The word 'mascot' comes from the French term 'mascotte' meaning lucky charm. The word was first recorded in 1867 and popularised by the opera 'La Mascotte', performed in December 1880. It then entered the English language in 1881. The French word comes from modern Provençal 'mascoto', meaning piece of witchcraft, charm, amulet - a feminine diminutive of 'masco', meaning witch. The word probably has its origin in late Latin 'masca'. In olden days, the word mascot was associated with inanimate objects such as a lock of hair or the figurehead on a sailing ship. But from the start the 19th century and up to the present days, the term is most often linked to a good luck animal.
It was sports organisations that started to use animals as mascots to provide some extra entertainment for spectators. At first, sports teams brought along real live animals to the games. Most of these animals were predators expected to roar and strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.
The transformation of live animals and two-dimensional fantasy mascots into the modern three-dimensional variety was triggered by the invention of the Muppets in the late 1960s. These larger-than-life puppets represented a new medium in mascot development and utility: cute and touchable corporate ambassadors. Corporate companies also realised that mascots could offer great potential outside sports fields. Looking around in our daily environment, one can spot several examples. The adoption of Muppet-like mascots proved to be overwhelming success in terms of public relations and marketing. This success quickly encouraged other corporate and sports entities to create their own mascots, which also brought them success. As a result, mascots are now considered a 'must-have' marketing and public relations tool by many organisations.
The mascot has become a great marketing tool for Organising Committees and everybody loves it. In most cases the mascot is a stuffed toy that is much sought after by kids and memorabilia collectors.
In recent years a number of life-size mascots have appeared to entertain the crowd at the sports venues and ceremonies of the Universiades and Championships... and they are doing a great job!