2014 World Cup Icons

The 2014 World Cup, which will be held in Brazil, will have several associated icons. These include the World Cup Ball, the World Cup mascot, and the World Cup All-Star Team. The Adidas Brazuca is the official 2014 World Cup Ball, Fuleco the Armadillo is the official mascot, and the members of the All-Star team have not been announced.

The official World Cup ball is a historic item that is inaugurated for each World Cup. FIFA has chosen the World Cup ball for its functionality, aesthetic design, and ability to represent the World Cup’s message of international goodwill and soccer. In keeping with this objective, the official World Cup ball has evolved over the years. The ball has changed in design to reflect increasingly sophisticated aesthetics and increase its aerodynamic properties. This increases the ball’s balance and ability to fly in a predictable trajectory. The ideal ball would approximate a perfect sphere as closely as possible. This is of paramount importance in sports, particularly at international competitions. While initially 32 stitched panels, the ball was later constructed with 14 seamless panels. The most recent iterations of the World Cup ball have had 8 curved panels, all thermally bonded (Alam et al. 2011).

The first World Cup ball was the Telstar in 1970; this was the first ball to have the iconic black and white pentagons. These were chosen in part because they would enable the ball to be more easily seen on television. The ball was exceedingly innovative for its time. The 32 pentagons enabled players to use the roundest ball the tournament had ever seen to date. In 1974, a ball with a similar design was used. Both the Telstar and the new Chile were used – the Chile was a completely white version of the Telstar. In 1978, the ball underwent a design change. The number of panels was reduced to 20, and gave the visual impression of a set of circles. The material was also reengineered to make the ball more weather resistant. The Tango in 1982 was a similar ball, though with weather proofed seams that would reduce the ball’s ability to pick up water during wet conditions. The Azteca in 1986 switched the ball’s materials to synthetic and featured an artistic, Aztec-inspired design. The Etrusco in 1990 was the first ball to incorporate foam into its design. This made the ball more water-resistant and allowed for faster game play. The Questra in 1994 incorporated a cutting-edge layer of white foam. The Tricolore in 1998 first utilized syntactic foam to increase the ball’s response. In 2002, the Fevernova was the first ball to have a three-layered knitted construction. The Teamgeist in 2006 improved on prior designs by reducing the number of panels to 14, allowing for a rounder ball (Tribal Football 2009).

Though the soccer ball has been re-engineered with each World Cup to attempt to approach ideal aerodynamic characteristics, these changes have their drawbacks. Each World Cup involves an acclimation process to the new ball, as each technological innovation results in a slightly different response to players’ actions. Both the number of seams and the coefficient of friction of the ball affect the aerodynamic characteristics of the ball. At the highest levels of competitive soccer, these minute differences can have a significant impact on the game. Each of the surface characteristics can result in different types of unpredictable shots. Unpredictable shots can be either non-rotating, or low-rotating shots. Ito et al. utilize Wavelet analysis to conclude that asymmetric panels affected lift force and lateral changes in low-rotating conditions; lateral forces were affected in the non-rotating erratic flight condition (Ito et al. 2012).

Over one million Brazilians chose the name Brazuca in an open voting process; the name earned 70% of the votes. The name Brazuca beat out second- and third-place names Bossa Nova and Carnavalesca. The name represents a colloquialism for pride in the Brazilian lifestyle, and was announced by renowned Brazilian soccer star Cafu (Adidas 2012).

Though the Brazuca ball has not been officially unveiled yet, experts and the media have hypothesized on the new design. The new Brazuca ball is expected to have design innovations that improve on the technical features of previous ball designs. The past two decades of design innovation have generally moved towards the creation of a faster and more exciting game. These innovative elements have included foam construction that allows for quicker rebounds and straighter flight trajectories. This also allows for more intense and exciting play, as the ball can fly faster and impact harder (Pal Singh 2013).

