When Pratfalls Aren’t Enough

The San Diego Chicken may have been “poultry in motion,” but today’s mascots, no matter the animal, are full-on publicity hounds.

Take Goleo VI and Pille, the lion and talking soccer ball created for next summer’s soccer World Cup in Germany. They were introduced last November by Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer on a German variety show, and have become full-fledged celebrities. On the official Yahoo! World Cup Web site, the pair have biographies longer than any player or coach. (We learn that Goleo “has nothing against trousers, but he doesn’t understand all the fuss about whether he should wear them or not,” that he is “warmly witty, which appeals to his many female fans” and that “Pille’s first loves are football, flying and women.”) They’re constantly on the road, and they even have their own daily TV program in Germany, Goleo.

Goleo, designed by the Jim Henson Co., is not universally loved. In fact, acclaimed German designer Erik Spiekermann, who would have preferred an eagle, called him an “absolute disaster.” But he does have one major fan. “Goleo VI has a lot of self-confidence,” Pelé said in introducing him. “He’s not quite Brazilian with a football. But as a mascot, he is certainly in a class of his own.”