NHL Rookie of the Year?

gritty (adjective)

            containing or resembling grit

or

            courageously persistent

or

            having strong qualities of tough uncompromising realism

OR

Although I’d like to think that each and every one of you already knows who this large orange creature is, I’m sure there are some of you that probably don’t and are wondering why I’m bringing him to your attention. I’m sure you’re also probably asking yourself what exactly he has to do with this class. Well, without further ado, please let me introduce you to Gritty, the new mascot of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. 

Now that you’ve been introduced, let’s get down to the nitty gritty (see what I did there). As we all know, social media can be used as a means of sharing our lives with the world, as well as following along with those we know and those we don’t. The folks over in the Flyers marketing department also know this, hence the creation of Gritty, the first mascot that the team has had since the 1970s. As something that was seen as a joke to many when first introduced back in September, Gritty’s popularity has grown, racking up 147,000 Instagram followers, 223,300 Twitter followers and earning several appearances on late night television with the likes of Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert.

In a time when the Philadelphia Flyers have been struggling on the ice (sorry if there are any fans in the class, it’s true), they needed something that could help detract some attention away from their play and Gritty did just that. He was never your typical mascot that just walked around, laced up the skates or took photos with fans, he took on a persona and ran with it. With the use of social media, the Flyers have been able to create a personality for the bearded mascot with a hula hoop for a waist that attracts attention from a wide variety of parties. Yes, the Flyers could have just introduced him with a simple post on the team’s social media accounts that may have generated a little buzz at the onset and fans could have gotten to know him a bit throughout the season, but they had bigger plans in mind. The big orange mascot partakes in friendly banter with other teams around the league and even gets into it with the NHL, yes you read that right, the actual league. He also loves a good Instagram story, and his followers love them too. The mascot has also become so well liked that he now has his own apparel collection available on the Philadelphia Flyers website and in their arenas, giving the organization an opportunity to capture some revenue from those looking to dawn a Gritty t-shirt or sweatshirt.

Who knows if Gritty will continue to create a buzz or if the fanfare will die down, one thing is for certain, the Flyers are going to capitalize on what might just be their best public relations move to date. He’s connecting with the public in a way that no other mascot has and it’s proving to be a good thing for his team and the sport. Although hockey is one of the big four sports in the United States, it doesn’t necessarily garner as much attention as football, baseball or basketball, but Gritty and the Philadelphia Flyers organization are doing their part to get their social media presence more on the map. With the likes of USA Today and The Washington Post writing articles about him due to his antics displayed for the world to see, their use of social media is so far proving to be a success. In fact, Gritty has proven to be such a success that it will be interesting to see if other teams follow suit with giving their existing mascots more of a personality and another way of interacting with their fanbases or if they’ll just leave that to Gritty.

Who knew that a big orange monster with a couple of social media accounts could become somewhat of a sensation? If you’re a hockey fan (or even if you’re not) and enjoy some entertaining content, you might want to give Gritty a follow and see what all of the hype is about. 

I do have to warn you though that any interactions with Gritty could result in some time in the penalty box. Just ask this mite hockey player….

8 comments

  1. I remember when the Flyers announced Gritty as the new mascot and many people did think it was a joke and were calling the Flyers the laughing stock of the NHL. Looking at some of the GIFs on the Gritty Twitter account, I can definitely see why the popularity is so high. This just shows it doesn’t take much, other than creativity, to spark a trend on social media. Nice little bonus that the Flyers are cashing in on some Gritty gear too. Great post!

  2. Gritty creeps me out – I think his “Sleep with one eye open, bird” tweet to the Penguins is a good example why! That said, it is amazing how Gritty has taken on a life of his own and exists in spaces far outside of the Flyers’ control. Over the past few months, for example, there have been a few headlines about the use of Gritty as a political image for both far-left and far-right causes. Like Pepe the Frog and the Babadook before him, Gritty seems to have transcended his initial purpose and his role as Twitter meme fodder to become something much more symbolic. Objectively, he should have no appeal for either humorous or serious causes – he’s pretty ugly, he has no logical connection to his team, and it is still unclear what type of creature Gritty actually is. Still, he has inexplicable viral appeal – reading your post and revisiting some of the Gritty social media accounts reminded me of a Washington Post article I read last semester: “Why is Millennial Humor So Weird?” by Elizabeth Bruenig. Gritty seems to fit in well with the surreal and absurdist Internet culture that Bruenig describes. Whether intentionally or not, Gritty’s creators produced a made-for-social-media mascot.

  3. This piece made me smile! I love it because I totally agree that Gritty has effectively won the NHL this year. Not only has he piqued the interest of those in the Philly area but he has also started national conversations where otherwise we would not be mentioning the NHL at all. As with Julianna, I definitely was a little creeped out by him at first but having seen some of the pranks he’s pulled and through his hilarious social media appearances I have completely warmed up to him.

    In terms of business and marketing I also think it’s genius. Most companies use social media to enhance their brand presence. They try to fit their existing brand into the bounds of social media. The Flyers have totally turned that on its head and have created a persona that they knew would play into all of the weird and wonderful aspects of social media. Gritty was designed with virality in mind and it’s amazing !

  4. I’ve never been a huge hockey follower so I know minimal things about most teams mascots but GRitty completely changed that. I remember being completely horrified at the sight of Gritty when I first saw a video of him on Instagram. I never attributed this weird mascot choice to be a social media scheme to give the team a unique edge but I love your theory about it. They definitely made waves on social media with such a controversial hype man choice and I find myself laughing at different posts I see of him now. This reminded me of Dani’s in class presentation about NBA players as online personalities and I think that’s a great way for teams to differentiate themselves in the world of sports, even if Gritty is a little tougher to look at than Stephen Curry.

  5. I honestly like the Flyer’s approach here! On a broader note, I think this tactic is not only great for this Philly sports team, but for US Hockey in general. The NHL struggles with garnering younger fans, which is likely a result of their lacking social media presence and their inability to brand their star players. As Dani pointed out in her presentation, the NBA does a fantastic job of employing social media to promote their teams and create a fun atmosphere perfect for young kids. I think this is a great opportunity for the Flyer’s to spearhead a new initiative for the NHL and encourage other teams to join in too! These big sports leagues rely on the next generation to survive, and if the next generation wants more social media content like Gritty, then the NHL has no option but to hop on the bandwagon.

  6. Gritty is definitely not your typical mascot. I remember the first time I saw him and thinking that it must be a joke. I love the idea of using his persona as a way to capture a younger fan base and accumulate social media interactions, but can’t help but wonder if I would feel differently if I was a diehard Flyers fan. Gritty is not necessarily the most respectable or intimidating figure to use in sports. Personally, as a huge Bruins fan, I appreciate the use of the bear as the team’s mascot and the imagery that surrounds it such as claw marks and ferocious teeth. Gritty looks like the type of guy you might want to joke around with, but I know that if I were an opposing team I most definitely would not want to poke the bear.

  7. I see the introduction of Gritty as a bold move by the flyers. Instead of creating a mascot out of a powerful or inspiring animal or image (as most traditional mascots resemble), they took a completely different route. Creating an orange monster could have easily turned out to be a blunder, but they have clearly captured the attention of a key younger demographic through their use of social media and giving Gritty a sense of humour. The flyers were clearly not concerned with having the most aesthetic mascot in the league!

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