Behind the Brand: BosNYan BearSharks

By Austin Sharp

The later it got on Day Two of US Quidditch Cup 10, the louder the “Beaaaaaaarsharks” cries from the crowd became. Fans were making claw and fin hand signs, waving blue and yellow flags studded with stars to match the team’s jerseys, and applauding the Boston-New York hybrid community team as it tore through the bracket. But before the BosNYan Bearsharks were semifinalists at US Quidditch Cup 10 and the winners of the best uniform award, they were just a community team focused on chill vibes.

“#ChillVibesOnly” – BosNYan Bearsharks | Photo Credit: Bosnyan Bearsharks Facebook

The BosNYan Bearsharks started as a 2015 conversation between Colleen O’Mara and Leeanne Dillmann, who were playing for the Hofstra University Flying Dutchmen and Emerson College, respectively, about post-graduate quidditch while on their way to a New York Titans’ practice. In that conversation, Dillmann and O’Mara both expressed wanting to play for a team that didn’t take itself too seriously, even joking about establishing a beer league for quidditch. The idea of a more relaxed team experience was postponed until a year later, when Kyle Jeon of Quidditch Club Boston approached Dillmann about making that idea into a reality, a reality that would come to be known as the BosNYan Bearsharks.

Kyle Jeon donning a large BosNYan Bearshark Flag during a captains meeting with Cal Quidditch. | Photo Credit: Nikki Smith Photos

Before the BosNYan Bearsharks were the BosNYan Bearsharks, the conceptual team was named the Strong Island Sharks. The change in the name came with the uncertainty of Dillmann’s location during the season (in New York or Boston), so the team adopted this duality to become BosNYan, reflecting the sound of the country of Bosnia. To keep the alliteration alive, the shark mascot evolved to a Bearshark, an animal that is just as made up as quidditch. With a newly-minted mascot in tow, the Bearsharks needed to develop a brand for their Northeast conglomerate. To solve this issue, the Bearsharks turned to Bosnia to make the resemblance between the team and the nation more than in name. The Bearsharks used the Bosnian flag as the basis for their now US Quidditch Cup 10 award-winning jerseys, giving them their blue and yellow look featuring white stars. The team gave its mascot a face by googling “bearshark,” contacting the internet artist behind one of the results, and exchanging a jersey for unlimited use of the artwork. With jerseys, a mascot, and a motto reflecting their fun-oriented attitude (“Chill Vibes Only”), the BosNYan Bearsharks were ready for their inaugural season.

A clear look at the BosNYan Bearshark logo. | Photo Credit: Nikki Smith Photos

The BosNYan Bearsharks made their debut at an unofficial tournament in late September at Tufts University where they went 4-0, defeating the Harvard Horntails 120-50*, Emerson Community Quidditch 180*-0, and Tufts University twice, 180*-20 and 120*-90 in the finals. At this point, the Bearsharks donned blue T-shirts before the arrival of their star-studded jerseys. The Bearsharks had their first taste of high level competition at the third annual Oktoberfest Invitational in New York, where they defeated Rutgers University Quidditch, the District of Columbia Quidditch Club, and the Warriors, but fell to US Quidditch Cup 9 finalists Rochester United and Quidditch Club Boston just outside of snitch range. The  Northeast Regional Championship in late October gave the Bearsharks the opportunity to show off their fresh jerseys and prove that this “fun” team was not a pushover. The Bearsharks proved just that, ending the tournament with a single loss to QC Boston in the semifinals and a bid to US Quidditch Cup 10.

The Bearsharks arrived at US Quidditch Cup 10 with mini BosNYan flags and fanny packs in tow, ready to show the national stage that they put the “fun” in fundamentals. After losing their first match of the tournament on Day One to Cal Quidditch, the Bearsharks were able to recover with three straight wins, including against Great Lakes Regional Champion Bowling Green State University. On Day Two, the Bearsharks made a deep run in the bracket, finishing in the semifinals with a loss to Texas State; in one day they had defeated three of the eight reigning regional champions: Maryland Quidditch, Lone Star Quidditch Club, and Quidditch Club Boston.

Despite their heated battle on Day Two, Quidditch Club Boston attended the Bearsharks games with mini (actual) Bosnian flags in hand. | Photo Credit: Nikki Smith Photos

The BosNYan Bearsharks were the breakout brand at US Quidditch Cup 10. The team’s clean jersey look draws on the Bosnian flag, keeping the design simple without being boring. The merchandise, social media presence, and motto all show that this is a team that is here to have fun with the sport and approach things from a more lighthearted perspective. The team’s easy to pick up cheer gives an extra degree of fun to spectating their highly-skilled play. Taken together, the Bearsharks brand has quickly accomplished a heavily sought after marketing goal: The Bearsharks made their brand fun, which in turn makes it fun to be a fan of the BosNYan Bearsharks.

Rating: A