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Gritty: Marketing Gold or Short-Term Stunt

The Philadelphia Flyers new mascot is a viral sensation, but can his appeal last? We hope so, because he’s awesome.

The Philadelphia Flyers took over the Internet Monday when they debuted their new mascot, Gritty. One look at Gritty tells you why:

As you can see, Gritty’s appearance suggests he deserves to be at the forefront of a dubious pantheon of homicidal maniacs that includes characters like the clown from It and everyone’s favorite murderous doll Chucky. But as some experts see it, Gritty is genius marketing on the part of the Flyers. Over a 24-hour span early this week, Gritty was the top searched term on Google. Social media exploded with commentary. Press across the U.S. and Canada covered the new face of the Flyers. By midday Tuesday, Gritty had 40,700 Twitter followers. In fact, Gritty was trending so wildly that there was already a beer being brewed up in his honor. To put it succinctly, Gritty is the definition of a digital age viral phenomenon.

Sure, a lot of the buzz around Gritty is replete with negative comments. But that’s not a big a deal, says Ken Wisnefski, a social media marketing expert and founder/owner of digital marketing agency WebiMax. Wisnefski believes the Flyers knew exactly what they were doing with Gritty. A blasé mascot wasn’t going to generate much buzz. However, a towering orange behemoth with meth amphetamine eyes who looks like he killed every other character on Sesame Street was always going to get a lot of attention (our words, not Wisnefski’s…)

The upshot, says Wisnefski, is that Gritty has put the Flyers – and the upcoming hockey season – in the national spotlight at a time when football season is in full swing and baseball is nearing its playoffs. “Not since IHOP tricked people into believing that they changed their name to IHOb (International House of Burgers) have more people taken to social media to share their opinion on a marketing tactic,” says Wisnefski. “A generic mascot was not going to get people talking. Ultimately, if the Phillie Phanatic debuted today, he would be blasted across social media, too. However, he would connect with kids and accomplish the goal of getting people talking.”

Not everyone necessarily agrees with the point about connecting with children:

Jokes aside, Wisnefski says the Flyers are in a strong position to capitalize on Gritty’s appeal if they play their cards right. “It’s vital for the Flyers to get creative with how they position Gritty moving forward in order to take advantage of his popularity,” says Wisnefski. Certainly, we could see a lot of novelty Gritty T-Shirts and hats selling this season around the City of Brotherly Love and its suburban counties. Gameday merch could include Gritty bobbleheads, toys, youth caps, pennants, pins, water bottles and the like. We could see a lot of that swag appealing to adults keen for quirky novelties, just as much as it would kids. Admittedly, we’d be terrified to wake up at night to find a Gritty bobblehead staring at us from the shelf or mantelpiece, but this would not prevent us from desiring such an item.

While the jury remains out on how Gritty will do in the long-term, he is most certainly the marketing win of the moment. Kudos to the Flyers. We look forward to seeing how Gritty is leveraged through promotional products and branded merchandise. And now, more from social media:

Some celebrities couldn’t escape Gritty comparisons:

Gritty had his fans too:

And for those who were critical, Gritty just bid them a good day and got on with things:

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