Choosing the Right Performer

So, you’ve spent thousands of dollars in the planning, design and development of a mascot character, and mascot program. You have created a beautiful, high quality mascot that is truly a work of art and representative of your brand identity! Now it’s time to find the right performer.

Let’s face it; it’s pretty easy to sign up Harry from accounting to play your mascot at major events. The guy doesn’t talk much anyway. Plus, he fits your two major mascot performer criteria, those being: he works for you, and he’s available 12 – 5 on Saturday (the time of your big event!)

Don’t fall into the trap of assigning the responsibility to a subordinate who simply has the free time. You’ve come too far in the process to give up now… spend the time casting this important role. Many companies and schools make the mistake of signing up any Tom, Dick (or Harry) to play their mascot. Yes, your mascot may look good, but if he only shuffles around waving occasionally, then he’s probably not the right person for the job. He ends up being the guy on the corner you feel sorry for, right? There are people who are passionate about wearing and becoming the mascot.  They take the job seriously (as serious as you can be when you’re wearing a giant fluffy kitten costume) and it shows when you see them in action! You owe it to your company, and your costume, to pick someone who is not only right for the character, but excited to play the role!

Take a lesson from pro sports teams (who take performer selection just about as seriously as they take player drafting). Hold a tryout! Heck, if your daughter had to audition to play a talking tree in her school play, you (in the very least) owe it to your company to similarly sift through hopefuls for your mascot position!

Do your homework before you hire:

Establish a job description. Decide what your mascot performer’s role will be. What will be their responsibilities outside of performing? Will they be responsible for booking events? Do they need to have marketing experience? Will they be in charge of social media for the mascot? Be sure to refer to your company’s values and the character’s personality.

Write an ad. Include things like your job description, hours of work, location, height range, desired health and fitness level and rate of pay. It may be important to you that your performer completes a background check; if so, this should be mentioned at this point.

Decide how you want to narrow down the candidates. When dealing with large volumes of applicants, use any method you can think of to narrow down the pool. This isn’t American Idol, so it’s not funny to waste people’s time! Perhaps you can request information by resume/email, or conduct preliminary phone interviews. If hopefuls pass these tests, then they may be worthy of an in – person interview and audition.

Figure out the best places to source talent. Now you’ll use the brilliantly thought out job description that you wrote earlier to create a compelling ad. Some choices for advertising jobs are local colleges and universities; online posting websites, like Kijiji or even your own company Facebook page. If you don’t want to do more hiring, can anyone internally do the job? Post the listing on your company bulletin board, outlining the perks of mascot responsibility! It might include time out of the office, extra time off, access to game-day tickets or additional financial compensation. Remember to present this as a privilege (it is one!) and an opportunity to have inside access to the marketing minds of your company.

Keep your characters personality in mind when interviewing. Is this candidate exhibiting the personality traits you look for in your best employee? Are they respectful or are cuss words a regular part of their vocabulary? If you haven’t already established your character’s personality, take some time to write down a description to refer to during the interview process. Another suggestion might be to invite the potential performer to bring their ideas for the character to the interview. After all, a good director always allows his actors creative freedom!

Establish a set of criteria for fair judgement. Make sure to take intangibles like entertainment value, enthusiasm, fitness level, improvisational skills, cooperation and creativity into consideration.

Pick a panel of judges. Perhaps this is where Harry from Accounting can play a role? Make sure that at least 3 people comprise this panel with one person taking the lead; to get several perspectives but keep the judging fair.

Put out an open or closed call audition call for your character. Include the details from your advert. Ask for resumes and references (you may have these already.) Any actor who has previous mascot experience or even clowning experience might be a good bet. You can also find excellent candidates in athletic fields.

Set specific tasks, and a time-limit for each interview/audition. For example, in their tryout process, Texas Christian University had each performer complete a two minute skit set to music; they were marked on “big moves”, originality and creativity. Also consider including a Q & A session that focuses on responsibility, time commitment, enthusiasm and job experience. Break your try out into several different categories that coincide with your mascot’s personality and expected tasks. Go over each section and the process in advance with your judges so they know what to expect.

One final suggestion: make sure to cast a back – up performer; perhaps this person can serve as a handler/spotter the rest of the time?

Most importantly, have fun. Cheesy, but we had to say it! Remember that a mascot should be an amazing marketing tool for your company, and use a tryout as an opportunity to find a performer that will represent your company with ease and excitement. Establishing the value of this selection process in the beginning will result in a much more successful and enduring mascot program.

As for Harry from accounting? ……maybe next year.

Tell us some of your more creative methods for choosing a performer!