From Sidelines to Social Media: Mascots Reach New Fans
Published on February 28, 2022, at 11:05 p.m.
by Heather Smyth.
Sports fans are cut from the same cloth. Regardless of age, they have a team to root for, a logo to wear and a mascot to cherish. There’s always a story behind how their team loyalty came to be. Many people support their local team or follow their family’s favorite, but what about becoming a fan through a viral social media video?
Traditionally, team mascots take on the role of engaging with a live crowd in the stands of a sporting event. Today, however, there is an online niche for humorous and ridiculous content that is captivating a new generation. Certain NFL, NHL and college mascots reach a different audience by being featured in viral TikTok videos.
TikTok is a social media platform dedicated to posting short videos with selective audio and visual effects. Nearly half of all TikTok users are under the age of 30, so brands are researching this audience to help integrate their images with trends of pop culture. As of January 2022, only 33% of people ages 18-34 are avid NFL fans, and teams posting their mascots on TikTok are hoping to change that.
Blue, the mascot for the Indianapolis Colts, is famous on TikTok for smashing pies in rival mascots’ and fans’ faces. The repetitive use of pie throwing creates an association with Blue and rowdy behavior. The same audio is used each time, with the pie being smashed on beat. He currently has 6.5 million followers, the most out of all the NFL mascots.
These 15-second clips are unrelated to the actual sport and more focused on the mascot’s personality. According to Blue’s biography, he enjoys breakdancing, lace-up shoes and kittens. He is allergic to “Bad Attitudes and Patriots Fans.” He will not be seen walking long distances. Blue is a recognizable icon, even for people who have never attended a Colts game. This growth is a result of the broad social media reach and the effective use of the algorithm to continue appearing on TikTok users’ For You pages.
Gritty, the NHL mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers, had a debut known as “the biggest catalyst for bringing mascots to social media platforms like TikTok.” With his blazing orange fur and extroverted behavior, he rapidly gained popularity and inspired other teams to take advantage of the TikTok platform. Minnesota Vikings’ mascot, Viktor the Viking, and Denver Broncos’, Miles the Mascot, are also active TikTok personalities. Occasionally, there is a collaboration video between one or more mascots participating in current trends.
Mascots that represent universities already have large followings of younger audiences. For example, Cosmo the Cougar from Brigham-Young University went viral in 2017 after joining the Cougarettes dance team in a performance to the song “Rolex” by Ayo & Teo. The clip accumulated over 11 million views on YouTube and just under 5 million likes on TikTok.
Sports teams are effectively using TikTok to generate unique content for their mascots. These mascots have distinctive personas created on TikTok, reaching new audiences and possibly new sports fans.