Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Mascot Affair

It has now become almost customary in global events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, to launch event-related mascots aimed (supposedly) at children. With the recent launch of the London 2012 Olympics mascots, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some mascots, for better and for worse.

Willie was apparently the first mascot (waaaaaaaay before my time) and can be considered the Father of the Mascots, heralding the start of the 1966 World Cup in England.

Mexico did not bother to go with the animal theme in 1986 when they hosted the World Cup. Instead, they chose Pique, a friendly jalapeno pepper - easy on the eyes, friendly looking, approachable (as approachable as a spicy vegetable can be, that is).

The US had Sam the bald eagle for the 1984 Summer Olympics and let me tell you, I had a Sam lunchkit, thermos and lunchbowl, because Sam was hot. Apparently he was too hot cause some thieving child stole my Sam lunchbox just 2 weeks after I got it!

Then we have Footix. Yes, Footix. Odd name, but he was the feathered (anti-KFC) mascot during the 1998 World Cup in France.

I am a bit biased when it comes to the Fuwa of the 2008 Olympics, and I have everything Fuwa - mousepad, pencils, temporary tattoos. Beijing opted for 5 mascots as opposed to just one - a panda, a fish, a Tibetan antelope, a swallow and the Olympic Flame.

And the most recent football hottie is Zakumi, the footballing lion representing the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I think Zakumi is hot and exudes strength and a great deal of self confidence and attitude. I so want a stuffed Zakumi. (Really!)

And then we have, the 2012 mascots from London - Wenlock and Mandeville. They actually don't look too bad in this version.

Do these guys not look less like plucky, friendly mascots, and more like aliens bent on enslaving all of humanity? - Runners' World

Now, I do applaud the fact that the designers sat with kids and vetted these characters with these intuitive thought leaders.
Olympic Organizing Committee chairman Sebastian Coe apparently said that children don't like cuddly animal mascots and instead prefer "something they can interact with and something with a good story behind it." - The Gazette
And what is the story?
In author Morpurgo's vision, the pair begin life as two drops of steel from a factory in Bolton, taken home by a retiring worker who fashions characters out of the metal for his grandchildren.They appear to have a single central eye, explained as a camera lens, through which they'll see the world, and respond to it. - BBC Sport

(Children don't like cuddly mascots? Really?)

But with the negative comments coming from the adults, it begs the question, are mascots only limited to children? Usually, especially if one has journeyed to the event city to take in this once-in-a-lifetime experience firsthand, one wants souvenirs to remember the occasion by. And usually the key chains, and mugs and tshirts and postcards etc are all branded with the official event mascot. Wenlock and Mandeville sadly don't seem to have found favour with the people with the cash and credit cards just yet. Maybe as time passes and as excitement builds, they will come across less hideous and more palatable to consumers.

Adults seem to love their team mascots enough that they often buy silly hats and replica costumes to celebrate their mascot. Athletes love their mascots.

I love my mascots. So are Wenlock and his one-eyed buddy just too out there for the rational minds of the adult mascot-loving public? Though the commercial partners were apparently consulted during the creative process, should there have been a focus group of over-13's to help put this concept together? Are designers over-estimating how kids will embrace a mascot and ultimately the event, and underestimating the influence of the adult consumer and sports fan, and his/her purchasing and marketing power? Not only that, but many feel the mascot should represent their nation, in a good way, and reflect its heritage and its history and its people. Sadly, our boys don't seem to be too loved by the British.

Time will tell how well these one-eyed creatures fare among adult fans, but in the interim, the global passion around them is amusing.
- I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn't April 1st, but I'm sorry, I just can't believe this isn't one MASSIVE, EXPENSIVE, JOKE!!!.....thanks to the creators of these hideous phallic symbols for making us the laughing stock for the rest of the world!!!

- Children (my son being one of them) have been aspiring to be Olympians for years without the lure of an Olympic mascot!! How mindless does the 2012 Olympic committee think our children are?
- For the sake of what remains of the dignity of our great nation, please remove these jokes and get back to the drawing board please, and this time...BEFORE you go to the pub!!!
- Totally ridiculous! Nearly as bad as the Olympic logo.There are so many things that could have been used to symbolise this country, things that people actually associate with the UK. But one eyed monsters? No way! What planet are they on?
- Nooooooo this is the OLYMPICS not a children's show...don't they understand!?!? Word-classs athletes, the best in the world or competing...this isn't a school's July sports day. Children aren't going to care about the history of the mascots...they don't watch the teletubbies and ask their mothers...'mummy, whose shape are the teletubbies based on...and what's their history?'. The just watch and absorb.

- Horrid! What on earth were they thinking? Britain has one thousand years of greatness and grandeur from which to choose the symbols with which it will represent itself to the world, and yet somehow the powers-that-be chose THESE? Nauseating, ugly, cyclops creatures so awful, so immediately stomach-turning, that their most likely effect will be to convince viewers to turn off the Olympic broadcast rather than risk inviting the nightmares that repeated exposure to these vile things is likely to provoke.    Readers comments from the Telegraph.
And luckily for London, they are not the first with a wacky mascot creation. Athens, are you out there?


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