Global Social Media Insights and Research


Are Olympics Mascots Scaring up Business?

Posted on 31 July 2012

Olympic Games souvenirs are big business aimed at family audiences around the world. Organizers of this year’s summer games hope to net $23 million from Wenlock and Mandeville—the alien-looking Cyclops-eyed mascot. Symbolizing a $48.5 million London makeover and the product of an 18-month creative process involving 40 focus groups, Wenlock and Mandeville items make up approximately 20% of the total London 2012 licensed merchandise, which is expected to generate more than $1.6 billion in sales.

Wenlock is the official mascot of the 2012 Olympics and Mandeville, the 2012 Paralympics. But the mascots have fueled social netizen intrigue, criticism, even ire, reflected in anti-UK banker sentiment. The mascots have been derided as “garish,” “creepy,” “hideous,” “ugly,” and “terrifying,” while others find them “cool,” “lovely,” “impressive,” or “freakishly cute.” The allegorical “all-seeing-eye,” by the way, is a camera that records everything.

Although the one-eyed duo has been criticized as menacing to children, the official London 2012 website is marketing 194 Wenlock and Mandeville products and figurines, representing 83 lifelike sculptures that depict iconic British brands and which have been strategically placed throughout the city. While the symbolism behind the pair may be oblique, their names are storied .

While acknowledging the significance of using storied iconic figures, creative souls like Babble & Squeak in the Wall Street Journal have suggested an alternative: Mick and Keith .

The VOC deliberation over the choice of the London 2012 mascots has been spirited, with further debate stirred by the conspicuous absence of the duo this past weekend at the opening ceremony. According to our NetBase Insight Composer social analysis, Net Sentiment for Wenlock and Mandeville, while still positive, has declined during this past month as compared to the prior three-month average—from 43% to 35%—while the Passion Intensity Index has climbed to nearly 50 from 38 for the same periods, respectively, indicative of a fueled debate.

Kidspot.com.au reflected on some of the parental concerns, including these:

“Like a nightmare, this evil eyed monster stares straight into your soul looking for the slightest weakness.”

“This is a very frightening, disturbing thing… Do not give a thing like this to children unless you want them to wake up crying for the next five years.”

Although many find the whimsy in the “all seeing eye” of The Teletubby-inspired creatures, conspiracy theorists and others scorn the “adorable anthropomorphized security camera” as “soul-less” and misleading to children. French sentiment, too, criticized the “Big Brother” message conveyed by what they called “little rabbits.”

As the language of social media is predictably emotive, in spite of all the focus groups assembled—or perhaps because of them—I wonder how many brand creative directors float unbranded snippets or iterations of their ideas in advance of their launch. When research modalities are combined and triangulated, including advanced NLP analytics, they can provide a highly reliable lens to not only measure probability of success and outcomes, but also to rock ideation.