By Joyce L. Carroll Special to Delaware Business Times
Dave Raymond has built a career marketing fun. His 16-year run as the original Phillie Phanatic changed the world of sports mascots. Now, as the founder of Raymond Entertainment, Raymond is helping other professional and college sports teams nationwide create iconic mascots through character development, audience engagement and brand development. Among his latest achievements: Gritty, the frizzy and wild-eyed mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Raymond's foray into the world of furry avatars was not a straight shot. As an undergrad at the University of Delaware, he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. But Harold "Tubby" Raymond - one of UD's most beloved football coaches - wanted his son to pursue business.
Sports and business merged when the senior Raymond helped arrange an internship for his son: The Philadelphia Phillies were looking for someone to create a mascot.
"I was smart enough to realize it was a bad idea, but I agreed," Raymond said, reflecting on the position that would require him to don an oversized, furry green costume. But valuable marketing lessons were gained from the experience. His Phanatic antics provided entertainment to the masses without the participants realizing they were being sold a product.
Raymond learned that fun was a powerful tool. You can't measure its effectiveness with surveys or annual reports, but by gauging the immediate reaction of your audience.
Raymond would come to learn the full value of his career choice during some of the greatest challenges of his life, including his mother's cancer diagnosis and death, a divorce, and, last year, his father's death.
"My job was what saved me," he said. "We're not conditioned to have fun when we're working through a struggle."
While Raymond is no longer the man inside the Phanatic suit, the mascot lives on. And so do the numerous other characters Raymond has helped bring to life. Later this year, the fruits of his labor will reach new heights as the first Mascot Hall of Fame opens in Whiting, Indiana. The $20 million project will introduce visitors to Reggie, the resident mascot of the facility.
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