On March 1, Arizona State University unveiled a new version of its beloved Sparky. The new mascot, designed through a partnership with Disney, has caused an uproar among ASU students, fans and alumni.
The University unveiled both an illustrated Sparky, which will be used on youth merchandise, and a new mascot costume, which will replace the mascot ASU currently uses. The widely-used illustrated Sparky that currently adorns everything from merchandise to University organization logos will continue to be used alongside the new illustrated version and new mascot.
Unfortunately, students and fans have flooded social media with comments claiming that the new Sparky is not up to par. New Sparky has been compared to everything from Buzz Lightyear to the Honey Nut Cheerios bee. Multiple Facebook groups and pages objecting to the new Sparky have cropped up, and two petitions on Change.org pleading with ASU to change Sparky back total more than 3,000 signatures combined.
But what has the university said in response to this uproar?
On the day the mascot unveil, ASU News, managed by the University’s Office of Public Affairs, published a list of frequently asked questions about the partnership with Disney and the new mascot. These FAQs assured students that no cash was exchanged between ASU and Disney for the new characters and that the process of changing the mascot has been in progress for two years. The FAQs also claimed that the University conducted focus groups as research before implementing the changes.
However, students still are not buying ASU’s claims. A YouTube video published by Devils Chowda, an entertainment show through the campus media outlet, depicts the process of changing the mascot.
The University has yet to directly address fans’ anger over the mascot changes. From a public relations standpoint, is this a good thing? Should ASU address fans’ issues with the new mascot and risk their relationship with Disney or pretend that ASU is still the happiest place on earth despite the unwelcome changes?