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From the mascot’s mouth – notes from a costume performer, part 1

10 real challenges facing a mascot performer

the_toony_bin_cat_costumeMark Velvick is a talented costume performer based in the south of England. Mark, through his company The Toony Bin, has played a wide range of characters from football mascots to well-known children’s characters. In this blog, Mark shares his experiences and 10 challenges faced when performing as a mascot character:
From my perspective, mascot and costume character performance is one of the best jobs in the world. Even the most rewarding jobs can have their obstacles, however, so here are my top 10 in no particular order:

If you can’t stand the heat…

Wearing a mascot costume is a literally ‘hot’ topic even if you’re standing still for a meet and greet. The more active you are and the higher the ambient temperature, the worse it will be. Staying hydrated is a must during these times. After all, the worst thing a mascot can do (aside from de-head in public) is pass out during a performance.
This is something I’ve seen happen and something I’ve even experienced. Heat exhaustion starts from the moment you begin to feel unwell. If you start to feel faint or dizzy, it’s time to get out of there. Other signs are nausea, excessive sweating, rapid/weak pulse and cramps. You may experience one or all of these but knowing the signs can save you a lot of hassle and even save your life!

Peekaboo! Wait, where are you?

Some costumes have more limited vision than others and many people still don’t understand this about mascots. I have heard people many times utter the words; “Look at the camera”, in moments where I’d be lucky to see the person even saying that. You need to be aware of the limitation of vision your costume has. Walking into or tripping over things you can’t see is pretty embarrassing. Not as much as tripping over people though…

Watch who you’re stepping on!

You’ll often be walking or dancing about, only to find your limited vision filled by someone who has walked straight out in front of you without a second thought. Try as hard as you might you will sometimes trip over people. It’s best to let your minder apologize and explain the situation whilst you just do your best to act sorry for what happened. Whether it was your fault or not, just be apologetic. Some situations can be defused with just a simple “Sorry”.

These feet were made for walking… right?

Segueing neatly into the next challenge, ‘mobility’. Some costumes are great and let you perform in any way you think works best for the character. Others… well, others look wonderful but the most you’ll be able to do is shimmy on the spot or wave a little. Walking is out of the question sometimes and you’ll either be reduced to a waddle, or your steps will be so small you might as well just stand still.

Breathe in.

Nothing to do with your respiratory system, think more about getting a new pair of jeans. There isn’t much worse than showing up for a mascot gig and finding the costume was meant for someone half your size (this did happen to me once). There are times where you think you’ll fit because you’re smaller than the maximum height, only to find the costume completely swamping you. Knowing the recommended performer height in advance is a must.

What’s that smell?

I’m not talking about breaking wind in costume (though I will recommend not doing that), I’m referring to some companies who are happy for a mascot to make them money, but never willing to spend any on maintenance. Some costumes will have several years of sweat in them and I feel sorry for anyone who picks the short straw for those like I have a few times. If you see black mould growing anywhere inside the costume, turn the gig down. Your health is more important.

Do you feel a breeze?

This does bring up another issue I’ve faced a few times. On occasion the costume will be spotless and clean at first glance, only to find everything inside is falling apart. From cracks in the plastic head to broken harnesses, torn fabric to missing body parts, there’s no real excuse for such things except being too cheap. Mascots are a big investment that someone is supposed to perform in. It’s like a mechanic trying to fix a car with half the tools missing, it just won’t work as well.

Ow, my neck!

The few times I have managed to injure myself in costume, my most common injury is neck strain. Mascot heads often sit on the performer’s own head or shoulders. Either way, it is regularly supported by the neck due to the helmet or harness inside. Taking regular breaks every 20-40 minutes can help reduce this problem and proper stretching will also help. If the head is supported by a metal rod down the back, just make sure it won’t injure your spine during a performance. Again; your health is most important.

What did I ever do to you!?

On some occasions, you’ll be the target of harassment. Mascots are not supposed to take on members of the public so it’s down to your minder to deal with the problem. Never actively retaliate against someone who is ‘attacking’ you. Defend where possible until they’re gone or get your minder to remove you from the area. If security is available such as at a theme park or shopping centre, make sure your minder knows to get their attention before your first time out as the character. Try not to lose your head, it’s not uncommon for these kinds of people to try and remove it…

Mind the minder.

Oh, the joys of working with a minder who can not only help to guide you but can interact on your behalf and improve the overall experience for everyone. What a shame they’re so rare!
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been to an event or gig and the minder that was drafted in last minute was completely clueless. Often poking at their phone whilst you’re performing, unsure of how to help you dress and ignorant of your gestures when you need assistance or a break, despite going over it repeatedly beforehand. A terrible minder can spoil events no matter how good a performer you are. If you’re able to get through without, it’s better than having a bad one.

Despite these 10 challenges, I still love mascot and costume character performance. To be honest, these unfavourable times are few and far between. Rare as they are, it’s always best to know in advance and to prepare for all eventualities (like buying shin pads)!

Prepare for the worst, perform like the best.

If you would like to share your story, hints or tips or just want to say hello then click here to contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

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From the mascot’s mouth – notes from a costume performer, part 2

5 top tips for a professional character performance

the-toony-bin-bassett-houndMark Velvick is a talented costume performer based in the south of England. Mark, through his company The Toony Bin, he has played a wide range of characters from football mascots to well-known children’s characters. In his second blog, Mark shares with us his top 5 tips for a professional character performance: 

You may already know how to be a costumed performer but are you fun and friendly or lifeless and boring? There’s a difference between being a character and being a good character. Here are 5 ideas to improve your performance.

You’re not playing musical statues unless you are.

Unless you are actually playing musical statues or posing for a photo, one of the worst things to do is stand still for long periods of time or just look like you have no enthusiasm. It can be tough doing 30 to 40-minute stints in a big bulky costume but even if you’re just wiggling about and waving it’s better than standing still. Look around for people coming close and make sure to exaggerate your motion.  Waving is one thing but you really need to ‘wave’. Give it bags of energy or it won’t really translate to the people around you.

Know your limits.

Only you can know your personal limits but it’s not until you put the costume on for the first time that you really find them. Try to arrive at an event early if you’ve never worn the costume before and see if you can get time to practice walking, bending and jumping (if possible). Costumes are restrictive and it’s hard to know how much until you’re finally in it. Trying to offer a high five or a hug and finding you can’t move your arms far enough to do either properly can make things awkward for everyone involved and not knowing how big the costume is can lead to other problems entirely.

Know the character.

This is very important. If the character is established, do some research. Whether you’re performing for charity or as a copyrighted character, you need to know their gestures and actions. Wearing a ninja turtle costume and frolicking about like a fairy isn’t going to go down well. If the character is new, are they male, female, fat or skinny? Do they look cute, inquisitive, tough or angry? You need to be able to bring that character to life and make them believable, so knowing the personality beforehand can be a big help.

Strike a pose.

