Back in 2015, Cincinnatian Kyle Gasnik drew a crude but lovable cartoon of the Bengals mascot (well, sort of) and jokingly titled his creation the “Cinati Bengo.” As a lark, Gasnik — then working at a sign shop — made some stickers at his job and distributed them among friends. Someone posted a photo of the Bengo sticker, positioned near a “RIP Harambe” bumper sticker on the back of a friend’s car, to the Bengals subreddit and the post gained traction.
The internet took it from there and now Gasnik’s absurdly funny designs are available through his website, concussionsports.net. He makes shirts, flags, stickers, hats and more donning some iteration of the Bengo — a charming creation that looks sort of like an angry orange cat with three fangs — the phrase “Cinati Bengos” and his warped version of the Who Dey chant: “Who are they going to Bingo Bengo? Nooooo, Buddy!”
And it’s not just the Bengals. Gasnik has created phonetic approximations of teams including the Pisberg Stellers, Leevlin Browns, LosAngis Wams and more. And he plans to launch additional local team designs for the Cinati Ress, Univercinati Burkits and Eff Cee Cinati.
While it’s too late to order Cinati Bengos merch to receive it in time for the Super Bowl game, Gasnik’s designs ensure that we’ll all still be Bengals fans no matter what happens at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Feb. 13.
Below, Gasnik shares his design evolution and what his new surge of popularity has been like.
CityBeat: The design itself — how and why did you make it?
Kyle Gasnik: I made it in a (pirated) version of Adobe Illustrator because I wanted to become more proficient with the program and couldn’t afford it at the time. I originally colored it in MS Paint because I didn’t know how to use Illustrator, like, at all. I’ve always doodled in the margins of my notes in school, so making a doodle on a computer screen came naturally. But the main reason I do anything, including drawing something like a Cinati Bengo, is to make myself laugh. Life’s more fun that way.
CB: How did you settle on the phonetics on team names?
KG: Figuring out the names is my favorite part. I just try to find something that rolls off the tongue easily and is fun to say out loud. I’ve always been a halfway decent writer, and playing with words is something I’m constantly doing in everyday life. Alliteration, rhyming, absurd improv — all that stuff makes conversations a lot more interesting. It’s why the answer to “Who are they going to Bingo Bengo?” is grammatical nonsense. It’s just silly and makes me laugh.
CB: What has your rise in popularity been like?
KG: I knew when I made the Cinati Bengo I had something special. It was so bad that it was actually good. My close friends loved it, and I’ve valued their opinions for years, which helped solidify the belief that even more people would like it if I put it out into the world.
Once I did, the initial response was a pleasant surprise. I sold a decent amount of stickers in those first couple months and a small number of shirts and hoodies I had screen printed. Then spring and summer of 2021 came, and I may have gotten 10 orders total for seven months, which was a big blow to my self esteem.
But then October hit and things got crazy, and that was when I was like, “Oh wow... This is really happening.”
It’s been a steady flow ever since. I love seeing people tag me in posts on Instagram. It’s a lot of fun to play a part in the excitement flowing through the city right now.
CB: What’s your best seller? Your favorite?
KG: A lot of people buy hoodies and crewnecks. They’re pretty comfy, so I can’t blame them. My favorite was just released: the Bengo O’s T-shirt. (Editor’s note: the presale for the limited-edition print, featuring a Bengo pouring a bowl of Bengo cereal, ended Feb. 5, but Gasnik may re-release the design at some point).
CB: How do you make the items?
KG: I initially had 70 shirts and 30 hoodies screen-printed locally. But then someone told me about drop shipping and I found a company that does it, but they’re not particularly local. It helped me focus on maintaining the website and customer service while having a full-time job (at GCI Digital Imaging). Their turnaround time can sometimes take up to two or three weeks, though, which is a bummer.
My goal by the end of the year is to break away from drop shipping and do more stuff locally, at least for Cinati designs — more of which are to come, and not just Bengos.
CB: Did you ever expect to see the Cincinnati Bengals make it to the Super Bowl?
KG: I’ve been alive for 32 years and I heard stories of when the Bengals were good but never witnessed it. And now this. I suppose I thought it was possible, but I guess it’s one of those things that happens when you least expect it.
Learn more about the Cinati Bengos and view and purchase merch at concussionsports.net.