Mascots are part of our daily lives. Whether they are soft, giant and/or happy, they slide all over the place and give us particular pleasure. The two Phryges, which are the French mascots for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, have for example been the talk of the town recently. As for Bing Dwen Dwen, the little panda of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, he caused a sensation in China until he became the object of fakes.
Mascots are relatively recent on the scale of human history. The first appeared in 1867, in a comic opera called The mascot by Edmond Audran. In this work, the composer portrays a shepherd boy who is said to bring good luck as long as his virginity remains – that is the meaning of the word. Since then, mascots have clearly diversified and are no longer considered simple lucky charms.
A pillar of communication
In the world of communication, mascots are present. “A face brings a brand to life”assures Steve Knafou, founder of Mascotte+, a studio that presents itself as the “French number 1 mascot”. And that, advertising understands. An energetic pink rabbit, a purple-spotted cow or a big, fat bald man doing housework, advertising mascots are everywhere.
Their beginnings go back more than a century. In 1898, Bibendum appeared for the first time on Michelin packaging and posters. During the Industrial Revolution, production volume and the number of consumers increased dramatically, and mascots came into play to help brands stand out.
In the world, Japan is the king of mascots. In Japanese stores, you often see mascots in person: it’s common to encounter a two-meter rabbit that greets you at the entrance to a store.
According to the Yano research institute, cited by Le Parisien, mascots brought an average of 17 billion euros per year to brands in 2015. In France, the phenomenon tends to accelerate. “My view on things, and that’s why I launched my box, is that a mascot attracts more than a logo. So it’s in the interest of every company to adopt one.”Steve Knafou assured.
When a brand wants to launch its own mascot, it has a choice between four types, according to the specialist. Animals (like The Laughing Cow), people (like Mr. Clean), humanoids (like in Cetelem), and finally metonymic mascots (like the M&M characters). But the strategy of mascots is not always a good idea for all companies: it is difficult to imagine a luxury house using this marketing asset. “The few who have opted for 2D, for a more aesthetic rendering, like Versace with its Medusa”said Steve Knafou.
Sports mascots are newer. Around the 1960s and 1970s, the first giant animals appeared in the yard. Initially, mascots were put in place to entertain the public, especially children, by making the games more attractive. “The first mascots were also used to intimidate the enemy. And in 1982 they went from great predators to the funny and amazing animals we know.said Magali Tézenas du Montcel, General Delegate at Sporsora.
Over the years, the role of the simple entertainer has expanded. As clubs become more and more popular, players have no time to interact with the public. To overcome this lack felt by the fans, the mascot became the “human” symbol of the club, making it a bridge between the players and the spectators. By offering a unique experience, this giant cuddly toy makes the youngest laugh and keeps the older ones engaged. But it is also a very effective communication tool.
“The slogan is the promises. The logo embodies them. And the mascot is the embodiment of these values that make up a team,” explains Magali Tézenas du Montcel. For the specialist, the mascot is a “360 degree marketing asset”. It serves to build the spectator experience, but also the commitment outside of the sports show.
In France, even before Footix for the 1998 Football World Cup (and Jules for the French team), the football world adopted mascots in the 1970s, although they were not very successful. . This is the case of Footy, who became the mascot of the Blues during the 1978 World Cup.
And in our daily lives?
Some people have a mascot used in a game in their kitchen; on the other hand, one can find characters similar to mascots in each habitat. They can be very different from the ones we know: a stuffed animal in a child’s arm, a statuette in the fireplace…
The custom of giving a cuddly toy to a child goes back centuries. Researchers have discovered soft toys and rattles for children in ancient Egyptian tombs.
This custom evolved, and in 1902, the famous teddy bear appeared. During a hunting party, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States nicknamed Teddy, refuses to kill a bear. The anecdote spread and a pair of New York merchants decided to create a teddy bear named Teddy in honor of the president.
As for the statuettes piled in your fireplace, you can also consider them as mascots. Derived from the Provençal “mascoto”, which means “spell”, they are considered real protective charms – among other more or less mystical functions.