Thursday, August 13, 2009

Go, Otters!

Thirty years ago, a US president was attacked by a swamp rabbit. After three decades, I can understand that this famous-at-the-time Jimmy Carter incident wouldn’t be top of mind. It did float to the top of mine, though, because of another news item making its way round the Worldwide Web right now.

“Woman says she was bitten repeated by otters” – that’s been the usual headline. Why this story, about an Austrian vacationer (Brigitte France) gnawed on by two, possibly three otters while swimming in a Wisconsin lake, is news is beyond me.

Still, I couldn’t resist Googling “Otters, advertising.” The first thing that came up was the Erie Otters. Unbelievable, really. In Houston, I suddenly remember there’s an American Hockey League team called the Aeros. Despite winning seasons, I scarcely think of it.

Now there’s this logo – this thing – staring me in the face. It’s the “primary logo” of the Erie Otters of Erie, PA, in use since 1997. This is the team (brand) mascot, Shooter.

Shooter the Otter is supposed to be wearing a “home jersey,” though the animal looks topless to me. (Really, how would I know? I can barely recall going to a Minnesota North Stars game or two when I lived in Minneapolis.) The team is now in its 13th season – it was founded in ’96 and is part of the Ontario Hockey League.

This otter’s not alone in the OHL. There’re Greyhounds (Sault Ste Marie) and Wolves (Sudbury), IceDogs (Niagara) and Bulls (Belleville). The Ontario Hockey League features 20 teams, but the Otters, Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit are the only League members based in the United States. The Otters play the IceDogs at Tullio Arena on August 29th, BTW.

Like most sports franchises today (including hockey), the Otters have a fine marketing engine – at least it looks comprehensive from this distance. Aggressive branding. Involving website that includes programs for fans of all ages, plenty of news, statistics and shopping. Facebook pages for loyal fans...and the franchise actively Twitters. Shooter’s team is wrapping its stakeholders up in a great big otter hug and, with a premium single-game ticket costing just $14.50, it’s way more affordable than big-market teams can deliver. I’m certain Shooter will be optioned by Disney soon.

Meanwhile, there’s a marketing opportunity for Shooter’s franchise: Make certain that the Austrian woman and her husband spend their next US holiday in Erie, PA, as a guest of the team. Go, Otters!

1 comment:

Rob Roberts said...

I have to say that in this day and age of $250,000 Yankees tickets, minor league teams like the OHL are what is keeping sport alive. I remember having much more fun at a Madison Black Wolves baseball game than I ever had at an Astros game. Hockey is no different. I have more fun at an Aeros game than a Stars game and I can take the whole family for under $50. And yes, their mascots are far more fun than the mainstream variety. Go Otters!