Last week the Arkansas Travelers, the AA affiliate of MLB’s Anaheim Angels, announced two new team mascots: Ace and Otey. Ace is a horse and the latter being a swamp possum. Yes, a possum – or an opossum for those grammar aficionados.
An announcement that has drawn laughter from the national talk show circuits and been the target of numerous jokes from a number of high trafficked websites such as Deadspin.com.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t news and in the grand scheme of things, mascots have very little relevance to, well, anything. The purpose is to entertain children and sell merchandise. Merchandise known as ‘trinkets and trash’, and by the early response from the community on social media and call in radio is that Otey belongs where many possums are found – the trash.
Luckily for Ace he appears to be getting a pass from the critical masses, but that may be because of the severe disdain most people seem to have for the odd looking possum.
The issue appears to be less about the fact Otey is in fact a possum, but more due to his actual appearance. The one shoulder overalls and weathered derby hat alludes to Arkansas ‘Redneck’ and ‘Hillbilly’ stereotypes many hoped had been thrown out with trash long ago – but thanks to the Travelers and the design firm Custom Characters of Glendale, Ca they appear to have been recycled.
Love or hate ole Otey is truly a matter of personal preference, but the issue that needs to be highlighted is the importance of knowing your audience. The value of making the investment in research, testing concepts with key demographics – know before you take the leap.
We obviously don’t know how the process was handled internally within the organization, but it wreaks of a decision by a focus group of one. It’s hard to imagine a design firm from Southern California spent much time sampling those in the Natural State.
The announcement was made in partnership with a local staffing group, the Hughes Agency – obviously playing off the pun of trying to locate new mascot candidates. Let’s just hope the pushback doesn’t push Travelers management to encourage some within the organization to use of a staffing firms services.