When it comes to having your picture taken, the same pose over and over again gets boring very quickly. Practice several easy poses you can strike at a moment’s notice or see about getting the people taking part to strike one with you. It might be tricky to get their attention in the beginning but keep trying and eventually, you’ll get the hang of it. Keep the poses family friendly and try to take the character you’re playing into consideration. After all, a Power Ranger won’t be doing a standard thumbs up, add some action to it and think ‘martial arts’.

Ham it up.

Be active, be playful and exaggerate everything. You’re there to help people have a good time but there’s nothing that says you can’t have one yourself. Interact with people, if at a fairground try playing the games or going on the rides. Interact with props around you and point to things in an over the top manner. Dance to any and all music that’s playing. Pose in random locations to give people photo opportunities they wouldn’t normally get. Make everything a game, just never take things too far.

If you missed part 1 of  ‘From the Mascot’s mouth,’ read it here

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Dames, cows and slapstick: the history of pantomime

It’s Panto Season!

Pantomime has for a long time been a seasonal British institution. A pilgrimage of tradition for many families in the UK. Love it or hate it, panto brings out the child in us all.

Shouts of ‘it’s behind you’ and ‘oh no it isn’t’ boom around the theatre hall. Cast members goading the audience to participate as they search high and low for the culprit who hides in plain sight. Pantomime, for those who haven’t been, is jolly good fun!

During our 30+ years of existence, we’ve had the pleasure of constructing numerous costume items and animals (most notably horses and cows) for this fabulous form of theatre so I thought I would share a little bit of panto history with you. It is, after all, the time of year they call… panto season.

Where it all started

Commedia_dellarteMany people will be surprised to learn that pantomime didn’t originate in the UK and holds many of its roots in a style of classical theatre called Commedia Dell ‘Arte, popular in Italy throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. This style of sketch based theatre brought about the notion of ‘stock’ characters. Stock characters were made to represent stereotypical social types, such as the servant, the clown and the lovers to name a few.

Performing in small groups, the typical Commedia troupe was usually mobile. They would travel between towns, performing outside in the main square or at court for the towns folk to enjoy. Often masked, the troupe would play out conventional plot lines, drawing inspiration from current events or re-enacting historical performances with an improvisational twist and well-used jokes of the time. Since a lot of the performance is improvised, this allowed the actors to adapt plots to highlight local news or scandal, keeping the performances current and relevant to the localised area.

Character Development

With the evolution of Commedia Dell’ Arte, each ‘stock’ character developed a distinct set of characteristics. Speech, props and costume became signature styles, synonymous with particular characters. With most of the actors wearing masks, dialect and gesticulation was exaggerated. This emphasised the differences between the characters and added to the comedy element of the performance. This style of theatre became popular across Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries thanks to the mobile nature of the performers, slowly making its way towards England during the early 17th century.

Adaptations of the original Commedia characters became commonplace in English theatre. Slowly adapting the stories over time which brought about the development of the English Harlequinade. This put the character Harlequin (Commedia Dell ‘Arte’s Arlecchio character) front and centre. Harlequin had what was known as a ‘Slapstick’ that he would use to hit pieces of scenery to initiate their change. Over time, this character developed from servant to magician. By the late 1700’s, Harlequin, as a character, had become so popular that more elaborate plots and scenery were devised to incorporate his success. Along with it, came the birth of ‘Slapstick Comedy.’

Modern Pantomime

By the Victorian era, pantomime had become a regular festive event. Classic tales were adapted and revised to work on stage. The introduction of the principle boy (usually a female lead role) showed that pantomime could adapt and stay current with the flavour of the time. Well-known variety stars of the day began to cross over and star in popular pantomimes. This brought about a change in the cast, and with it new characters. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that radio and television stars became a commonplace attraction in pantomimes. This has since become a tradition still held in modern-day pantomimes.

A horse, of course (or a cow, or a cat, or goose)

Be it Daisy the Cow in Jack and the Beanstalk, Tom the Cat in Dick Whittington or Mother Goose’s Fowl. The role of the animal companion in pantomime has long since been a staple part of the performance. Skilled animal actors would don the costume (often in pairs for front and back legs) and perform alongside the high-profile actors of the day, wowing audiences into believing they were the real thing… with a little bit of imagination of course. Here at CWC we have made many pantomime and theatre animals from cows to kangaroos and horses. Interestingly, when one thinks of pantomime animals, cows and horses come to the forefront of the mind. However, horses are relatively rare in panto performance and feature far less than cows, cats and geese.

Dames and Drag

Part of pantomime since the mid to late 1800’s, the Dame is a well-known character in many of the staple seasonal favourites. Widow Twankey, Mother Goose and the Queen from Puss in Boots are all popular examples of the pantomime dame. They all have one thing in common. They are played by a male actor. The dame flips the script and plays on the comedy of flamboyant costume and cheeky innuendo in a way that only a drag act can. Most pantomime dames have a voluptuous shape. This calls for padding in all the right places and sometimes even a full body suit. This creates the illusion of an exaggerated feminine figure and helps to bring the magic to life.

If you’re planning a pantomime and need help with body suits, cows, horses or even geese then don’t hesitate to contact us with your requirements.

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Five weird and wonderful Easter characters from around the world

Easter Bunny

Easter is on its way, and for millions of kids this means that both chocolate eggs and the legendary Easter Bunny are on their way – however, not everyone around the world anticipates a bounding, big-eared egg bandit visiting them each spring!

  This important Christian holiday is celebrated in various countries with the help of some truly curious critters and creatures you may never have even heard of – and we think they’d make for some truly alternative Easter mascot designs!  Here’s our pick of some of the most interesting Easter characters and traditions loved in other cultures.

The Easter Bells (France)

easter-bellWhile not a creature or a critter, bells are hugely symbolic in France at Easter time– it’s thought that all the church bells across the land spring from their towers and fly to Rome, where they not only rub shoulders with the Pope, but also make sure they load up on traditional Easter sweets and goodies to share back home.  Keep an eye on any church bells you might spy the next time you’re France-bound – they’re all hiding secret pairs of wings!

The Easter Bilby (Australia)

easter-bilby
Australia has a magnificently wild and wonderful culture, and their Easter celebrations fit in rather nicely with this trend.  While the Easter Bunny may have found his way into the hearts of children across the West, the Easter Bilby is celebrated as a local cousin down under.  The character was first brought into the public eye in 1991, as environmental campaigner Nicholas Newland wished to raise awareness of the damage that rabbits caused to Australian flora.  The Easter Bilby was born, therefore, as a fitting symbol of local wildlife without the negative connotations!

The Easter Witch (Sweden)

easter-witchIf you thought witches hid away until Halloween each year, you’ve clearly never made your way to mainland Europe during the spring!  Easter Witches are commonly found across Sweden and Finland  – in the form of children dressing up and gifting handmade postcards/drawing to their neighbours. In return, the children receive a few pennies or Easter sweets for their efforts. Sounds fairly similar to trick-or-treating in the US – but beyond this, it’s not uncommon to see images of witches riding broomsticks and carrying a cauldron of goodies around Easter time in Scandinavia.

