• Rasmus Hallbäck

Managing Attention - A Gritty Example

It’s hardly a secret that the Internet has had a huge impact on how organisations within the sports industry engage and communicate with fans and other stakeholders.


As the expectations for what a sport club should communicate to its fans, sponsors, shareholders and even the media continue to grow – it’s up to the organisations to make sure they stay agile and willing to evolve. As in most cases it all boils down to what exactly your organisation wants to achieve with its online channels. In this blogpost we will take a look at a vastly successful example on PR-management – detailing the rollout of the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty.

Before we jump into the Gritty-example, it’s important to highlight a couple of things:


A clear strategy

Be it short-term monetary gain by driving revenue from various online channels or developing the long-term relationship with an organisation’s fans, each organisation needs to be honest with themselves as to why they do what they do. A good way to start is to stop and think who you are producing content for (and what metrics you want to use to measure results). Having a clear and achievable strategy to your communication and ways of working should naturally be in focus as you want your organisational goals to be realistic and demanding yet ambitious and achievable. That being said, prioritising short-term monetary gains at the expense of long-term relationship building with one’s fan-base isn’t recommended as that tends to backfire pretty fast…


Connecting with your audience

When it comes to marketing and communicating with your fans, it’s always good to remember the following: You are not competing against other teams, other sports, other leisure activities or e.g. TV. Nope, you are competing against all the aforementioned things and most of all – you are competing against time. As silly as it sounds, your biggest competitor is time and your biggest battle is that of an individual’s attention on any given day.


Nordic sport organisations can learn a lot from North American teams and their social channels as they tend to do a great job staying top-of-mind with their channels. By continuously pushing out content on various channels they “bombard” their followers with a steady stream of content making sure that they stay both relevant in the daily lives of their followers but at the same time creating content which both nurtures the relationship between club and fans but also engages the community.


Innovating and improving both internal procedures and ways of communicating to your fans and stakeholders is no small task and can seem quite overwhelming but a necessary step to stay ahead of the competition.

Reputation management – the Gritty example

A recent example on reputation management/development and an overall marketing success from a communicational standpoint is that of the rollout of the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty. For those who are unfamiliar with Gritty – Gritty is the now infamous mascot of the Flyers who came to life in 2018. For a long time, the Flyers were the only franchise in Philadelphia without a mascot of its own (and also one of three teams in the NHL without a mascot). The Flyers had previously tried having a mascot but that was quickly cancelled as the mascot was largely panned by the fans of the franchise. It had now been more than four decades since the previous effort. There was also a monetary factor in having a mascot as the Flyers marketing team had estimated that a mascot could attend between 250 and 300 games and community events each year meaning that some marketing opportunities were currently unavailable for the franchise.


The importance of maintaining PR in communicating with a team’s various publics including fans, sponsors, shareholders and even the media is evident in the Gritty-example as the rollout of the new mascot was initially met with a lot of negative comments with people mocking the mascot’s looks, creepiness and asking questions such as why a mascot was in any way even necessary.


However, all of this was quickly reversed when the Flyers biggest rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins probably unintentionally decided to help the Flyers. In an attempt to gain points within their own community, the Penguins went after Gritty on Twitter.


However, Gritty quickly fired back with the now famous tweet, telling the Penguins to “Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird” and the fans of the Flyers quickly reversed course, embracing Gritty as one of their own.


By combining Gritty’s unconventional looks, a sort of dark and ominous humour and embracing a sort of quirkiness rarely seen in a mascot, the mascot was quickly morphed into a viral sensation. Through effective communication and timely content being pushed out, the public's perception of the mascot was reversed.


So, what can other sport teams learn from Gritty? The marketing team behind Gritty had planned out how they wanted to communicate, and by sticking to the plan and leveraging the Flyers previous history of hard-working and gutsy history, they were able to turn around the developing hate for the mascot. By being active and knowing their audience, the marketing team was also able to within the Flyers community, create a sense of belonging - a “us vs. them"-mentality if you will.


But what did the rollout of the mascot actually mean for the Flyers organisation? Well, according to the Flyers, the media coverage of Gritty’s first 30 days generated an enormous audience, reaching nearly 70 million people on TV, with a local audience over 16 million. Online, Gritty garnered nearly 5 billion impressions, worth $151 million in earned media. With an active Twitter-profile and even appearances on various late-night show in USA, the marketing team at the Flyers were able to use mascot’s growing infamy to create value for the organisation.


If you’d like to read more on the phenomenon that is Gritty, follow this link: (https://www.adweek.com/creativity/how-the-flyers-created-gritty-the-internets-most-beloved-mascot/)

How does your organisation handle its social media channels? Does it come to life once a week when a game is at hand or are you pushing out a steady stream of content to your followers all week long? Are you actively trying to engage your followers? As mentioned on this blog several times, the amount of human resources within the organisation sure does play a part in how much you can truly focus on developing internal efficiency, but sadly for organisations, the sports industry waits for nobody.


Anchor is a boutique sport business advisory company focused on a single mission: to increase the competitiveness of sport clubs, organisations and federations as well as athletes in the Nordic market. Anchor offers a wide range of services to help your organisation improve off the field.



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