DJ Kitty [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]
Move over Raymond, the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club has taken to the Internet and have added another mascot to the roster this season… direct from Youtube – meet DJ Kitty!
DJ Kitty started his life as a viral video posted to Youtube in 2007 of a real life cat playing the piano. The video was a huge hit and quickly scored thousands of views. To help fire up the fans in the stands while watching the game, the video was played on the Tropicana Field Jumbotron.
As the team was heading to the playoffs in 2010, some of the players were kicking around ideas of how to energize the fans. They thought the cat idea was cute and loved how fans reacted to it, so they decided to give the feline an upgrade, especially after the Rally’s restaurant company had began airing commercials with a cat wearing a leather jacket.
So, out went the keyboard and in came a turn table, a Rays jersey and authentic New Era cap. The video quickly became a hit with stadium fans and online. Within a few weeks 921,000 people had viewed it which is 30 times more fans than a regular season game!
The video was featured in The Wall Street Journal, Time magazine online, and on ABC News.
Darcy Raymond, the Rays’ vice-president for fan experience, told the Tampa Bay Timesthat he never expected to have such success from the video cat. “Never in our wildest dreams… The genesis really came from the players. They sparked it.”
After another losing season and under-performing attendance numbers, the Rays’ marketing wizards decided to capitalize on the video’s popularity and turn the Youtube cat, into a full blown costumed mascot.
Raymond, a large furry sea dog creature, is the team’s official mascot, but DJ Kitty was introduced as their secondary mascot on Twitter in February 2012. He made his first appearance a few weeks later at the Rays’ Fanfest. The annual Fanfest is a carnival like event held before Spring Training that features games, fan interaction with the players, locker room tours and an opportunity for fans to walk on the field.
Since then, DJ Kitty has been making regular appearances alongside Raymond. He even scored a live shot on the local ABC affiliate’s morning news!
The Rays are really giving DJ Kitty a lot of support to build up his fan base. He has his own Twitter feed (@RaysDJKitty), where he interacts to fans. He is also booked at more than just baseball events. Later this summer, he will DJ a concert at the ball park!
The Tampa Bay Rays baseball club debuted as a Major League Baseball expansion team in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 31, 1998. While the team has built a small following in the area, they were unable to sell out their last Wild Card playoff game at the end of the 2011 season. DJ Kitty was then born to help boost fan attendance and to enhance their ballpark experience.
Mascots have become just as important to a sports team as their star player. In addition to building fan loyalty, they can also be used for merchandising and for marketing events. The word “mascot” came into popular use in France in the 19th century thanks to an operetta entitled La Mascotte. The English then picked up the word for an animal, person or object that can bring good luck.
One of the earliest major league baseball mascots was in 1908 with the Chicago Cubs and their ferocious looking squirrel.
The first official team to adopt as mascot was the New York Mets and their famous baseball head fan, Mr. Met, to commemorate the opening of Shea Stadium in 1946. Mr. Met has become a vital part of advertising for the Mets and the city of New York. He’s even been featured in a few of his own “This is SportsCenter” promos on ESPN.
Name: DJ Kitty
What: secondary mascot for the Tampa Bay Rays
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Debut: February 2012
JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: Mascots are a ton of fun and can really add some much needed fun and branding to a team, but never before has a viral video been turned into a full blown costumed character.
The DJ Kitty video is definitely worth checking out for a laugh. I hope the Rays can continue to find ways to keep his act fresh, because honestly, it’s a little weird – but, somehow fun. It would have never worked had they chosen to go with Hello, Kitty!
Viral videos are only viral for so long and before you know it, the DJing cat could be yesterday’s news… just ask Paris Hilton!
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