The Easter Cuckoo (Switzerland)

easter-cuckooWhen you think of cuckoos, you generally think of those odd little clocks – and where do they come from?  Switzerland!  The Swiss really take cuckoos to heart around Easter, too – as their traditional egg-carrier is not a rabbit but a native bird.  The Easter Cuckoo is brightly coloured and high-spirited, and particularly lucky children may even be able to snatch a few chocolate cuckoos of their own!

The Easter Fox (Germany)

easter-foxWho would have thought that the bunny’s natural foe – the fox – would be the one delivering the treats and the goodies out in mainland Europe?  Germany is another country rich in curious heritage, and it’s thought that both the Germans and the Dutch helped to spread the tradition of the Easter Bunny across the West.  The Easter Fox is perhaps less common these days as the Bunny has largely taken centre stage, but it’s nice to see that he still has a role in some parts of Germany!

There you have it – no one seems to celebrate Easter in quite the same way wherever you look – though awaiting chocolates and treats is fairly universal!  No matter who brings the kids their eggs and goodies this year, why not treat them to an Easter character with a bit of added history?  Give the Easter Bunny the year off – you must surely agree he deserves it!

easter-eggs

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Five popular animal mascot shapes and what they represent

Animal Mascot Costumes

Here at Costumes with Character, we’re used to seeing a whole host of fuzzy, funny faces – and we’re proud to be able to offer a wide range of creative mascots and delightful characters to help entertain families and crowds alike – up and down the country. 

We think, over the years, our animal mascot shapes have grown to be some of the most popular. What is it about our fantastic beasts – and why do we think so many firms and events snatch them up more than any other?  Let’s have a look at our five most popular animal mascot shapes, and why we think they’re the bee’s knees… and the bear’s, the mouse’s and the lion’s various body parts, too!

Bear Mascots

brown-bear-mascotBig, boisterous and cuddly, these family favourites are great for anyone looking to offer the crowds a big soft cuddle or two. Bears are of course already famous with young children thanks to the universal appeal of teddies.  Bears are famously family animals – warm, fuzzy and the image of many a children’s toy, our mascot characters are life-size teddies built for any occasion – and while we’d certainly never advise approaching a real bear in person, always give our bear mascots a big old hug whenever you see them!

Mouse Mascots

mouse-mascot-costumeOften thought to be quiet, mischievous creatures that are rarely seen but are often heard, our mouse mascots are large and in charge – and will never scurry away from a crowd!  Cheeky, nibbling characters make for fantastic family entertainment. Among all of our popular animal characters and mascots, mice are some of the most characterful. The right design and the right performance can bring a mischief-making nibbler come to life.  Paired up with a cat mascot, you’re guaranteed some fun – but mice are worth their weight in cheese with or without a chase!

Rabbit Mascots

grey-rabbit-costumeRabbits are iconic – Bugs Bunny, the White Rabbit, a certain bunny advertising chocolate milk drinks – they’re everywhere in the world of mascots.  Bunnies and rabbits are bouncy, fun-loving, free-spirited and best of all, absolutely barmy!  This makes them the perfect fit and addition to any family event, particularly when kids are involved – you never know quite what you’re going to get from a rabbit character, meaning that safe, quirky fun is always guaranteed.  You’ll find a rabbit mascot’s energy infectious – and even better, they can be themed to attend Easter events and more.

Lion Mascots

lion-mascot-costumeThe king of the jungle – fierce, imposing, regal and awe-inspiring, the lion is another family animal that may be dangerous in the wild but a big old softie on the mascot scene.  Lions are famously used to represent sports teams and are considered symbols to look up to. What’s more, they really are a sight to see! Lions come in all shapes and sizes, but a mascot with full mane and all the regal glamour will add a touch of class and fun to any event – an absolute must for sports days and events.

Dog Mascots

brown-dog-costumeDogs are loveable, big or small – and with so many breeds to pick from, there’s little wonder that so many of us welcome those happy, wagging fuzzballs into our homes.  As far as mascot characters go, dogs are happy-go-lucky, playful and always eager to please!  Anyone playing a dog character will really get their teeth into the role. Playing games, chasing their tail and more besides.  They may be goofy, but they’re loyal, they’re happy and they’re fun – a great fit for any event, and one you may want to consider above the rest of our curious critters!

So there we have our 5 top animal mascot shapes. If you don’t see the animal that you would like on our list then mosey on over to our costumes pages to get some inspiration on other classic shapes. The beautiful thing about character costumes are that they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

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Dye sublimation printing – the basics

What is dye sublimation printing?

dye sublimation t-shirt bear
Dye sublimation printing is a relatively new form of technology that uses specially-formulated inks, transfer paper, a printer and heat press to create eye-catching and vibrant prints on polyester based fabrics. One of the main advantages of using dye sublimation is that during the process, the special ink fuses directly to the fabric fibres creating a permanent image that is bold, colour fast and washable.

 
It’s something that we’ve used at CWC for some time to create intricate patterns and colour-matched fabrics for mascot clothing but its uses don’t stop there. Almost all polyester fabrics can be dye-sublimated, making it a fantastic choice for printing flags, banners, table cloths, canvas prints, cushions and clothing for example.

The process of dye sublimation printing requires 3 key elements to be successful. These are heat, time and pressure. The combination of all 3 turns the inks from a solid to a gaseous state, which then penetrate the fabric fibres whilst under pressure. This creates a permanent bond between the ink and the fabric. Temperatures must be more than 180 (approx.) degrees centigrade (356 degrees Fahrenheit) to successfully transfer and bond the ink to the polyester fabric.

Natural vs polyester

A question we often get asked is ‘Does your fabric have to be polyester for dye sublimation printing to work?’ In short, the answer is yes. Natural fibres such as cotton do not hold the correct characteristics to be successfully sublimated and will cause a dull and washed out print if attempted. Poly cotton blends of around 60% polyester 40% Cotton can be used successfully but the higher the polyester content of the fabric, the more vivid the final transfer will be. This is due to the construction of the polyester fibres or polymer cells within these fibres to be precise. Heating causes these cells to open, capturing the gaseous inks within their structure. As they cool they close again, effectively sealing the colour directly into the fibre. The more polymer cells, the more colour can be trapped in the material and the brighter the final image.

The printing process

roland texart sublimation printerPrinting – Once you have finalised your design, it will need to be uploaded into the dedicated software on your computer to be processed. RIP software (stands for Raster Image Processing) is effectively an advanced printer driver designed to get optimal results from your machine. From within you can edit the image, resize and format it to the desired profile for your printer. The RIP software stores all the colour profiles required to faithfully recreate the original design. Once your design is ready to print, it is sent by the RIP software to the dedicated printer and is printed out onto special transfer paper. Dye-Sublimation printers can come in a range of sizes. Ours at CWC HQ is just over 1.5m wide, making it useful for a whole range of sublimation tasks.

