Pros Cons of Spokesman and Mascots

Written by: Jesse Draham

Using spokespersons and mascots is a great way to create a singular visual representation of your business and brand. However, there are potential pitfalls that can backfire and leave your company looking less than pristine.

Let’s look at some of the Pros and Cons of using spokespersons and mascots to help identify your business.


The spokesperson comes in two varieties: celebrity endorsement and “human mascot.”

A celebrity endorsement’s appeal is self-evident: a pre-existing persona already known to the public, lending credibility to your product or service. This tactic goes back far beyond the early days of radio and television. Roman paintings have been discovered with famous gladiators pictured with the products of local merchants.

A “human mascot” is a persona created by the company itself. Think of Flo from Progressive, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” and “The AT&T Girl.” As they are crafted specifically for the purpose of product promotion, there is a greater deal of control from the creators in choosing what goes into their persona. They are avatars of the brand voice.

When it comes to the negative aspects of implementing a spokesperson, there are two major scenarios to consider that demonstrate the risks involved.

The first is poor behavior on the part of a spokesperson. Tiger Woods, Kanye West, Paula Deen, and many more have stepped into trouble, which ultimately soured their public presentation.

Unfortunately, these scandals reflect poorly on the products they have endorsed. Though this happens often with celebrity spokespersons, it can also happen to the human mascot as well, as shown by the horrible story of sexual assaults committed by Jared from Subway.

The second threat is the independence of the spokesperson.

The name “Paul Marcarelli” may not ring a bell, but most Americans are probably familiar with the “Can You Hear Me Now?” guy. From 2002 to 2011, Marcarelli repeated that frequently-used phrase of all cell phone users for Verizon Wireless and became the public face for the Verizon Wireless brand.

Upon being told that the marketing department was going in a “different direction” in 2011, Marcarelli continued his work as a commercial actor for various companies for several years. In 2016, he made his shocking return to cellular service spokesmanship for Verizon’s competitor, Sprint (now merged with T-Mobile). Premiering during Game 2 of the NBA finals, the ad, titled “Paul Switched,” cleverly danced the line of copyright infringement with Marcarelli stating, “I used to ask if you could hear me now”, and after announcing that he was switching to Sprint, asking the viewer, “Can you hear that?” with a smile and a wink.

Paul had jumped ship. Verizon had made him a recognizable face worldwide and built him up as someone instantly recognizable to their brand. And now he’d gone to the competition, taking that identity along to besmirch the company that had given him that platform. 

While some of this surely was written off as an inevitable cost of doing business, it still must have stung to see that investment and brand familiarity immediately transferred to a competitor.

While the spokesperson can be a great way to get eyes on your products, they may also be a risky investment.


  • Instant credibility with a previously known entity
  • The ability to craft an entire persona to be identified with your product or service


  • Scandals can cast a negative association with your product
  • Competitors can swoop up actors after their contracts expire


Some of the earliest memories many of us have of television and media are likely of mascots. Mr. Peanut, Mickey Mouse, the Kool-Aid Man, and the Phillie Phanatic all provide a instant recognition with their brands and products. Whether animated or costumed, these characters became the perfect promotional vehicles, frequently paired with snappy catchphrases that live on in the cultural zeitgeist.

As these characters are created wholly by marketers, they lack the independence of celebrities and actors which can lead to negative associations. Moreover, complete creative control allows for changes in performers, color schemes, messaging, and merchandising at any moment.

Recognition of mascots can also lead to new cultural associations that provide free advertising. When the Philadelphia Flyers introduced their mascot Gritty in 2018, he was originally hated by the Philly faithful. The hard-nosed “Broad Street Bullies” with a fuzzy, friendly mascot was the furthest thing from what hardcore hockey fans might have wanted.

Slowly but surely, Gritty caught on. True to the city’s spirit, the backlash made him an underdog..and Phiilly loves underdog status. Gritty’s antics on video showed more of an edge as he engaged in hockey fights, bullied late-night hosts, and famously parodied some of celebrity influencer Kim Kardashian’s famous racy photos.

Caption: Who wore it better?

Gritty has now (unofficially) expanded into a cultural phenomenon beyond the realm of hockey. He is frequently memed, referenced, and lauded as a personification of chaos. And wherever he goes, he continues to spread awareness of the Philadelphia Flyers.

As mentioned, mascots give companies far more control over their presentation than spokespersons. But they come with potential drawbacks as well.

The first is simply the passage of time. Some mascots simply outstay their welcome as social attitudes change and they are no longer acceptable. This has occurred many times through the lens of race, as corporate characters like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were removed or reframed from their initial context. Meanwhile, sports mascots like the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians were removed entirely.

On the other hand, mascot backlash can occur from changing too soon, or when changes were not wanted. Chuck E. Cheese received a major revamp in 2019 and the internet exploded in criticism. The old-timey showman mouse now more closely resembled SNL actor Pete Davidson, wearing hoodies and jeans. While ultimately the motto that “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” may have chalked this change up as a positive, it was an avoidable brand misstep. While the negative reaction may not have been from the target audience of the redesign, intense public scrutiny still has an impact on brand affinity. You don’t want to change your mascot and become a late-night punchline.

The final category of mascot failure is when a brand adopts a representative who is immediately disliked. This is typically avoided with focus groups and analysis, but can still occur. 

One of the most well-known examples is the mascots for the 2012 London Olympics, Wenlock and Mandeville. Upon their public unveiling, the response was swift and near unanimous: these guys were downright creepy.

Caption: What is chasing you in the 100-meter Nightmare Dash?

The single-eyed, androgynous puddles of Terminator-style liquid metal were an immediate turnoff. At a time when the world was looking to the Summer Olympics in London, these creepy competitors made many want to look away.


  • Complete creative control
  • Opportunities for merchandising
  • Expand beyond the original role while still carrying their original promotional message


  • Can fall out of date / become culturally insensitive
  • Reboots and redesigns may bring about a backlash
  • A poorly thought out design or unveiling can bring negative attention and completely distract from the product or service they were promoting

A mascot can be a wonderful way to add a visual representation to your product for instant recognition. They also provide opportunities for merchandising and escaping into the culture at large. But they still must be treated with a deft hand and recognition of their cultural surroundings, lest they turn into embarrassments for your brand.

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