The media has speculated that the ball that was used in the U20 FIFA finals in Turkey was a test version of the Brazuca ball. The eventual release of the Brazuca ball is expected to echo the U20 finals ball’s design features. This ball featured a different panel design, with an increase in the number of panels from the Jabulani, the prior World Cup ball. This may be due to the sports world’s criticisms of the Jabulani. The ball was accused of erratic flight, which could have prompted FIFA’s design change (English, 2013).

FIFA will likely unveil the ball by the end of 2013, as it has traditionally been unveiled around the end of the year preceding the World Cup. It is likely to be presented by a famous Brazilian soccer star (English, 2013).

Fuleco the Armadillo is the official 2014 World Cup mascot. The FIFA World Cup mascot is an animated character meant to appeal to children.

World Cup management has chosen to have a mascot in keeping with marketing theories that propose that the presence of a mascot increases brand appeal. The word mascot most likely comes from the Medieval Latin word for witch or specter, masca. The word has been widely used in the English language since 1881. A good mascot is memorable, aesthetically appealing, and imparts some meaning on the consumer. It is particularly important that the mascot’s appeal translate across cultures and geographical boundaries (Chithran 2012). This is of particular importance with a company that has a target audience across all continents, as FIFA does.

A well-utilized mascot figure can result in media exposure, brand goodwill, increase social conscience for the issues the mascot may represent, and add business value. However, the use of a mascot can also result in problems. The mascot may overshadow the brand by distracting customers from the brand’s primary product. Care must be taken to ensure that the mascot acts as a brand ambassador and is consistently used (Chithran 2012).

Prior World Cup mascots have included a leopard named Zakumi for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and a lion named Goleo for the 2006 World Cup in Germany (Azzoni 2012).

Numerous experts have judged Fuleco the World Cup armadillo a success. Over 1.7 million Brazilians participated in the vote to choose the armadillo’s name, showing broad interest in the results of the FIFA mascot. The name Fuleco won out over Zuzeco and Amijubi with 48% of the vote. A judging committee of soccer stars, celebrities, and politicians selected the final three name options (Azzoni 2012). The name Fuleco was chosen as a fusion of the Portuguese words for soccer and ecology: ‘futebol’ and ‘ecologia’ (FIFA.com 2012).

The armadillo represents Brazil, as it is coloured yellow, green, and blue, as is the Brazilian flag. It features three prominent bands on its shell. The mascot wears a shirt with the words “Brazil 2014” prominently displayed. The mascot also represents environmental social consciousness; it has raised awareness of the plight of the Brazilian armadillo. This is one of the only armadillos that is able to roll itself into a ball, and is unfortunately under danger of extinction (Chithran 2012). The choice of an animal that is under danger of extinction is in keeping with FIFA’s goal to emphasize the importance of ecology and the environment in this latest World Cup (FIFA.com 2012).

The public has an overall positive impression of Fuleco. When asked to describe the famous armadillo, soccer fans have used the following words: nature, friendly, passion for football, and Brazilian (Azzoni 2012). The mascot has also enjoyed very high visibility. Nearly 90% of Brazilians have stated they have seen the Official Mascot. Fuleco has gained a 7.3 appeal rating out of a possible 10 points (FIFA.com 2012).

A final component of the World Cup is the All-Star team. This is a prestigious award given out to soccer players that demonstrate excellence on the international soccer circuit and have participated in the  FIFA Soccer World Cup. There is an All-Star team nominated for both the men’s and women’s soccer World Cups. Other prestigious awards include the Golden Shoe and the Fair Play award. The 2014 All-Star Team will be chosen at the end of the tournament.

All-Star teams are a traditional component in numerous sports leagues. These leagues are particularly popular in the USA where all four of the major sports leagues hosts an all-star game (Witzig 2006, 371).

Though in some leagues, the All-Star team actually plays a game, the FIFA World Cup All-Star team does not. The teams are created to popularize the game and increase fan excitement. Fans may be more likely to follow a league if they are able to see their favorite players matched against each other. Additionally, these teams can allow for league and tournament sponsors to show off new stadiums and make it more likely that fans will purchase tickets in upcoming games. The league’s profits are utilized to help fund these games, and the games played are expected to increase revenue in future games. However, when an All-Star game is actually played, some leagues have been accused of excessive drama and poor game play. As the game does not affect real league standings, players are often not committed to the game, resulting in uneventful play (Ransom 2013).