Pressing – Once you’ve printed your design, you’re ready to press your image into the fabric using one of several different heat presses: Small format, calendar, flatbed and 3D vacuum. As we deal mainly in the sublimation of inks into the fabric, we have both a small format and a calendar heat press. A 3D vacuum heat press is useful for mugs and mobile phone cases but is not something we would use very often

All heat transfer presses fundamentally work in the same way; set the temperature, prepare the material and press the image onto the material with heat and pressure for a set time. This creates a permanent, clear and vibrant image has now been added to your material. A calendar press works like this but facilitates longer print lengths by moving the fabric through heated rollers.

Variable factors

klieverik calendar pressThe dye sublimation printing process sounds relatively simple, right? In theory at least but in practice, there are several variable factors that can affect the final results. The right heat, time, pressure and humidity are all concerns when striving for the perfect print. Some fabrics sublimate better at higher temperatures, and some at lower. Some fabrics flatten under high pressure, some require more pressure for the ink to embed itself. As you can see it’s a fine balance between all these factors to ensure your print comes out looking its best.

It’s nice to pick a topic that gives us the opportunity to tell you about the processes involved with making a costume. As you can see with dye sublimation printing, not only is it a fundamental part of our costume business, it also opens a whole world of opportunities to expand our offering and give the same care and attention to another branch of our business. If you want to learn more about the sublimation services we offer then mosey on over to our printing page or contact us on this form.

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The CWC guide to Facebook success: creating a mascot character profile

Costume Characters are a great way to promote your business, charity, sports club, products, services, the list is endless. Where there is a mascot there is usually a buzz of excitement, people taking photographs and generally getting giddy about interacting with your oversized ambassador.

Walnuts Lights
This type of live event creates a memorable occasion for those lucky enough to be there and leaves a positive lasting impression that means hopefully, the next time someone requires what you can offer, you’ll be at the forefront of their minds. But what about all those people that can’t get to the event or live in a different country that would love to know more about your services? It would seem a shame to allow your brand ambassador to live only for their events, especially when the modern world is such a small place.

Thanks to the miracles of technology, no longer are your mascots destined only to be local heroes. From the platform of the internet, your character can shoot for the moon and reach the stars; or potential customers, right across the globe with a little bit of creative thinking.

If you haven’t thought about creating a social media page for your character, then now is a good time to start. Facebook is still at the top of the social media pile with over 1 billion views a day and approx. 2 billion unique sessions a month. It’s a medium for exposure that shouldn’t be overlooked and is a great place to start your mascot’s journey into online personable interaction with your audience.

As well as individual profiles, there are also over 60 million ‘Business’ pages that have been created, such as ours, giving you easily accessible information and keeping you up to date with the latest goings on from company HQ. With all the various page types to choose from, this brings us nicely to our first consideration.

Profile vs Pages

Character PageWhen setting up a page for your character, you’ll be hit with choices right off the bat. The first choice you will have to make is whether you want to create a profile or a page for your mascot. There are differences in the two which will change the way you interact with your audience:

Profile

This is the typical individual profile like the one you would set up for yourself. With a profile page, only those who you invite or accept as a friend will be able to see your content and in a profile, advertising/paid promotion isn’t available. Only one of these pages can be created with one login and password.

Pages

Much more suited to business, pages are a great way to showcase your product, brand, event and you’ve guessed it, mascot. With pages, content is available for everyone to see and instead of inviting friends you invite people to like your page. Pages allow for paid advertising and promotion, so once you’re all set up and happy with the details you can start to put some premium promotion behind your character should you so choose.

Facebook PageBecause the Character you want to be promoting is your brand ambassador, I would suggest choosing to create a Page rather than a profile as this will give you the most amount of flexibility with your account.

What type of page should I use?

Once you have made your decision to start and have clicked the pages button, you will be presented with a list of options as to what you would like your page to be. There are 6 options to choose from, but only one that I would recommend for your brand ambassador:

Artist, Band or Public figure – Used to be called a fan page back in the day, this would be the right Public Figure Logochoice for a fully dedicated page all about your mascot. With this category, you can be a little more personable with the tone of your message as people will be interacting with a character that has its own personality, opinions etc. without the usual corporate undertones you would expect on a dedicated business page. The idea is to build brand association between your products/services and your mascot. People are much better at remembering faces than they are business names so it’s a great way to keep at the forefront of your potential customer’s mind.

If you find that you have chosen a type of page that on reflection isn’t suited to your character, you can always go into your settings to change the page type later.

What next?

So now you’ve made your decision and you are ready to start building the content for your mascot showcase; what kind of information do you need to create a successful page? Below I’ll discuss 5 important points to consider when constructing your character profile.

Back story

Sid BioEveryone has a back story; a place of origin, likes and dislikes, annoying character traits (we all have them) and a distinct personality. It’s what makes us all so unique and if it wasn’t for these differences, the world would be such a boring place. Real or fictional, a back story is a great way to bring your character to life.

When thinking about your character’s back story, think about where they were born, where they grew up, if they have any family, a romantic interest, favourite hobby, funny story surrounding a calamitous event, how they came to your employment, it can be as elaborate as you want it to be! The aim is to make your mascot more relatable by giving it a history and turning it into a ‘real’ character. If people grow an affinity towards your mascot then there’s a good chance they’ll come to you next time they need your services.

Photos and videos

Essential to any social media page, photos and videos are what your potential Wolfie Photosclients will interact with most often. These tend to stand out against status updates, post links, and text-based content because our brains can process imagery faster than it can decipher the text.

Over 90% of human interaction is visual so it makes sense to follow this thinking when it comes to social media. Think about the kind of things you look at on social media. I’m guessing that most of the memorable posts you have engaged with recently contain either photos, videos or cats…. far more cats than you would want to admit to but probably in one of the two formats discussed. So logically, the answer is to get a cat mascot costume and to take lots of photos of it.

I jest but having some great promo shots of your character and making sure you travel with a camera to all events will ensure you get some fantastic and interesting snaps to share with your fans, who in turn will share with their friends, and the chain grows longer, expanding your reach far beyond the physical boundaries of a local event.

Other content

Once your character page is up and running; you’ve fabricated your biography and have taken lots of great photos of your mascot, it’s time to start looking at building and planning regular content to keep your potential customers engaged.

Whether it be linking through to an interesting article or playing fill in the blanks, content should be varied and promote interaction between your Brand Ambassador and your page fans. A great tip is to have a look at your potential customer base and to do a bit of research to see what matters to them and what they generally find interesting. If you can tap into this when looking at content for your page, you will find the interaction levels increase when a fan is genuinely interested in a topic.

