Key Questions for Choosing a School Mascot

If I were to say to you, “lions and tigers and bears,” you’d likely respond with “oh, my!” and have a yellow brick road in your mind’s eye. However, if I were to say, “Detroit Lions, Clemson Tigers, and Chicago Bears,” you’d likely either grin or growl, depending on your loyalties. And your mind’s eye would picture an energetic mascot surrounded by crazy sports fans. 

Everyone has a favorite mascot, whether it’s from a local high school, a collegiate team, or a highly advertised insurance provider (think gecko). A mascot is a visual representation of a group’s culture, and today, we’re talking about private school mascots.

School mascot options are endless, and the process of choosing one can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve put together a series of questions, based on five different categories, to help you choose a school mascot that fits your unique school culture and identity.

Where to Find Inspiration When Choosing a School Mascot

Mascots should generate excitement and inspire loyalty from parents, alumni, athletes, and students, across every Age-and-Stage®. Fans should be proud to proclaim, “I’m a Hillcrest Raven!” because the mascot gives them a sense of belonging to a greater group.

When choosing a mascot, it’s important to choose wisely. If any group doesn’t feel connected to its mascot, the school spirit could quickly fizzle. 

So where do you begin?

1. Historical Events

Did you know mascots got their start by uniting groups of people fighting for a cause? In fact, during the Civil War, soldiers would rally beside animals who followed them to battle. Even after the War, some intercollegiate sports teams adopted the names of these well-known war animals, uniting their fans. 

Questions to ask:

  • What historical events in your city or local area should be taken into consideration for the mascot?
  • If your area has a unique history, how was it founded?
  • Is it rural or urban?
  • Why was the school placed in this location?
  • Has anything been discovered in your area (e.g., dinosaur bones, archeological artifacts)?
2. Historical People and Landmarks

How can local landmarks and prominent individuals influence your mascot choice? In Massachusets, Bradford Christian Academy’s award-winning brand features a subtle bridge image. When the school updated its brand in 2021, North Star Marketing’s designer suggested they preserve and accentuate the bridge, but bring in copper, rust, brick, and water, mirroring the brickwork of the area’s historic mills, the ironwork patina, and the local rivers. 

Questions to ask:

  • Which historical people or places could be taken into consideration for the mascot?
  • Think of names and occupations. Were they railroaders or architects?
  • Is there a bridge or monument close by?
  • Could the ideas be combined in a unique way?
3. Animals and Weather

Did you know the University of Wisconsin’s mascot Bucky Badger represents the animal found in the state’s tall prairie grasses? Think about ways you can draw on your area’s wildlife and climate to guide your efforts, whether you’re seeking to develop an elementary or a high school mascot.

Questions to ask:

  • What animal, native to this region, could be the mascot? Make a list of the animals known to reside in the school’s area.
  • What are characteristics of these animals?
  • Is your area known for certain weather, such as tornadoes or hurricanes?
4. Community Leaders

Community leaders can also be valuable sources in helping in your mascot selection process. For example, the Lamar State College Orange Gator is named “Tilly” after local war hero Second Lieutenant Bill Tilley.

Questions to ask:

  • Which people have been leaders in the community?
  • Does your city have a large group of military veterans who fought for the United States?
  • Who founded your school?
  • Who built your school?
  • Who has donated money to help the school grow?

Be careful when using the name of a person, though, as unknown parts of their history could taint the mascot in the future.

5. Ideals and Principles

Would your families prefer a peace-loving, non-athletic mascot instead of a “fighting” mascot? This is another factor to consider when you’re deciding how to represent your school best.

Questions to ask:

  • Which ideals and principles should be considered when choosing your brand mascot?
  • Is your school private, non-religious, or faith-based?
  • Is your school known for its academics or its athletics?

While this is not an exhaustive list of questions, hopefully, it will generate positive dialogue and discussion about what makes your school unique. Be willing to explore other ideas that relate to your school’s story and community history.

Ready for a school rebrand? We can help.

Our designs have included Ravens, Eagles, Patriots, Trojans, Bobcats, and more … oh, my! We’ve helped hundreds of schools across the U.S. develop both athletic and academic branding and rebranding, as well as websites, online search campaigns, and more. Contact a Solutions Advisor for a free brand review and assessment!

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