Today a researcher from St. Joseph's University sent out an email to some Philadelphia Union Season Ticket Holders saying the following:
Hello Season Ticket Holders,
Philadelphia Union would like to invite you to a focus group on January 9th, 2013 at 6PM. The Philadelphia Union has partnered with the Survey Research Center at Saint Joseph's University to conduct preliminary fact finding on concepts for a team mascot. We would like to include your opinions, if you are available to participate.
A quick poll of the staff here indicated that none of us thought this was a good idea. Many of us felt the idea seemed very gimmicky and wouldn't help increase the amount of fans in the stands or the product on the pitch? In an offseason that has seen the lone Union acquisition be Corben Bone (no disrespect to Corben, but I think most of the Union faithful were expecting someone a little more well-known), it seems to us that this is a poor marketing ploy - one whose money (and energies) could be spent on improving the product on the pitch. Also, as Staff Writer Barry Evans points out, "Mascots in the game are as pointless as cheerleaders. In a sport with lots of breaks they work because they keep fans entertained. That doesn't happen in soccer." Staff Writer and Graphic Designer Eryin Wandel pointed out "It's not a big chunk of change, but it's (money for) designing a character, (money for a) guy in suit, (and money for) branding around this idiot thing."
The counterargument is that mascots aren't just gaining popularity in American soccer. Increasingly mascots are being employed at clubs in Europe and Mexico (the picture affixed to this article is of Crystal Palace's mascot). The Union however have (thus far) eschewed things that detract from the game - things like cheerleaders, piped-in music in game, and up until recently, kitschy "Let's Get Loud" graphics on the big screen. But the slide towards kitsch is undeniable, especially with the idea of a mascot being bandied about.
It's my opinion that American soccer - and the Philadelphia Union - should seek to put the best product possible on the pitch week in and week out and leave the mascots and Jock Jams to arena sports that aren't quite as exciting. What are your thoughts? Let us know how you feel using the poll and comments section below.