It’s well known that the hard sell isn’t an effective method when it comes to Facebook, so even though your customer is potentially interested in your product, a direct sales message (unless heavily promoting a significant discount) will be skipped past by most people, so keep it light-hearted.Word Morph

Another great way to engage fans is to pose questions. Think about finishing off some of your posts with a discussion point or ask for an opinion. We all like to give our 2 cents worth and if it’s a topic close to your customers’ hearts, not only will you get the opportunity to engage, but you’ll also learn some valuable insights into their likes/dislikes so you can further tailor your offer or content down the line.

Competitions can also get your fans engaging with your content. Something like a caption contest or a small sweepstake is all that is needed to start the likes and shares flowing, creating a buzz around your character and their page.

It’s important to remember that the prize on offer should reflect the amount of effort required to enter the competition. If it’s a big prize, then make your fans work a little harder for it by submitting an entry. If it’s information you are after, keep the prize small and make it a simple comment below type of contest. A competition is a great way to gain valuable information and stats from your customers that can be used later. For example, to enter a sweepstake, fans may have to like and share the post and then tell you what their favourite flavour of ice cream is in the comments below. This information could allow you to introduce a new flavour down the line that you know will be a popular choice because you’ve heard it right from the horse’s mouth.

With all content, it is important to remember to promote the core values of your company in the way you present, write and perform with your character both online and offline. If your character is about promoting healthy living, then try not to offer unhealthy prizes, or give information contradicting the beliefs of the company. This can lead to you sending a confusing message to your customers that can de-value the hard work you have put in to building your brand.

Above all, keep your content interesting. It’s better to have 2-3 relevant and engaging posts a week than to fill up your wall with low-quality daily content for the sake of posting.

Account linking

social-media-icons

Account Linking is the act of joining two or more social media platforms so that if you post on one, it automatically posts on the other and vice versa. This may sound like a great idea at first; meaning that you can reach out to all your networks in one go but people use Facebook and Twitter (which we’ll use for this example) in very different ways. For example, Twitter posts are limited to a set number of characters (140 characters, not including Twitter handles – the @username) whereas Facebook will allow up to 5000 characters per comment or status update, allowing for longer posts and in-depth discussion right on the site.

Sharing your Facebook update with Twitter can end up cutting out a lot of the comment and can leave your Twitter account looking messy with lots of seemingly unfinished comments. There’s also the issue around replying to fans and potential customers. When linking, there are no notifications that let you know when someone has replied or commented on a thread via the other platform, so unless you log in regularly to either account, your Character might unintentionally ignore your customer base who may search elsewhere.

The best advice I can give you on this is to start with one platform, and only open your character up to more social media avenues when you feel ready to handle them individually. Products like Hootsuite enable you to choose which posts go to which social site, so if you do feel the content is relevant on both, you get the option to share it.

Invitation and promotion

Boost PostTo get your page started, there are two ways to gain a following. One is through invitations, and the other method is through sponsored advertising.

Facebook offers several paid avenues to promote your character’s page, ranging from boosting posts to advertising in your local area. Both are relevant but depending on your end goals, these promotions can work out quite costly. The trick is to fine tune your advert audience interests to only include relevant topics and hobbies to ensure you maximise the spend.

Inviting people to like your page, on the other hand, is free but you can only invite people you either already know personally or have the email address for, which you can upload to Facebook so that it can send out the invites. Some people are happy to receive invites to their inbox, others can be a little wary as they can feel a little impersonal.

Wrapping up

You’ll hopefully find that if you follow our guidelines and post regular and relevant content a few times a week, your fan base should start to grow and your mascot will become more recognisable across the globe and not just locally.  The information above should get you started but don’t be afraid of trying new things as audience interaction is always evolving, especially in the fast-paced field of social media.

If I can leave you with one thing from this article to ensure a successful character page, it should be this short and simple message:

Don’t Market, Connect.

If you feel you need any help or advice on how to set up your costumed character’s page or just want a chat about creating your brand ambassador then send us a message via this form.

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Marathons and mascots: a guide to running in costume

marathon Legs

Participating in a marathon for many of us, is a superhuman feat. Over 26 miles of relentless running and jogging, or in many cases, walking and limping to complete a course designed to challenge even the hardiest of runners. Dedication, hard work and determination are required to complete the course, not to mention the mental strength to push beyond the ‘wall’ and keep those legs pounding the pavement to success.

For the most part, marathon runners can be categorised into three groups: The super-fit people that do it for kicks, jostling for position on the PB (personal best) leader board of their local running club or on the latest fitness App. There are those looking to better themselves physically, using the marathon as a goal to work up to, giving their training a purpose with a goal to achieve and then there are those selfless individuals who do it to raise money and awareness for charities across the country (and the world), raising millions of pounds each year for many a good cause. Regardless of what group you fit into, the notion of increasing the challenge to include the additional layers that a costume can add seems crazy and yet there is no better way to get noticed out on the course. With the Greater Manchester and London marathons just around the corner, we thought we’d explore some of the considerations behind wearing a costume on race day.

Firstly, you will be running for a long time. Most mascot manufacturers will tell you that stopwatchthe maximum recommended time to wear a typical mascot costume without a break is approximately 30-45 minutes or shorter for more energetic performances. This helps prevent dehydration, overheating and general discomfort to the performer. Additional considerations to the character design should be made when running a long distance to ensure the safety of the competitor inside the costume. A costume suitable for running should adhere to the following points:

  • Lightweight
  • Well ventilated
  • Comfortable
  • Flexible and well fitted (Skin characters)
  • End above the Knee (Inanimate characters)

Running in a costume that does not address these simple points can be uncomfortable and ultimately unsafe; risking dehydration, fatigue and an endless amount of chafing for the person unlucky enough to wear it. The average time for completing a marathon (elites aside) is around the 4-hour mark so you can see why the well-being of the runner is paramount in all decisions regarding the manufacture of the costume.
Ambrosia PotFrom a makers’ perspective, there are a few additional considerations that can be made to assist in the comfort and safety of the runner. Amendments to a costume design to include additional vent holes throughout the character head, or open spacing where there would normally be a gauze layer (such as the mouth) all help to increase air circulation around the runner. We’ve even changed designs so that the head of the runner is visible if that is their preference.

Character feet are usually oversized and generally difficult to run long distances in. Spat style shoe covers in the style of your character can be made to go over running trainers, allowing you to compete without the concern of stumbling over or tripping up other competitors amongst other podiatric concerns.

Meryl lycra (or CoolMax) material can be used in place of heavy, warmer matPercy Pigerials like fleece or foam to keep the runner cool. Meryl lycra has moisture wicking properties and draws sweat away from the body to the outside of the material where it disperses into the air. This type of fabric is typically found in sportswear so is perfect for active costumes and a great choice for those running a marathon.

So now you’ve got a costume that fits correctly, is well ventilated and lightweight, what next? It would take someone very special to just go out there and run a marathon without any prior preparation, especially in a costume, so let’s have a look at the build-up to race day and what you should do to get yourself ready for the big event.

