Getting Gritty: Takeaways from the Launch of the NHL’s Newest Mascot

By: Chris Austin

His name is Gritty—and he’s the new mascot for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.

The team unveiled its newest member on September 24 and provided some brief insights on the being:

“…talented but feisty, a fierce competitor, known for his agility given his size. He’s loyal but mischievous; the ultimate Flyers fan who loves the orange and black, but is unwelcoming to anyone who opposes his team. Legend has it he earned the name ‘Gritty’ for possessing an attitude so similar to the team he follows.”

Immediate reactions to Gritty were divisive. Some loved the googly-eyed mascot while others likened him to a cross between Animal from The Muppets and Chewbacca from Star Wars (or worse).

But it got people talking all the same. ESPN, TIME, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated and Inside Edition all wrote about the odd-looking character.

People were quick to share their thoughts in comments on news stories and on social media both for and against the mascot. These people may not be able to name another mascot in the NHL, but they now know who Gritty is. From a pure awareness play, the Flyers scored.

So what can we learn from the debut of Gritty from a public relations and marketing perspective?

For starters, low-risk marketing situations are a great opportunity to go big. Mascots are supposed to be fun and enjoyable. I highly doubt the Flyers will gain or lose fans/season ticket holders based on the success or failure of a new mascot. Look for these types of opportunities to think outside the box and try something different to get people talking about your brand.

Next: be prepared. The Flyers had a “Getting to know Gritty” landing page ready to go with some background information about him, publicity photos and video, as well as Twitter and Instagram pages. And, the Flyers organization was immediately ready to man those channels and engage with other users as the comments came in—including a tweet to the team’s in-state rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins, stating: “sleep with one eye open tonight, bird.”

Remember that timing is everything. It’s interesting that Gritty was unveiled about halfway through the team’s preseason schedule—a week ahead of the official start of the regular season. Most NHL teams do very elaborate in-arena shows for opening night. Had they introduced Gritty then, he may have been part of the story, but he certainly wouldn’t have been the story like he’s been since his debut.

One last thing Gritty can teach us? Marketing can be fun—and people enjoy it when it is. The interactions on Gritty’s social media channels are light-hearted and entertaining. The Flyers’ social media team even posted a video on Gritty’s Instagram account of him falling on the ice during his first night on the job. For most brands, there’s a time and a place for fun, but identifying those opportunities and taking advantage of them can expose your brand to new audiences and strengthen the connection with existing fans.