Zoich

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The design of Zoich, the proposed mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Zoich (Cyrillic: Зойч, pronounced [zo.itɕ]) was a proposed mascot for the XXII Winter Olympics, which took first place in the official online poll to select a mascot for the 2014 Sochi games. Despite being a popular Internet character, the committee chose not to introduce it to the final round of the voting. Upon introduction and until the end of the online voting, it was the most popular mascot from those submitted. It also took only about 40 minutes for Zoich to take the top spot.[1]

Zoich is also a spectacular example of guerilla marketing on a global level. In fact, the background story is so astonishing and far-fetched, that even most Russian journalists could not believe it when it was finally revealed around first half of June 2011. Only the statement from the president of Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee finally convinced journalists that the conspiracy story was in fact legitimate.[2]

The rights to the Zoich mascot are owned by the Russian Olympic Committee.[3]

Background[edit]

September 1, 2010: The Organizing Committee of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic and Paralymplic Games in conjunction with the newspaper Izvestia announces a competition to select the mascots for the 2014 games open to anyone wishing to enter. The competition receives 24,048 entries from across Russia and Russians abroad.

September 10, 2010: Moscow artist and designer Yegor Zhgun enters an original sketch of an imaginary frog, naming it "Zoich".

According to its author, the idea of Zoich was indeed influenced by Hypnotoad from Futurama.[1]

Description of the mascot[edit]

Zoich is a fuzzy blue frog. The Olympic Rings rotate in its eyes, taking the role of pupils: black, yellow, and blue in the right eye and red and green in the left. In its mouth, the frog holds a ski pole and a Russian Imperial Crown sits atop its head. The mascot takes its name from the year "2014" as it is represented on the Olympiad’s logo: The numbers 2, 0, and 1 as they are represented look like the Latin Z, O, and I. The number 4 looks like the Russian letter Ч, which is like the English "ch".[4] Many Russian-speaking people read "2014" as "Zoich" upon presentation of Sochi-2014 logo. Zhgun's description of his mascot: "The Olympic Rings in his eyes spell the progress of Olympic ideals; the tsars’ crown on his head recalls authority and faith."

Subsequent event[edit]

The original idea behind the mascot found large support among visitors to the official voting site, and Zoich reached the top spot in the voting in roughly 40 minutes, where he stayed through the conclusion of the voting.[1]

After Zhgun posted an animated clip (which took about two months of development[1]) of his mascot on YouTube on November 8, 2010, finally showing Zoich in motion, the press dubbed the mascot "Hypnotoad", referencing its obvious resemblance to the character Hypnotoad from American animated TV series Futurama.[5] After bits of the animation were shown on various Russian channels (for example REN TV), the mascot grew in awareness and popularity.[6] In July 2011, Futurama referenced the influence of the Hypnotoad on Zoich; the opening sequence of the episode "All the Presidents' Heads", the 20th episode of the show's sixth season, shows a brief clip from Zhgun's original Zoich animated clip mounted on a television screen.

December 21, 2010 saw the publication of the list of mascots entering the final round of the official selection process. Despite being in first place in official online voting, Zoich was not short-listed for the finals (for reasons not evident at that time).[7] This was surprising in light of comments by Dmitri Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee, for example:

The representatives of the official competition’s expert jury have refused to give any commentary or reasons for the removal of the most popular mascot from participation in the second round. President Dmitri Medvedev himself has said that the selection process was unfair.[8]

Guerilla marketing disclosure[edit]

The registration of intellectual rights to Zoich, by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, was revealed on 14 June 2011. The story was deemed so far-fetched that it required statements from the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee and Zhgun himself to convince journalists of its legitimacy.[2]

According to Zhgun, he was approached by the Organizing Committee seeking to promote its online mascot voting system. He was given no guidance and full creative freedom in designing the character. In fact, the story told earlier (e.g. in Zhgun's interviews[8]) was entirely true with the exception of a single fact. The whole idea of creating an unconventional "guerilla" character actually came from the Committee itself.[9]

The revelation of the role of the Sochi 2014 Committee caused wide disbelief, as Zoich was widely perceived as an appealing, counter-cultural, somewhat psychedelic, "voice of the nation" response to supposedly rigid, formal, bureaucratic and unimaginative procedures endorsed by the government.

References[edit]

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