Pre-race training

marathon mile 20You should start your training well in advance of the event and build up towards running a longer distance each month. It’s not recommended that you run a full 26 miles in your training. There’s something quite unique about running with like-minded people in an exciting atmosphere that can’t be replicated in training and you’ll find the miles fly by at the event. Running 26.2 miles is difficult for your body to recover from and can have a negative effect on your training efforts so keep this for race day. Ensure that you run shorter distances regularly and you’ll see much more benefit.

Training to run as a costumed character will require some additional efforts to guarantee you have a safe race and the aim is to be prepared and to manage the expectations of what you can achieve in costume. No one is expecting you to smash your PB but they are expecting you to have fun and make it round the course in one piece. Here’s some advice to help you prepare for the challenge ahead.

Firstly, knowing a little about your character is essential. Turning up on the day to find out the costume is too big or too heavy is going to scupper your chances of completing the course. If you are planning to use your own costume then buy it as soon as you can. If it is a costume for a charity or company then speak to them and try to get access to the costume early. Sometimes this may not be possible due to prior engagements and if this is the case, get some details that will help you prepare. Size, weight and material are all important questions in your quest for preparedness and answers you should be able to get relatively easily. If you can get access to the costume then put it on and take it out for a short run to ensure that it feels comfortable and secure. Wearing it before the event will allow you to iron out any issues before it’s too late, such as ventilation and how hot it will get. Once you have an idea of how the costume feels to run in and have addressed any issues, you can then put it to one side until the actual event so as not to cause any damage or unnecessary wear and tear.

backpackNow you have an idea of how it feels to run as your character, you can start to adjust your training routine accordingly. Running with a backpack and gradually working up to the equivalent weight of your costume is a great way to prepare your body for the additional layers, allowing you to feel the difference that a few extra kilograms can add without the need to wear the costume and risk damaging it. This gives your body chance to adjust to the added strain and will make race day a much more pleasant experience. Remember not to push too hard and that completing a marathon in training is counterproductive to the end goal.

Another great tip is to train in warmer clothing. Most costumes will add layers and layers equal additional heat. Training in a thick jumper for example will allow your body to become accustomed to the raised temperature that you would expect to feel inside a costumed character. Fluids will vanish rapidly with the additional heat so get used to drinking plenty of water. A camel pack will ensure you have access to fluids throughout the race. This is especially important if your costume covers your face and makes it difficult to drink from a bottle or cup.

Race day

Hopefully by this point you’ve been training hard and are now as prepared as you can be for the gruelling run ahead. You’re on the start line and ready to set off down the course, dressed to the nine’s in a local charity’s cat costume and you’re raring to get the race underway. With most the hard work over, all you have to do now is complete the course and you’ll be a local hero. However, completing the course is easier said than done, especially wearing a mascot costume. Sure enough, the crowds and atmosphere will pull you along for some of the way but there are a few key pointers that will help get you to the finish line.

Ambrosia Man MarathonFirstly, start nearer to the back of the pack than you would do out of costume. At the back is where the slower competitors start but it’s also where a lot of the atmosphere is created. Serious runners will block out the crowds and strive to finish in as fast a time as possible. Your aim shouldn’t be that when dressed up. It should be about creating awareness for your chosen charity or brand, participating with the crowds and other competitors to give them a ‘show’ on the way round. Pace yourself correctly and you will achieve a respectable time but if your aim is to beat your PB then perhaps running in a costume isn’t for you.

Being dressed as a character is an open invitation for people to tell you what they think. Be it good or bad, expect comments from people throughout the event and try not to take the negative ones to heart. It takes a certain kind of someone to don a Costume and run 26 miles so much of what you will hear and see should build on an already amazing experience for you and those around you.

As mentioned in the pre-race section, your costume will become hot and you are likely to lose fluids faster than the average ‘naked’ runner. Drinking fluids regularly is paramount to staying safe throughout your run and is worth pointing out again. Short sips rather than big gulps should help to regulate your hydration more effectively and the simple rule is to only drink when you feel thirsty. That way you avoid the issues of both dehydration and over-hydration by listening to your body, which brings us nicely to our next point…

Percy Pig MarathonPlay it safe. If you start to feel unwell, or in pain then stop or take a break. There’s nothing more important than your health and if this is being challenged then there is no shame in pulling out. After all, if Paula Radcliffe can stop 22 miles into an Olympic event with an injury, then don’t feel bad about pulling up short of your target if you need to.

Lastly and most importantly, Enjoy yourself. When you’re out in the middle of the field and you’re getting some well-deserved cheers and applause from the spectators and other runners, that’s the time to really take it all in and seize the day. You’re doing something that not everyone can do so be proud. Take in the atmosphere and you’ll soon find that the miles fly by as you get caught up in the fun. You’re also part of the entertainment and it’s thanks to costumed characters like you that the event is enjoyable for other people to watch.

One more point for race day that I chose to mention last because it’s very important is that Vaseline (or equivalent lube) will become your best friend. Make sure you bring some with you to alleviate the pain of chafe. Not everyone suffers from it but there is no doubt that the addition of a costume increases the likelihood of this phenomenon occurring so plan-ahead and reduce the rub….

Post race

stamford marathonNow is the time to bask in the glory of your success. You’ve made it to the finish line and hopefully you’ve had a great time getting there. There’s no doubt that you’ll be feeling the strain of the course but the goal you have achieved is something to be very proud of. Take time to rest, take on fluids if you need them and make sure that you warm down thoroughly.

After you’ve had chance to recover, now comes the time to sort out your costume. If the costume is your own, follow the washing instructions and make sure you dry it thoroughly in a well-ventilated area. Spread the costume out so that it has chance to air and you’ll reduce the smell that damp can create for future uses. Charities and companies may not expect you to wash the costume as some will send it in for a professional wash and clean after each event, but to keep the costume in good shape make sure it is dry before packing it up again. We’ve seen (and smelt) the effects that damp can cause on a costume and it’s not very nice, especially if it’s you that has to put it on next.

Here at CWC we have plenty of experience in creating characters with running as a consideration and can help with designing the perfect costume for you or your organisation. We also offer a full professional character refurbishment service, so if your character crosses the line and comes back a bit whiffy, you know where to send it for a bit of TLC.

Hopefully this has given you some useful tips for the next or first time you decide to run in a costume. Be it marathon, 10K, 5K or Park Run, entering a character into the event is a fantastic way to raise awareness and become a sure-fire hit with the spectators. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you will have one of the most entertaining races and who knows, you might even get the bug.

If you’d like advice, or would like to talk to us about creating a costume for your run, we’re only too happy to help.

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Ten reasons why your costume is in good hands

Good Hands

‘Trust me’ is a big statement. It’s a statement that shouldn’t be used without the confidence and ability to back it up, but it’s a phrase often misused by those who aren’t trustworthy.

Any Tom, Dick or Sally can sound out the words and make them believable whether they have the relevant experience or not, but can they put their product where their promise is?

