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Making More Money With Mascots

In his book Eat Mor Chikin, Inspire More People, the late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy quotes one of his franchise owner/operators as saying that despite his store’s continuous yearly sales increases, he would never reach a point where he believed his store could not possibly push any more product across its counters.

In my opinion, I believe that same philosophy should apply to sport properties’ abilities to continuously increase the numbers and volumes of incremental revenue streams.

Untapped opportunities for a team to make a few hundred, few thousand, or tens of thousands of dollars (maybe more) seem to jump out almost every time I go to a game.

A Missed Shot By An NHL Team

Such was the case in late December 2013 when I attended a regular-season NHL game. Like a puck from a slapshot, I was struck by missed revenue opportunity involving the team’s mascot.

After a happily photographed prior encounter with a mascot, my then-girlfriend became quite attuned to them when she accompanied me to sporting events.

Before this game, we spotted the team mascot hilariously posing with fans for pictures taken by a professional photographer near a specially designed backdrop.

Since only one party was in line to be photographed (despite a near-capacity crowd), and since we were plenty early for the game, we decided to seize another mascot moment, so we strode toward the velvet rope to take our place in line.

Before we did, a team representative politely asked if we were season-ticket holders. We said no.

“I’m sorry,” the rep said, “but this is only for season-ticket holders. [Mascot name] will be strolling the concourse throughout the game, so perhaps you can track him down there, and he will be happy to pose with you!”

Since our seats were in the arena’s top level, I immediately estimated our photo opportunity odds to be about as good as me stopping that aforementioned slapshot. Time proved me right; we never saw the mascot anywhere close to our section the rest of the night.

Then it dawned on me: I’d have gladly paid a reasonable amount of money for a photo of us with the mascot, maybe as much as $20.

While I certainly support exclusive strategies that add value for season-ticket holders, I feel relatively sure that most of the approximately 19,000 fans at the game weren’t season-ticket holders. And since season-ticket holders already had chances for free photo opps since October (and weren’t likely to redeem them every game), I supposed the likelihood of them scrambling to do so was slim (judging by the line we saw, although we indeed arrived early).

So, I thought, why not open mascot photo ops to all patrons (or at least a predetermined number per game) and generate some additional revenue?

More Thoughts On Additional Revenue Ops

The logistics almost seemed too simple:

  • Create a backdrop (which can include a sponsor’s logo along with the team’s), and place it near a high-traffic area (outside or inside an entrance, near a concession stand, by a fun zone, etc.).
  • Make sure the area has proper lighting. If not, supply it.
  • Hire a photographer to take pics and an intern to manage the line, collect the $5-20 fee, and pose the fans.

From there, several delivery options exist:

  • Utilize on-site printers that quickly generate photos for immediate distribution (I’ve seen these at Final Four fan fests). These may be lesser-quality photos, but they’re speedy souvenirs that can be embossed with a sponsor’s logo alongside the team’s logo.
  • Utilize on-site printers that generate photos more slowly but produce a more professional-grade product (also possibly with team and/or sponsor logos). Fans can pick up photos after a certain point in the game (say it with me: “blowout insurance”).
  • Give fans small cards with information on when/where/how to retrieve their photos electronically by scanning a QR code, visiting a website, or providing an email address (a technical tactic already used by many teams). This strategy can produce three simultaneous wins: satisfying fans, generating entries into a fan database, and creating sponsor-able online inventory.

But wait! There’s more!

Regardless of the delivery option, you can:

  • Provide a free lower-end frame (more sponsor-able inventory!).
  • Provide a free higher-end frame, courtesy of a sponsor (action-based, e.g., proof of purchase of a sponsor’s product, signing up for emails from a sponsor, etc.; or gratis).
  • Sell (Sell! Sell!) a higher-end, team-licensed frame (naturally, a savvy franchise would provide a variety of such frames, since freedom of choice tends to stimulate spending).

But the money, er, fun doesn’t stop there!

As evidenced by the photo lab of your favorite department or drug store, image-embossed products abound. From coffee mugs to quilts, pics now appear on just about anything. If you’re a sport property, harness that phenomenon to generate revenue!

Other creative possibilities abound in this regard, but the message is clear: mascot moments may make you more money.

And it’s certainly a (slap/snap) shot worth taking.

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