In September of 2018, the Philadelphia Flyers NHL team launched a new mascot named Gritty. This video introduces you to the mascot.
He was created by Brian Allen, a graphic designer who has created many different mascots. In an article written by Todd VanDerWerff for Vox, Allen describes how he wanted to create something that was a “blank slate.” According to Allen: “We eventually settled on a monster. Because with a monster, it doesn’t come with preconceived stereotypes…If you choose a bull, it’s gotta be aggressive, or if you choose a hawk, it’s gotta be cunning.” In short, a monster could be what the audience wanted it to be.
Both Allen and the Flyers’ marketing team wanted to take a risk with Gritty by creating an edgier mascot that you “would high-five but maybe not hug.” This risk was backed up by audience analysis. Philadelphia has a reputation for being a rough city that loves underdogs. (In fact, its sports culture is so rough that fans of the Philadelphia Eagles are known for throwing batteries at players!) To win over the fans, the mascot would have to be different than a mascot in Toronto or Los Angeles.
The best way to get the audience to buy in was to let them share in making the “blank slate” mascot mean something. Instead of trying to take control of all of the communication around Gritty, the Flyers’ marketing team therefore encouraged remixing right from the start. They understood that people talking about Gritty — no matter what they were saying — was good publicity. The marketing team even created their own remixes, such as this remix of a movie poster:
(Image description: The movie poster for A Star Is Born, where Gritty has been photoshopped to take the place of the female lead, so it looks like costar Bradley Cooper is embracing them. The tweet says: Saw a movie this weekend. Lady Gaga, I’ve also been called the songbird of my generation. What did you guys do?)
Saw a movie this wknd. @ladygaga I’ve also been called the songbird of my generation 🕊
What did you guys do? pic.twitter.com/6YyP1cn6WK
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) October 22, 2018
The plan worked. Today, Gritty has been remixed into a political symbol for people who oppose American President Donald Trump, which is not something that Allen and his team intended, but which has led to Gritty taking on a personality of his own. There are Reddit subreddits, Facebook pages, Instagram accounts and more: all remixing images of Gritty for new audiences, purposes and contexts.
Here’s a Christmas Gritty meme:
(Image description: Twitter user @zech_smith has Photoshopped the nativity scene so that every character — from Jesus to the Three Wise Men — looks like Gritty).
Wishing everyone a Gritty Christmas! pic.twitter.com/BMZK3ANMjl
— Zech Smith (@zech_smith) December 25, 2018
Gritty has even appeared in tattoos. Here’s Simon Ali’s tattoo “remix” of a photo of Gritty:
Today, lots of people who love Gritty have never even seen a hockey game. Because of remixing, Gritty has become one of the most recognizable hockey mascots in a very short period of time.
Gritty offers a few lessons to communicators:
- Online tools make it easy to remix material and participate in an online conversation. Instead of fighting back against the new online context by trying to shut down remixes, smart companies have embraced remixing and even joined in on the fun.
- Remixing allows people to re-imagine something for a new audience, context or purpose. It’s therefore a great way to come up with new ideas.
- Remixing turns marketing from a one-way street to a conversation. Instead of consuming ads, fans participate and are co-creators.