out and been sort of a boring looking mascot and did the things that mascots are supposed to do, people would have ignored him or forgotten him or worse. So, I think that’s a huge part of his success, that he’s the anti-mascot.”
That last line, “he’s the anti-mascot,” stuck with me. I had to think of why Gritty is unforgettable in his own way, and why the internet loves him so much. The Flyers’ website describes him as a bully, a little mischievous, but loyal to the Flyers.
I would say most mascots possess the last two attributes, but I would describe few as a “bully.” Gritty’s antics at the All-Star game this season were just one of many instances that made Gritty the big, mean, orange menace he is now.
Gritty’s biggest presence for fans outside of Philly comes from his social media. @GrittyNHL, which is now verified on Twitter due to the many fake Gritty-themed accounts, has over 226,000 followers — 4.5 times more than the next biggest NHL mascot account. Through this account, he posts frequently about himself as well as gifs and videos of his in-game shenanigans. This account, as well as the Flyers’ social media, has produced a ton of Gritty memes and gifs that are used regularly by fans and non-fans alike to further spread his internet following.
The fame of Gritty relies on how eccentric he can be. His success has proven to be widespread, including a subreddit with over 7,000 subscribers and regular posts. The strategy behind Gritty was to make him popular across the globe through the limitless power of the internet and to get people to associate Gritty and the Flyers as a team. A mascot has never had this much success and mass viewership on a regular basis, which makes Gritty a massive branding accomplishment for Philly and for the NHL as a whole.