By Scott C. Miller Jr.

Brandy Callen, 24, was watching Western Michigan University’s first home football game of the season when Buster Bronco, the team’s mascot, led the team out of the tunnel. Something was different: He was buff and sorta tough.

WMU had unveiled a new look for Buster, and Callen and other fans weren’t altogether happy.

Buster used to be a big, floppy, happy-looking mascot with no muscles and a very relaxed look that Kalamazoo natives had come to love.

“Buster’s been a staple for WMU since I was a kid, his new look is a lot more intense than his previous look and I’m honestly not sure what to think of it,” said Callen.

One former WMU student started a petition to get back the old mascot on Change.Org after Buster’s reveal. As of Oct. 24, the petition had 1,659 signatures. The comments poured in, most lamenting the fierce new look. Wrote one signator: “This is not the fun-loving buster bronco we all know and love! Sure change can be a good thing but this doesn’t embody western at all.”

Regardless, it looks like the community’s outcry for the old Buster isn’t having a demonstrable effect, and the new Buster is here to stay. Kalamazoo resident and WMU alumnus Chuck Rudnick was one citizen for the new Buster.

“The new Buster shows us the development and maturity growth from not only the athletic department, but also the university’s marketing scheme and he is leading us into the bright and promising future for this university,” said Rudnick.

With all of this, there is a bigger underlying question about Buster and mascots alike across the NCAA: What is the point of having a mascot? What do they do for a university or organization?

“A mascot is the personification of a school’s brand,” said Michael Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory University, as quoted in an article by Jeff Vrabel.

Mascots are more than what meets the eye. In an article in the Journal of Marketing Management, marketing professor Julien Cayla stated, “Brand mascots are more than advertising glitter designed to cajole consumers.”

Mascots are the basis for collective rallying of an organization’s members, bringing people together and represents the organization’s unique identity in all sorts of situations, according to Cayla.

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