Thankfully, if you’re reading this article then you have found the golden unicorn. A company that can put reasons behind why your costume is in good hands and when we say you can trust us to bring your design to life, rest assured we have the skill set and ability to do exactly that. Below you will find 10 clear reasons to let you know why we’re one of the good guys.

31 years of experience.

Established Sign31 years is a very long time. In this time, we’ve seen some pretty serious events across the globe, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the birth of the iPhone and Brexit it’s been some ride, but thankfully we are still here and we’re not getting off any time soon. Since our inception in 1986 (as Situation Clothing), we have encountered thousands of different costumes and clients, each bringing its own valuable experience and lessons to learn for the next costume challenge ahead. Time however stops for no man, and as techniques change and costumes become more ambitious, we continue to learn and grow. Albert Einstein said it best when he said ‘The only source of knowledge is experience.’

Our costumes are truly hand-made.

What we feel is one of the most important aspects of design, and one that sets us apart from the rest, is that our fabulous costumes are all fabricated by hand in our dedicated studio. We have the skills and know-how to bring your designs to life. Our hand-made costumes come with bags of character, patterned and crafted in-house by our skilled makers, with the added luxury of being fully customisable throughout the process, giving you the opportunity of total control over your costume.

Only the best materials will do.

We work with some of the best fabric and foam suppliers to ensure we have Furthe highest quality materials available to us. Whether it be fleece, foam or lycra, we’ll source the best samples to ensure our costumes not only look good but have the quality to make them last. We also work very closely with the UK’s largest remaining Fur manufacturer allowing us to customise our orders, giving us lots of control over the final product. Be it Pantone matched, short or long pile, the possibilities are extensive. What sets us apart from the rest is that regardless of budget, the quality of our materials stay the same.

Dedicated, built for purpose premises.

We are very lucky to have a fantastic studio that has been purpose built for our profession. We have dedicated areas for all aspects of our services, including a dedicated and spacious drying room and refurb area, well ventilated spray and glue rooms, printing rooms, a cosy meeting room, photography studio and a large production workroom space with pattern, cutting, props and sewing all working closely together. Because our premises are fit for purpose, your costume can receive the attention it deserves in the right environment for the job.

In-house design team.

character Design ExampleWe have a wealth of experience in creating brand ambassadors for clients right across the globe. Our in-house design and illustrations team have helped to create some fantastic characters of all shapes and sizes, designed in a way that can be replicated in costume form whilst managing the clients’ expectations of how the character costume will look. Too much detail, complex shading or complicated shapes make it very difficult to replicate in real-life so you can be sure the design you receive from us will be very close to what you get with the end product. Any additional graphics or detailing on costumes is no problem thanks to the skills of our fantastic team.

An extensive library of shapes.

refurb washing machine cow Over the years, we have created some fantastic character heads. When we create something truly brilliant, or a client requires a shape repeating for a multiple character, we have our hand-made originals turned into vac forming tools. For those who don’t know, vac forming is the process of heating ABS (or other) plastic until it is soft, then using suction to mould it around a solid shape (tool), allowing it to cool hard before use. ABS is a lightweight and durable plastic that is perfect for creating strong character heads and allows us to rivet additional support and further accessories into place. Our preferred method for creating character heads, these ABS moulds cover all the most common shapes, allowing us to quickly re-create a high-quality base from which to work from. As we have over 30 years of costume making history, you can imagine that our library has grown into something quite extensive…

Dedicated refurbishment team.

Not only can we make your fantastic design a reality, but we can also keep it looking as good as the day it was brought to life with our in-house dedicated refurbishment team. Thousands of costumes and years of experience in this department make us the best choice for refurbishment of your brand ambassador. Why trust an inexperienced dry cleaner with your expensive character costume when there is a team of knowledgable professionals who know exactly the best way to wash, dry and repair your rotten rabbit, pongy panda, or dirty dog (you get the idea).

Repeatable characters.

We guarantee that all the characters we have brought to life can be repeated if necessary. It’s just good practice to ensure that all the fabric details are recorded accurately, the patterns are stored away and any additional costume information is kept in a safe and secure place for the future. Sometimes we get customers who want a new version of their 10 + year-old character. If we have made it then that’s no problem. We’ll be able to replicate the costume as we will have the original details filed away, saving you (and us) time and money whilst maintaining the high standards of the original costume. This is one of the reasons why all the UK’s major holiday parks choose us to make their mascots.

After-sales support for the lifetime of your character.

We know that our journey together doesn’t stop once your costume has left our building. In fact, it’s just the beginning of a fantastic new adventure for you and your team. Who knows where your character will take you over the next few years but if there’s anything you need, we’re here to help. It doesn’t matter if you bought your costume from us yesterday or 10 years ago, we will try our best to guide you with advice, instruction and tips and tricks on maintaining and performing in your character.

Repeat custom.

At the end of the day, the proof is in the PADDING (mascot-related joke for you there). We have some amazing clients that come back to us year after year because they are happy with the quality, service and support they receive from us. We simply love what we do and we try and put that into every aspect of the job. Be it sales office, production floor or mascot performance, you can be sure that we’re giving it 110% because we’re mad about mascots.

If you want to have a look at some of the fabulous costumes we’ve created over the years, head on over to our costume gallery pages to get inspired for your very own amazing Mascot!

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The power of a Pudsey: how a furry face can improve your fundraising finesse

Children In Need

With the BBC’s Children in Need just around the corner, reports are coming in that Pudsey Bear is once again being sighted around the UK. Lighting up charity events and shopping centres the length and breadth of the country, his golden fur and signature spotty eye patch all fresh and ready for a new season of telethon fund-raising, Pudsey can be seen shaking his bucket and ultimately at some point his behind, all in the name of raising money for a fantastic cause.

A brief history

CIN Old LogoChildren in Need was first televised in 1980. Prior to this, the BBC had several radio and televised charity events under various names with a similar aim: to change the lives of disabled children and young people across the UK. It wasn’t until 1985 that Pudsey Bear made his first televised appearance for the charity. Designed by BBC graphic artist Joanna Ball, Pudsey got his name from the town in which Joanna was born and her father was mayor. The first design was a triangular logo with a sad-looking yellow bear sporting a red bandana with black triangles dotted across it, who was loosely designed to look like Sooty (who had hosted previous telethon and charity events).
Pudsey LogoThe teddy bear, the lower case letters and phonetics in his name were all thoughtfully considered to ensure that the logo and sentiments behind it were conscientiously child- and adult-friendly. This simple design was updated a year later to the more popular smiling Pudsey with familiar white spotty bandana, sat upon children’s building blocks spelling the charity name, which would be used up until 2006. Initially, Pudsey was created as a teddy bear and it wasn’t until a few years later that the costume walk-about characters came on to the scene, allowing Pudsey’s reach to go further than ever before and for the cuddly character to get physically involved in the charities work.
CIN Latest Logo
In 2007, an agency was commissioned with giving Pudsey a refresh and the cuddly character was re-designed, losing his buttons and gaining a new multi-coloured bandana to bring him right up to date and to keep the yellow bear relevant in our ever changing world. Partly, the new design was to increase his internet appeal by considering his online presence and how the character would translate from the physical to the digital when gesturing and moving around on screen in animated form. Two years later Pudsey was joined by Blush, a female companion (just friends I believe) and brown bear sporting a spotty bow in the same colours as Pudsey’s bandana. Blush was conceived to increase the charities appeal and attract more corporate partners by diversifying the brand. Blush is also around to give Pudsey a hand from time to time by attending some of the fundraising events alongside him. All in the name of a good cause, the BBC’s Children in Need has raised over £650 million since its inception in 1980, with large thanks to Pudsey and the late, great Terry Wogan who, up until his death in 2016 had presented the show every year without fail (he backed out of presenting in 2015 due to ill health).pudsey and blush pose

