Thinking about the NFL does not immediately bring to mind a cartoonish bull or an anthropomorphized eagle. After all, the league has come to epitomize toughness, sanctioned violence, and all things manly for the 93 years it has been in existence. Yet, since the very earliest days of American professional football, there have been field-side entertainers to amuse and occupy fans between plays and during game breaks. For example, did you know that 26 teams have cheerleading squads or dance teams within their franchises and two – the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens – have full marching bands? What about all NFL mascots…
The cheapest and most interactive form of non-competitive fan entertainment, however, remains the mascot – which 29 of the 32 NFL teams have in either an unofficial or official capacity. (The New York Jets, the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers currently have no recognized mascots.) While some mascots are considered controversial, most are fan-friendly marketing tools that help promote a team’s identity and brand in a non-intimidating way.
We compiled a montage of 28 NFL mascots to demonstrate the variety among the league’s costumed performers.
Finding a Favorite
According to Sports Illustrated (SI), Blitz – one of the Seattle Seahawks mascots – is the top-ranked mascot. What makes Blitz so appealing? His perceived cockiness. “This seahawk already knows he has you beat,” wrote SI.com. “He has that cocky grin and pushed-out chest of an older brother that constantly asks you why you keep hitting yourself.”
Who else makes Sports Illustrated’s top five? The Chicago Bears’ Staley Da Bear (a nod to the Bears’ original franchise name); the Cleveland Browns’ smirking dog mascot Chomps; the Arizona Cardinals’ Big Red; and the Buffalo Bills’ Billy Buffalo, who is easily confused for Beast from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Coming in last – at No. 28 – is the Oakland Raiders’ Raider Rusher, which SI described: “it’s like when the weird kid in class reaches into a backpack and asks if you want to see something really cool. But he happens to pull out just a toy – instead of a nameless stranger’s thumb.”
SI’s ranking of mascots is far from the only opinion – CBS Sports, for example, thought the Minnesota Vikings’ former motorcycle-riding Ragnar was the best. Nearly every fan site and sports magazine has its own list of favorite mascots, and people passionately debate what makes a mascot good or bad. For the franchises, this is a good thing: Mascot culture fuels merchandising sales, which ultimately improve the bottom line and increase the brand’s presence among consumers.
The Importance of a Good Mascot
A good mascot functions on several levels simultaneously. First, the mascot actively communicates with fans, riling them up and encouraging them to cheer louder, boo the opponents, and laugh at opportune times. This helps to turn the fans into the “12th man,” whose enthusiasm and energy fuels the team on the field.
Second, for a fan base that contains multiple age groups, a mascot offers a consistent point of reference. American football is a complicated sport with a steep learning curve; it is helpful to have a colorful figure who both entertains the kids and leads the cheer for the adults.
Finally, a good mascot serves as the face for the brand that is different from the padding-clad athlete. This creates opportunities for merchandising, advertising, and cross-promotions for the team that may not be available otherwise. For instance, parents may hesitate to buy a jersey for their son or daughter, but they may think differently about buying a mascot plush doll, a collectible drink container featuring a mascot’s face, or a mascot T-shirt. A good mascot offers opportunities to promote the franchise to future fans in ways both obvious and subtle; this may help to explain why only 20 teams across the NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB do not use a mascot in some way.
So who is your favorite mascot? Fanatics carries a full selection of mascot bobbleheads, T-shirts, and other must-haves for the die-hard fan.