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Return of the Squirrel

By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek

October 27, 2011

Last week, MLB Senior VP/Licensing Howard Smith reported to SportsBusiness Journal that Cardinals "Rally Squirrel" gear has been a "shockingly large" component of World Series merchandising transactions thus far, that concessionaires and retailers are having a hard time keeping squirrel-centric items in stock, and that the gear will likely be a key part of the holiday-selling season should the Cardinals prevail in the Series – especially since it’s not MLB licensed merchandise, allowing more businesses to get on the rally squirrel bandwagon without having to worry about violating trademark agreements.

St. Louis-based Olympic Sporting Goods store Owner Greg Domian told USA Today, "I’ve restocked (squirrel T-shirts) probably five times.  It’s been very good for business.  (Fans) just can’t get enough right now." Among the most popular items around St. Louis: chocolate squirrels, car decals, a T-shirt depicting the squirrel underneath the Gateway Arch" that reads, "I Am Your Arch Enemy," and Rally Squirrel foam fingers, selling for $14 at Busch Stadium, complete with extended claws.

St. Louis’ Rally Squirrel is far from baseball’s only flash brand phenomenon.  At last year’s World Series, it was the Rangers’ “Claw and Antlers” craze – hand gestures symbolizing power and agility that started with the players and spread to fans – that energized merchandisers.  Workers at the Majestic store at Rangers Ballpark were mobbed when they tried to restock shelves with Claw and Antler T-shirts and hats.  Before that, the Los Angeles Angels’ Rally Monkey became a fan darling in the middle of the 2000 season, and danced his way to worldwide attention when the Angels advanced to the World Series in 2002.  The Angels’ win in Game 7 then and return to the post-season in 2009 saw a run on plush monkeys that fans continue to bring to games today; the monkey even got his own ESPN “This is Sports Center” commercial in 2008.

MLB and the Cardinals, whose players have embraced their new unofficial mascot, reportedly sold more than 11,000 units of Rally Squirrel merchandise at Busch Stadium during Game Two of the World Series alone. Given the game’s attendance of 47,288, that means nearly one in four people in the ballpark purchased a piece of the rodent-themed merchandise.

"This is another instance that shows the power of what can happen when the players get involved," added Smith. "This has become a rallying cry for them, and that in turn has really resonated with fans."

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Beyond the Scoreboard
Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.
Beyond the Scoreboard eBook
Rick Horrow, America’s leading expert in sport business, and coauthor Karla Swatek give fans an inside look at the multibillion-dollar world of professional sport.

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