Other soccer leagues with well-known All-Star teams include the Major League Soccer (MLS) All Star team. This team has played against several International Clubs, prompting interest in American soccer at the international level. However, ratings have not been very good overall (Ransom 2013).

Though the FIFA All-Star World Cup players do not play a game, FIFA does sometimes designate a parallel all-star team to actually play a game. This team is called the ‘FIFA IX’ or the ‘World Stars,’ and the international soccer community considers the ensuing match historic and exciting. This may be the last chance for players to play other outstanding talents in the international soccer community. The international soccer community considers participation in this game to be a tremendous honour. Testimonial matches are another type of all-star match that brings together the most outstanding talent in international soccer. These matches occur when a well-known player is about to retire. Excellent soccer players are invited to play against the retiring player’s team to celebrate the player’s retirement (Witzig 2006, 371).

The ways in which the FIFA All-Star team members have been chosen has varied from year to year. A technical study group consisting of journalists and experts has historically chosen the team. However, in 1998, a FIFA technical group first chose the team. In 2010, the All-Star team was chosen through a popular online voting contest (Whitney 2010).

Corporate sponsors have also sponsored the World Cup All-Star Team in certain years. In 2006, Mastercard sponsored the All-Star team (FIFA.com 2006).

In the most recent World Cup in 2010, Spain dominated the All-Star team, with the most nominations (Hoosen 2010). Spain obtained 7 out of a possible 10 spots.

The World Cup All-Star team, the World Cup mascot, and the World Cup ball are all key parts of the tournament. These components all serve to encourage fan excitement and extend FIFA’s message of international cooperation and excitement for soccer. Each of these three elements has its own historic tradition that has shaped fan’s perceptions of the World Cup. Though fans have enjoyed all three elements, these elements have also created some controversy. However, the World Cup ball and the mascot are expected to be highly successful aspects of the upcoming Brazil World Cup.

Bibliography

Adidas, 2012. “Brazuca,” Adidas Global Website. <http://www.adidas.com/com/goallin/news/2012/09/football-brazuca-newsarticle/>.

Alam, F H Chowdhury, M Stemmer, Z Wang, J Yang. 2012. “Effects of surface structure on soccer ball aerodynamics,” Procedia Engineering 34 (2012): 146-151.

Azzoni, T. 2012. “Armadillo mascot for 2014 World Cup named ‘Fuleco’ ,“ AP News, Nov. 26.

Chithran, S. 2012. “Winning Customer Hearts Through Mascot Ads,” Deecee School Journal 4(2): 1-20.

English, Jordon. 2013. “Adidas Test Brazuca WC 2013 Ball in U20 Final,” The Instep. July 16th.

FIFA.com. 2006. “Azzurri prominent in All Star Team,” FIFA.com. Jul 7.

FIFA.com. 2012. “Fuleco wins name game,” FIFA.com. Nov. 26.

Hoosen, Z. 2010. “FIFA World Cup 2010: All-Star Team,” Bleacher Report, July 15th.

Ito, S. M Kamata, T Asai, K Seo. 2012. “Factors of unpredictable shots concerning new soccer balls,” Procedia Engineering 34 (2012): 152-157.

Pal Sing, J. 2013. “Physics laws and analysis of the soccer ball,” Ijite: 01 (01): May.

Ransom, R. 2013. “Oh why, oh why, should there be an All Star Game?,” Reckless Challenge, Jul. 19th.

Tribal Football. 2009. “The History of FIFA World Cup Balls,” Tribal Football, Dec 04.

Whitney, C. 2010. “World Cup 2010: FIFA All-Star Team Announced,” Goal, Jul 15.

Witzig, R. 2006. The Global Art of Soccer, CusiBoy Publishing.