This time last week most people in the UK would only have been vaguely aware of Partick Thistle, a perennially under performing Scottish Premiership football club. Few would have known of David Shrigley, a Turner Prize nominated artist. Fewer still would have been familiar with Kingsford Capital Management, a California based investment firm.
All three hit the headlines this week thanks to a massive amount of media coverage generated by a controversial new club mascot called ”Kingsley”. As part of a £200k sponsorship deal between Kingsford and Partick Thistle, Shirgley was commissioned to design a new mascot for the club. Instead of coming up with the usual child friendly cuddly toy type mascot, Shrigley unveiled “Kingsley”, a rather demonic looking creature with a sun shaped head and a very frightening demeanour.
“Kingsley” soon became a big internet sensation, generating masses of comments on social media. The international mainstream media picked up on it, with the story appearing everywhere from CNN to Time magazine. Although most of the reaction to “Kingsley” has been negative, some commentators, such as Patrick Barkham in The Guardian, praised both the artist and the football club for being brave enough to think outside the box and come up with something original. Either way, from a PR point of view, it was a great success.
I should declare an interest here and point out that, having been raised in the North West of Glasgow, I have always regarded Partick Thistle as my club. Indeed as a youngster I spent two seasons in the early 1970s as a ballboy at the club and I was a regular contributor to a club fanzine in the 1990s.
Of course, football club mascots are very important. For proof of this, look no further than Hartlepool where the club’s mascot H’Angus the Monkey was elected as Mayor of the town for three terms.
Whether or not you like “Kingsley” – and opinion is certainly divided – there is no denying that he has significantly increased the profiles of David Shrigley, Kingsford Capital and Partick Thistle. If column inches and internet clicks could be translated into league points, Partick Thistle would be guaranteed a successful season. But sadly, I fear that another relegation struggle looms!