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Kingsley: Partick Thistle’s ray of sunshine

Scottish Premier League side Partick Thistle unveiled a new mascot this week, and social media responded with a chorus of shocked gasps and terrified shrieks.

The new mascot, named Kingsley, is the product of Glasgow-based Turner Prize-nominated artist David Shrigley. Kingsley is part of a sponsorship deal with US firm Kingsford Capital Management, whose managing member Mike Wilkins is a fan of Shrigley, and decided to get involved after discovering the artist’s long-term devotion to the club.

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Kingsley visiting a Glaswegian pub (Photo: Paul Chappells 23/06/15)

Having been the subject of some intense meme-ing and online debate, Kingsley took to the streets of Glasgow in an effort to charm his public. This included meeting Taylor Swift fans, a brief spell of skateboarding, and the obligatory stop-off in a Partick Thistle supporter pub.

Football fans may take some time to warm to Kingsley, but as profile boosting moves go, this has worked spectacularly. Partick Thistle, Kingsford, and Shrigley himself all received significant press and social media coverage, and the majority has been good natured.

Although Kingsley did give an interview to the BBC where he complained Hartlepool’s mascot H’Angus the Monkey was being mean about him. (By H’Angus, Kingsley meant Stuart Drummond, the former mascot who was elected mayor of Harlepool in 2002 as H’Angus and went on – as Stuart – to serve three terms. What a world these mascots inhabit.)

Kingsford’s deal with Thistle includes shirt and stand sponsorship, as well as the mascot, and follows a previous deal with Scottish drinks manufacturer macb. Macb also had a mascot created in their honour, but the significantly more cuddly and less threatening bumblebee Jaggy MacBee failed to make the same splash. Jaggy was allegedly used as a punishment for Thistle’s Under 20 squad, with the worst performing player in training that week forced to caper on match days.

Kingsley’s arrival has seen Jaggy put out to pasture – he’ll presumably go back to bothering picnickers in Pollok Country Park – but is a reminder that doing something a little out of the ordinary (and playing it not entirely seriously, being willing to be the subject of fun) can be a powerful way to attract interest, in what, in this case, could’ve been a very dry sponsorship announcement. Particularly for the relatively low key world of Scottish football.

I expect we’ll see quite a lot of Kingsley in the season to come.

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Arlen Pettitt is a communications consultant at Linstock Communications and has more than ten years' experience in consultancy. He tweets at @arlenpettitt and writes about PR, politics and sport.