Lord knows the Washington Nationals have had their share of onfield issues since finally settling in D.C. after their nomadic existence under MLB ownership for a few years. Even the rise and crash of Stephen Strasburg and the subsequent drafting of Bryce Harper have left fans in DC still wondering if the franchise is still too star crossed to get over the hump. However for all their onfield issues, one thing that the Nats have done well is market and create interest in their mascots, interest which has drummed up American Idol like appeal for the brand and ancillary marketing dollars not seen in the mascot business these days.
The Nats Racing Presidents…oversized George Washingtons, Teddy Roosevelts, Thomas Jeffersons and Abe Lincolns…drew a tryout crowd from a large swath of the eastern United States as well as media coverage that included the New York Times in the past few weeks. The result is a brand extension that the Nats probably didn’t expect when launched but one that is able to bring attention of the casual fan in the slimmest of years for the team. Like the New Jersey Nets senior dancers or the Gorilla of the Phoenix Suns…or even the Philly Phanatic…the Racing Presidents have become a viable mareting and attention tool for the team, one that is not tied to a successful win loss record or the fickleness of free agency. They are goofy, fun and maretable in the offseason, and easily packagable to sponsors. Their races are capable of thousands of downloads without license fees on YouTube, and their appearance can easily be tied into a sponsor year-round, giving great added valkue to anything the Nats sales team can drum up. They appeal to young and old, and those selected through the tryouts are probably unique stories enough to generate even ancillary pubilicity for the team. Now obviously oversized figures racing the basepaths are not new to baseball. What is different is the cache of historic figures and the place they have taken in the teams’ short history which has not been long on onfield success. They are talking points for the team with a great viral play and have gotten the Nats exposure when they have not been in the casual conversation.
Is there a tipping point with any kind of promotio. Of course. The exposure of any promotion is still secondary to onfield success by a long, long shot. However until that success comes, having the Presidents and all their offshoots to get some brand growth and probably some ancillary dollars is not a bad thing, and something which should continue to be exploited to the hilt.