Tag Archives: mascots

What does a Redbird have to do with Basketball?

23 Apr

America is the only place that has mascots for sports teams. Every other country simply has place names or their corporate sponsors, but somehow we have animals (usually) as our sports team names. How did that happen?

The term “mascot” is only 150 years old; like a lot of English terms, we stole it from the French. “Mascotte” is a word that simply means “lucky charm.” Normally, if you had a single team from a place, you’d go with “the Cincinnati baseball team” or the particular neighborhood that you would be from. It was only when sports got professional that things got interesting. The Cincinnati team hired a much of cricketers from England who wore these long red socks which they wore while they played cricket. So they became unofficially known as the Red Socks. Then they got so successful, the Boston team offered their star players more money, and they went to Boston. Hence they became the Red Sox and the Cincinnati team stayed the Reds.

According to Wikipedia, the first mascots in the US came from the interim entertainment that the promoters brought in to kill time between innings. The Chicago team brought in a bear cub–people liked it so much, the Chicago baseball team became the Cubs. The oldest football team was the Chicago Cardinals… because there already a team called the Chicago Maroons, and they bought their old uniforms which…. had faded a bit. So they called it Cardinal red.

This was a pretty popular color at the time. So when Illinois State Normal College (later my alma mater, Illinois State) named their team, they called them the cardinals. However, that word was one character too long to hit the headlines, so they shortened it to “Redbirds.” The name stuck.

With the tradition in place, every sports team decided they had to have a mascot. However, not everyone had the money to really spend on a whole branding effort. So many schools have red and white as their colors because… it was cheaper. If you have a mustang or a bear or a common mascot, the companies that make the merchandise already have those ready. If you want to be the Campbell College Camels… well, it’s going to cost more. (No, I did not make that up.)

So as with many thing, mascots and team colors depend on cost. After all, the American Army went with a standardized blue because it was cheaper than red, which is what George Washington was used to. However, I could be simplifying this concept–do you have a better theory? Let me know in the comments below! And since you’re here, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

Only You Can Prevent Branding

21 Nov

Smokey the Bear is seventy years old. This US Forest Ranger mascot has been telling people to stop forest fires since 1950–obviously we stopped listening to him, since the number of fires seems to have increased since then. At what point do we let the corporate brand go?

Now Smokey is a government employee, and unlike corporate sponsors, he doesn’t actually have to show progress towards his goals. That’s why he’s still working past retirement age. I should go into a scree about public service announcements (PSAs) and how bad they are, but let’s keep on topic.

Take Mr. Peanut, this dapper man was born in 1916, and back when you actually wore monocles to correct vision in one eye or a drooping eyelid, this was very useful. I saw this guy for decades on the side of a grain elevator / factory / something in Clinton, Iowa, five stories high right near Beaver Island and the corn processing plant. Planters even decided they needed a hipper, happenin’ mascot for their nut sales, so they killed him last year. (blink) You don’t remember that, do you? That’s because, phoenix-like, he emerged from the ashes as a Baby Peanut / Peanut, Jr. So… good leap of faith there, Planters!

Oh, boy – Aunt Jemina is the grandmama of them all. Born in 1889, she’s had several face-lifts over the years, the pancake brand has been around for over a century. And this year, enough rocktivists decided she was the source of all the African-American’s pain, and she had to go. This ticked off the family of the actress who’s face graced the box, since she was an Oscar-award winning actress who pitched the heck out of that product back in the 50’s.

BTW, what did she win the Oscar for? She played Mamie in Gone with the Wind, the sassy house slave who didn’t put up with Scarlett’s crap. However, that’s also the symbol of the kept black woman, so someone decided that film was the equivalent of Birth of a Nation and had to go. BTW, Birth of the Nation is shown in EVERY film school in America. Because despite the fact that it lauds the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, it’s the also the first feature-length film.

So Flo? You’re passing ten years on the Progressive stage. Better watch out! Actually, if you watch, you’ll notice how much Stephanie Courtney has changed the character to go from the It Girl to the goofy omnipresent woman whom even her goofier sidekick / younger replacement hasn’t been able to overcome.

What’s your favorite / most hated mascot? Do they need to change with the times or is there something comforting in the familiar? Let me know in the comments below?

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