The top ten characters Russians would most like to see as the Official Mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ are, in Russian alphabetical order, an Amur Tiger, Bogatyr (a legendary medieval Russian figure), a wolf, a Far Eastern leopard, a firebird, an alien, a cosmonaut, a cat, a bear and a robot. This is the outcome of preferences of the 51,000 participants who took part in an online survey between 1 and 31 May 2015.

“We’re very pleased with the response from Russian fans to our invitation to take part in the development of the official World Cup mascot,” says Vitaly Mutko, Chairman of the Russia 2018 LOC and Russian Sports Minister. “For all FIFA World Cup fans the mascot will encapsulate our country. It should be one of the tournament's most colourful and recognisable characters. So it is really important to engage and involve Russians as much as possible in its design. As far I can tell, at this stage we’ve achieved that.”

Russians also showed their preference for some of the options for the mascot's accessories: a ball and football boots. A whistle, watch, gloves and a backpack were also mentioned by fans as other favourite accessories for the mascot. The mascot should be “sporty”, according to 32% of the survey participants, while 31% thought “competitive”, 29% went for “team player”, 26% chose “smart” and 23% favoured “honourable”.

“It is important for FIFA to know what the Russian public’s preferences are for the character of the mascot. After all, the Official Mascot will play a key role in building excitement around the tournament and needs to connect with both local and international fans”, said FIFA’s Marketing Director, Thierry Weil. “In the second stage we will invite design students to submit their proposals based on the top ten characters, which will allow Russian creative talent to be reflected in one of the key brand elements of the FIFA World Cup”.

From September to November 2015, design students enrolled in one of the participating Russian art institutes will have the opportunity to take part in the process and work on their creative proposal for the mascot design. More than 50 arts institutes are enlisted to this project with the support of the Russian ministries of Culture and Education. Once the students’ proposals have been submitted, a jury will select the three best designs. The line-up for that jury is to be announced in due course.

“For design institutes, working on the image of the World Cup mascot is a really inspiring, ambitious and interesting project,” says Alexey Afanasyev, vice-rector for academic affairs at the Moscow Architectural Institute. “As they work on their sketches, the students will have to take account of football’s cultural traditions and FIFA’s design guidelines, and that’s part of developing their professional competences. It will be particularly interesting to work with the ideas of the Russian youth who love football. We really need to nurture that energy.”

In the final stage of the campaign, the three best designs will be put to a nationwide vote. The Official Mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ will be then revealed in 2016.