This year sees a very special Children in Need Rocks concert that pays homage to the life and fundraising prowess of one of the nation’s most loved presenters. In true Terry style, all proceeds will go to the Children in Need charity he so dearly cherished. Here at CWC, we are extremely proud to be the ONLY official approved supplier of Pudsey and Blush bears to fundraisers across the UK and we do our part to ensure that each and every Bear that leaves our studio is finished perfectly and uses only the very best materials to ensure that whatever is thrown in Pudsey and Blush’s direction, they can fundraise and frolic without a care.

Mascots can make your charity money

For those of you who are considering using an existing character, or creating a new furry figurehead for your charity or business and would like to get involved with fundraising, then choosing a Mascot as your campaign ambassador is a clever move. Although there haven’t been many studies to show the impact of a charity mascot on Charitable donations, it’s well known that a bubbly brand ambassador can increase the amount of cash collected for a cause. The reasons for this are varied and I’m sure everyone has their opinion on what it is that makes a Mascot such an effective charity Spokes-character but here’s a few that I think are fundamentally important considerations as to the reason why.

st lukes hospiceFirstly, a mascot can be the anthropomorphic representation of a business or cause. As humans, we have a tendency to try and understand the world through animalistic association, often humanising, or giving a ‘personality’ to objects and things so that we can make sense of them and interact with them appropriately. It’s much easier to interact with a character than it is to make conversation with a brick wall as a very obvious example, so charities and businesses anthropomorphise their values and beliefs to make people more susceptible to interaction, and in turn, this makes the general public more likely to sympathise with the cause and dig that little bit deeper into their pockets.

A mascot character also strengthens the consumer awareness of a brand. Pudsey Bear is a fantastic example of this working for a charity. Exposure over many years has firmly cemented him as the Spokes-Character of Children in Need and he is very much a fundamental part of their fundraising drive. People quite simply love Pudsey. He’s as popular now as he has ever been, especially with Mac Mughis update and transition to the internet in 2007, increasing the reach of his charitable donations bucket to a worldwide audience. Now, you don’t even need to see the charity name to associate Pudsey with the Children in Need brand, he is that brand.

We, as members of the general public have also built an emotional connection with this loveable ambassador and his worthy cause, I mean who wouldn’t? The mission statement, the cuddly Characteristics and the Child-like glee of high fiving, or interacting with a giant Teddy Bear allows us to form a warm and positive opinion of the charity, trusting that the donations we are giving will be going to a very good cause. This model can be seen across many charities around the world, incorporating some form of Mascot as the ambassador for Millie's Trust Georgie and Geoffreytheir cause with the aim of maximising on donations.

Lastly a mascot is, for the most part, cute and cuddly. That in itself is more than enough to cause an emotional reaction in the general public and melt even the coldest heart. A lot of charity mascots are designed to remind us of soft toys and pets that we may have had when we were younger. ‘This nostalgic association evokes higher levels of emotion and donation intentions within the general public than charities without this connection’. Not my words, but the words of John B. Ford and Altaf Merchant from a study into the power of charitable appeals based on emotions and intentions conducted in 2010. So genuine scientific proof confirms that considerations in design to incorporate some aspect of nostalgia for the target audience will in fact affect the final total in a positive way.

Four ideas for your furry fundraising friend

Now we’ve discussed a couple of reasons why mascots increase charitable donations, backed up by a little bit of science right at the end, I think it would be unfair to give you all this information without giving you some ideas as to how you can use your character to fundraise for your chosen charity, so here’s a few ideas to spark your charitable creativity:

hope greggs1. Pounding the pavement
This is the tried and tested method of actually getting out there to busy shopping areas and town centres with your bucket in hand, using all of your Character charms to interact with the general public. You can dance with them, wave, hi-five, you name it but be careful not to get too carried away. Not everyone will be interested in playing along so make sure you judge the situation wisely. However, if you pick the right people, the donations will come pouring in. Especially if your character has built up a bit of a crowd with its antics. It’s also a great way to gain exposure in your local area. People will ask questions and some may even take photos or video, increasing your exposure should people upload their videos and photos to the world wide web. This last point is of course relevant for most activities simply because mascots aren’t something you see every day (unless you work for a mascot maker or are actually a mascot) and makes an interesting discussion topic.

harry2. Create a social media presence
Your character is the voice of your charity or business so why not give it some freedom to interact away from the confines of the physical using social media. You can use it as a platform to introduce your character, what the charity does and what events are happening that involve your Mascot, but in a way that doesn’t feel like a great big advert. Giving your character this platform allows it to create its own identity that people can associate and interact with in a way they couldn’t if it was just a general charity page. All of a sudden your character becomes an individual, with feelings and emotions that the public can relate to. As mentioned above, this anthropomorphic model of your charity will make people more susceptible to joining in, sharing, attending events and ultimately donating to your cause.

marty bear3. The spirit of Competition
A great way to spark interest and get people talking about your charity is with a competition. Why not contact schools, nursing homes and local businesses asking them to get involved in fundraising and offer the incentive that if they reach a certain total, they will get a visit from your character for a meet, greet and play session (for example). Alternatively, run a competition where the winners get a visit from your character to host an action packed activity day with all the proceeds from the event going to charity. If you ensure entry to the competition is something that everyone can do with minimal effort, you’ll find people more inclined to join in with the fun.

percy pig marathon4. Mascots and marathons
A more extreme but still very achievable fundraising idea is to take your Mascot for a run! Costumed characters running (or walking) marathons and participating in other sport events always brings fantastic exposure to a charity, with most people realising the superhuman effort it takes to physically pull yourself around a course wearing something that gets heavier and hotter the longer you wear it. Plenty of photo opportunities (from the press and the public) alongside crowd interaction will make the day worthwhile and you’ll soon see the donations and sponsorship money come rolling through the door.

There are practically hundreds of fundraising ideas that you and your character can participate in, these examples are here to give you inspiration to make up your own events and activities which we’d love you to share with us in the comments below.

If you’re looking to design a character for your charity or business then why not visit our charity mascot gallery for inspiration or, if you’re still stuck for inspiration, give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to give you a helping hand with your design.