Not so fun fact: The three top mascots in the NBA—Rocky the Mountain Lion, Harry the Hawk and Benny the Bull—each pull in considerably more money annually than Jackie Young, the highest-paid player in the WNBA.
With this statistic in mind, an advocacy group has created its own mascot called Ally Hoop, coinciding with the WNBA’s debut in Canada. The animated character, developed by Toronto creative agency Hard Work Club and 1stAveMachine, aims to call attention to an outsized wage gap and raise money through a branded merchandise line.
Using the no-nonsense tagline, “Ally Hoop: The Equal Pay Mascot,” the campaign comes from Fast and Female, a charity founded in 2005 by Olympic gold medalist Chandra Crawford. The organization’s mission is to empower 8- to 14-year-old girls through sports and physical activity.
Ally Hoop, the character, is described as “an ally for achieving net net equality in sport—she’s here to hype the game, like only a mascot can, and close the gap.” Not to be outdone by her human counterparts, Ally shimmies, stomps and twerks her way through a game-day dance routine in a video announcing the program.
The light-touch approach was intentional, per Meghan Kraemer, co-founder and executive creative director at Hard Work Club.
“Campaigns around equality are often sports montages treated with an earnest tone that detractors simply tune out,” Kraemer said. “We saw an opportunity to come at the issue differently, with a sense of fun that disarms the ‘haters’ in the comment sections of female athletes’ feeds.”
It may be an “unconventional way” to grab eyeballs, according to Gabriela Estrada, executive director of Fast and Female, but “a mascot’s role is to hype fans, so why not hype them up to be more engaged in pushing for pay equity?”
Ally Hoop T-shirts and other swag are on sale on the Fast and Female website, with proceeds going toward the cause.
The campaign will spread out across digital outdoor ads, in-restaurant posters and social media ahead of the first-ever WNBA game played in Canada at the Scotiabank Arena this Saturday.