Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park. I was thrilled to be back and a little sad that it could possibly be my last game of the season. (I only made it to two games this year, but grad classes will do that!) As I finished up the tailgate and headed for the stadium, I noticed a white furry creature had joined the parade of Famous Racing Sausages headed through the parking lot. I was surprised to see Hank, The Ballpark Pup, marching alongside Chorizo through a field of tailgaters.
The Ballpark Pup
In case you’ve missed it, the Milwaukee Brewers have added another mascot to their mix. Hank, The Ballpark Pup, first entered the lives of the Milwaukee Brewers at Spring Training this past year. Hank was a stray dog who wandered onto the field and befriended the team while they were in Arizona. Now Hank is a fully signed member of the Milwaukee Brewers, complete with the first Majestic Athletic authentic canine jersey.
There is no question that fans and Wisconsinites love Hank. He has overwhelmingly won hearts all over Milwaukee including the Milwaukee Brewers players and coaching staff. He does live with a family, but “belongs to the city of Milwaukee.”
Mixing It Up
The Milwaukee Brewers have no shortage of mascots running around Miller Park. There are five racing sausages (occasionally mini-sausages as well), Bernie the Brewer (his lady-friend stops by from time-to-time), and now Hank. The marketing and PR challenge of managing that can be exhausting. Not only do you manage the appearance schedules for the players, you have to add seven mascots to the mix as well. Merchandising and appearances have been very lucrative for the Milwaukee Brewers, but is it possible to do too much? Marketing and PR professionals for sports teams need to be concerned with players lives on and off the field (The NFL has learned that the hard way this week), the storyline of the team and mascots, and the overall fan experience.
There are not many organizations that can say their loyal customers tattoo logos and team symbols on their bodies. With that loyalty comes great responsibility to the fan base. Adding a new mascot to a mix that has been with the Milwaukee Brewers since the early 90’s has advantages and disadvantages. While a shiny new mascot brings in a new crowd (especially animal lovers) and freshens up the stadium experience, it can leave die-hard fans feeling like adding another mascot is a cheap trick to increase attendance.
Why Hank Works
I believe the benefits of sharing the Hank story outweigh the disadvantages. The story of Hank has resonated with people all over the country and the Brewers are doing great things with that attention.
Hank now has his own bobble-head, promotional products, mascot suit, children’s book, t-shirts, and more. Twenty percent of these sales benefit the Wisconsin Humane Society. In a pre-game ceremony on Sept. 13, the Wisconsin Humane Society was presented a check for $130,000 from the Brewers Community Foundation from merchandise sales and other donations. Yes, it’s advantageous for the Brewers because in only the first three months of the baseball season the team sold more than 12,500 K-9 jerseys. (How do you think baseball stars Ryan Braun and Johnathan Lucroy feel about being outsold by a pup?) But, this partnership is also great because it raises awareness for homeless animals in addition to the Wisconsin Humane Society.
The Milwaukee Brewers have paid close attention to Hank’s endorsements and appearances. They want to focus his engagements on events that benefit a charitable cause or the fans. The Brewers executives want to make sure he’s not exploited and put his health and well-being before appearances. While some could argue that having a dog endorse anything involving baseball could be exploitation, this amazing story happened to the Brewers and Hank’s life is better because of it. Sure, he won’t be around forever and they may eventually retire his mascot suit, but it will forever go down in Brewers history as a significant and life-changing event for all parties involved.
What are your thoughts? How many is too many mascots? Have the Brewers added one too many?