Flyers’ new Gritty mascot: Why it works

This article was featured in the online version of Philadelphia Business Journal on September 25, 2018.

As the Philadelphia Region and most of the country gasp, shriek, and wonder who and what the Flyers new mascot is, and even question his existence, let me offer a thought: I think it’s brilliant. Here are five reasons why:

1. Gritty is a natural disruptor. If the Flyers had come out with an obvious mascot, say a large hockey puck called “Pucky,” it would paint the whole organization as basic and lame. Can you think of another mascot that is as weird looking as Gritty? Yes, it’s the Phanatic, arguably one of the most beloved mascots in sports. The funniest comment I’ve seen online was that Gritty was the Phanatic’s cousin from Delco. I’m still laughing.

2. Attention is attention. Many years ago, a comedian noted “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right.” Nothing is truer than this today with the brushfire power of social media. Look no further than Nike’s Kaepernick ad which – while inviting a huge debate online and offline about Nike’s association with Kap – sees the company at an all-time high in terms of valuation. With Gritty, the love and hate being thrown around online still means people are watching the Flyers, talking about the Flyers, and debating the mascot. Friction in marketing can actually be a beautiful thing, and the Flyers are enjoying more attention than any other NHL team right now by a long shot.

3. Gritty is on brand. The Flyers created a fun backstory about Gritty that points to their history of playing tough a la the Broad Street Bullies. And the bit about his main course for years as being ice from the Zamboni? Perfect.

4. Gritty has turned everyday people into ambassadors for the Flyers brand. Whether love or hate, people online posting memes, even other NHL teams (the Penguins) getting in the act by questioning what Gritty is, are all contributing to more attention for the Flyers. Gritty in these early days, is the gift that keeps on giving. He is simply ripe for anyone with a keyboard to post their confusion, fear, or (yes, in some cases) love for this orange-hued creature.

5. PR Gold. Gritty has already appeared on Good Morning America, and is melting the Internet via media sources from ESPN to Sports Illustrated. When is the last time the Flyers had that kind of attention for an asset of theirs that wasn’t on the official roster?

Mr. Snider was a genius and innovator who delivered what people wanted, and I think Gritty – in all his strange but wonderful glory – would have gotten a thumbs up and a smile from him. As more and more, going online is like watching a boxing match with no end in sight to the round, he is a terrific distraction.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the Flyers use him as the season approaches, because to me he is marketing gold, wrapped in orange.

– Peter Madden, President and CEO of AgileCat