NFL’s 5 Most Loved Mascots & The Stories Behind Them

Who doesn’t love a good mascot? Mascots go hand in hand with sporting events around the world, whether it is hockey, basketball, or baseball. But turn your head to the National Football League (NFL) and that’s where you’ll find some of the most iconic mascots and larger-than-life-characters in the world of sports and entertainment.

These NFL mascots demonstrate sound lessons in character development and how that leads to fan/community engagement. Each story of how these popular mascots evolved is different, but in every case they have become an important facet of the image of the team that they represent. Here are the five NFL mascots we chose to highlight:

1. Big Red | Arizona Cardinals

Despite being one of the NFL’s oldest franchises, the Arizona Cardinals only adopted an official mascot in 1998. But what a mascot it has been for the last two decades. Big Red is a well-known figure in the league: he is a cardinal-like bird figure, draped in white and maroon.

Marketing Lesson: Birds are a widely popular choice for brand mascots, both in the business and sporting realms. The Cardinals made the obvious choice to choose a cardinal as their mascot, but there is also symbolism behind the bird that has been woven into the team identity: loyalty, tradition, and luck! The eagle, for example, symbolises freedom and independence. The dove, as another example, indicates peace and peacemaking (and perhaps also serves as an example of a mascot that you’d unlikely find on a football field!).

2. Poe | Baltimore Ravens

Did you know that legendary author Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Raven while residing in Baltimore, Maryland? OK, but why the history lesson?

In 1996, the Baltimore Ravens officially announced that Poe would be its mascot. The decision was made after the team sponsored a poll in The Baltimore Sun, asking for their opinion on a mascot. Since then, Poe has been one of the most iconic figures in the NFL.

Marketing Lesson: The entire story behind the formation of the Ravens is tapping into local history. In this case, the team relied on the history of probably the most famous American poet of all time: Edgar Allan Poe. For brands, whether corporate or sports, a mascot can represent something unique to your neighbourhood, city, or nation, helping your target audience build a deeper connection to the character.

3. Staley Da Bear | Chicago Bears

Wait a minute. Did you know that the Chicago Bears was a charter member of the NFL, but it only introduced a mascot in 2003? That’s right.

Staley Da Bear only became the football team’s mascot close to 20 years ago. The mascot’s name is derived from the Bears’ initial sponsor: The Staley Starch Company. But why is the team called The Bears?

The owner believed that football players had to be larger-than-life characters, at least when compared to baseball players. Because Chicago was home to the Cubs, the owner, George Halas in a sort of power play, appointed The Bears as the city’s professional football team.

Marketing Lesson: Your brand is always competing. You need to establish your presence, expand your strengths, and you need to exert your authority. What better way to do this than by sending off a firing shot with a top-of-the-line mascot?

4. Rowdy | Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys is arguably one of the most popular NFL franchises, mainly because it was the team of the 1990s, thanks to Troy Aikman. Since then, however, the Cowboys have been trudging through a football slump. Well, at least the organization has Rowdy.

The year the Cowboys won the Super Bowl (1996), the team welcomed Rowdy to the team as an official mascot. He was first designated Big D, but it was changed shortly after.

Marketing Lesson: One of the best marketing techniques is to include your audience in the decision-making process. Some efforts may be a success, while others might be a disaster. But the Cowboys leadership sought the advice and opinions of its fanbase, who still hold much pride over the mascot, even if the team’s performance has been less than ideal.

5. Blitz | Seattle Seahawks

Did you know that the football stadium in Seattle is known for being the loudest in the NFL? Clearly Blitz is doing his job right. Now, if we were to get technical, Blitz isn’t actually a seahawk, but an osprey; an equally beautiful and aggressive bird. And, from the looks of it, Blitz is one feathered fowl that you wouldn’t want to come face-to-face with. Those furrowed eyebrows and daredevil antics help him pump up the stadium crowd and make any opposing mascot tremble in their cleats.

Marketing Lesson: Incorporate the personality of your mascot into the mascot design. If they are meant to intimidate, like Blitz, ensure that facial features and colors reflect this. Mascots can’t change their features like we can, so think about the personality behind the character early in the mascot design process.

Mascots should be something that can be enjoyed and appreciated by all…which can be an incredibly challenging feat, particularly when your audience is diverse and has wide-ranging preferences, values, and beliefs.  That said, if you are willing to put the time and resources into conceptualizing and designing your mascot, as well as incorporating your fans in the decision-making process, it is possible to create an iconic character that can stand the test of time!  

From a marketing perspective, mascots have become a great way to build brand awareness or reach out to the public. The mascot can participate in product launches, reach out to the community, and be key figures in broader events. Mascots are not only confined to the world of sports, but any organization can take their marketing cues from the folks who seem to do it best!

To learn more about the mascot design process, and the benefits of creating a mascot behind your brand, reach out to the mascot design experts at Hogtown Mascots.