What should the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ Official Mascot be? In the first step of what will be a long creative journey, Russians are being invited to access an online platform and let their imagination run free as they submit their preferences in terms of the character type, as well as personal attributes and even a suggestion for a name.

In a press conference held in Moscow today, Russia 2018 ‘s Local Organising Committee (LOC) and FIFA have announced the start of the competition’s Official Mascot brand development campaign, by inviting the Russian public to participate in three co-creational activities which will take place between April 2015 and the end of 2016.

Sergei Semak – the former Russia captain and now an assistant coach both for FC Zenit and the national side – took part in the press conference in the company of two of his seven children. Asked about this unique opportunity, Semak's son, Senya, replied: “My ideal mascot should look good and be cheerful; it should make everyone who plays football happy and bring them luck.”

LOC Chairman Vitaly Mutko explained that the objective of the campaign is to bring the process of creating the Official Mascot, a key brand asset of the event, closer to the Russian public. The mascot will act as an ambassador for the tournament, helping to build excitement and promote it across Russia and the world.

He said: “The FIFA World Cup isn't just 64 matches in 11 Russian cities in the summer of 2018. It's much more than that, and we want everyone in our country to feel that this grand event is arriving, including our youngest fans. I'm sure that the mascot will become the soul of the campaign for all football lovers coming to Russia to experience the atmosphere at the FIFA World Cup stadiums.”

The campaign will comprise of three key milestones that each engage with specific target audiences in the Host Country. After getting the creative input of the country’s youngsters, the second phase aims to allow emerging Russian artistic talent to work on a shortlist of the most popular characters from phase one. Up to 50 design schools and universities with an integrated design programme across Russia have been invited to include the development of design proposals for the Official Mascot into their academic curriculum in the autumn semester of the 2015/16 academic year.

The third and final phase will see the Russian public invited to vote on the best three mascot designs and their respective names, which will be preselected according to a set of creative, brand and legal compliance criteria. As such, the winning character will have invoked the most public participation of any brand asset in World Cup history.

FIFA manages the process of creating the FIFA World Cup™ brand assets and works with LOCs to ensure that the identity of the Host Country is captured in the overall brand strategy and each of its elements.

“The most recent public participation around the creation of a brand took place back in 2012, when the Brazilian public was invited to vote on the Official Mascot’s name,” explained FIFA’s Marketing Director, Thierry Weil. “The response was overwhelming and we wanted to take the engagement to the next level for Russia, especially with the younger Russian public who will experience the brand first hand.”