Kitchen fires smoldered. Meals needed to be delivered. Local businesses needed support. It was time to call a local superhero: Wool E. Bull.
Since March, the Durham Bulls mascot has been the face of several efforts by the minor league team to help the community in a time of need. The Bulls can’t play until Major League Baseball figures out if there will be games for minor league teams. So in the meantime, the team has been doing some community-minded public relations.
Bulls’ Marketing and Fan Engagement Coordinator Emily Almond said the team is “always looking for other ways to help out our community” and that Wool E. Bull was perfect for the job.
With schools closing across the city, the Durham Public Schools Foundation rushed to make sure that children were still getting meals. About 1,000 people volunteered to distribute meals across Durham, including Wool E. Bull and several members of the team’s front office.
Riding in the recognizable blue Wool E. Wagon, the Bulls’ mascot made his way around town delivering food to kids. Alyzia McAlmon, equity and youth empowerment manager at the foundation said having the furry mascot deliver meals to kids was the “perfect situation.”
“You’re delivering food, but you’re also getting kids excited,” she said. “We got a lot of feedback from parents of how their kids were so ecstatic to open the front door and see Wool. E Bull was delivering their food.”
He was also the face of several other campaigns, including the “Wash Your Horns” campaign with the United Way of the Triangle (to encourage people to stay home and use good hygiene), and one with the Durham Fire Department to warn about kitchen fires.
As of late April, the campaign sold over 1,000 “Wash Your Horns” t-shirts, and raised over $16,000 for the Triangle, according to a report from the Capitol Broadcasting Company.
And the furry mascot had unique credibility to warn people about kitchen fires. Carol Reardon, the department’s fire education captain, said Durham had seen an 88% increase in kitchen fires since the stay-at-home orders were put in place. So Wool E. Bull starred in a kitchen fire safety video to help raise awareness of how to stay safe while cooking at home.
The video featured team’s on-field announcer, Jatovi McDuffie, popping out from trash cans and behind doors to give kitchen fire safety tips like he was announcing the entertainment between innings at a game, with members of the fire department and, of course, Wool E. Bull, as the audience.
“Having Wool E. support what we’re doing is huge,” said Reardon, “better than any money we can spend on advertising.”
The Bulls also teamed up with two of their local partners, Pie Pushers and LocoPops, to provide meals for healthcare workers. The Pizza and Pops campaign allowed locals ordering from either restaurant to donate money or purchase a LocoPop or pizza for a healthcare worker in the community. In one month they were able to donate 50 pizzas and 400 LocoPops.
“Large sports organizations tend to partner with large other organizations,” said LocoPops founder and owner Summer Bicknell. “The Bulls have always made it a priority to partner locally. I just love that they called me and said, ‘How can we help sell your product in this time?’, as opposed to partnering with some national brand.”
The Bulls also donated over 20,000 masks and gloves they found in the stadium to healthcare workers in the community.
With the season still uncertain, the Bulls are trying to maintain fan interest through their often-irreverent social media platforms, and they are finding new revenue sources, like allowing fans to rent their field this weekend for $250 an hour.
“I think it’s just a really great feeling to give back to the community because of how much they’ve done for us and rallied around the Bulls and made us,” said Emily Almond. “We wouldn’t be who we are without Durham.”
Above, the Durham Fire Department enlisted help from Wool E. Bull for a video about preventing kitchen fires. Screenshot from Durham Fire Department Video