Should MLS clubs have mascots? This is the question Laura McCrystal from the Philadelphia Inquirer wanted to know in a recent interview. In particular, she reported that the “Phila Union weighs picking a mascot”. Here are my answers that got printed:
“Research shows that the more associations fans have, the stronger their commitment to a team, according to Thilo Kunkel, an assistant professor of sports management at Temple University.
“So having a mascot is not only about the profit,” he said, “but it’s about strengthening a psychological connection to a team.”
But Kunkel, who specializes in soccer branding, said it is also important for the Union to consider fans who “want their game to be more pure, so to speak, or to represent the game as it is played in Europe.”
The last thing a MLS club needs is a gimmicky mascot that will annoy club fans who want their game to be different from other American sports. However, a well designed mascot, that aligns with the identity of the club and its supporter base, in the case of the Philadelphia Union the Sons of Ben, can provide additional brand associations fans link to the club, and research shows that positive, unique brand associations influence consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward their favorite club. I think, if Bayern Munich can have Berni the bear and Manchester United can have Fred the Red, the Philadelphia Union can certainly have a Benjamin Franklin with a pirate hat, a pirate sword, and a monkey* to honor their supporters group, the Sons or Ben. Whether fans will accept the mascot will mainly depend on how the club communicates the introduction of it.
* Although I would love to see a real monkey at the game, in terms of animal cruelty, they should probably use a teddy monkey. Or a unicorn, just to be different. I mean, who doesn’t like unicorns…