The World Cup makes money — a lot of money. The economics of hosting one of the largest sporting events in the world varies wholly on the region and efficiency of the games, but on the whole it provides a huge boon to the host nation. One person who got a minuscule fraction of those funds is Russian college student Ekaterina Bocharova, who got just $500 for designing the 2018 World Cup Mascot, Zabivaka.
Bocharova won a Russia-wide design competition to have her soccer-playing wolf be named the official mascot of the 2018 World Cup. It’s a neat honor you would expect to have a big payoff, but instead she’s barely making enough to afford a couple of weeks of rent.
Russian news outlet TASS reports that FIFA paid Bocharova just $500 for her design, which they now own complete rights to. In the lead up and progress of the games its expected apparel with the mascot will earn millions of dollars.
The student has dreams of working in animation and was excited to see her mascot revealed, but that doesn’t change just how much FIFA took advantage of a young student.
"Since my childhood I wanted to be a cartoonist. I want to develop characters, engage and work in animation. I want to go to work at Disney.”
Having her design up in lights may have taken Bocharova closer to her dream, but the gap in fair payment is vast. Typically design firms are contracted and paid huge sums for designing mascots, but in this case she’s getting relative pocket change.
Keep in mind just how much money the World Cup has made for host cities in recent years and it’s even worse. In 2006 Germany posted a profit-before-tax of 140 million Euros, and in 2010 the estimated impact on GDP for South Africa was 21.3 billion dollars. Again, the designer of the mascot made $500.
Bocharova might have been overjoyed to see her drawing come to life on live TV, but that is fleeting and simply not good enough.
“I learned about it on the TV show, where it was announced. I was incredibly happy, and even started to cry,” Bocharova said. “I received so much attention after that. I felt like I woke up famous the next day. The media contact me every day now. I don’t even know how to react to it.”
FIFA themselves acknowledge that they made $2.14 billion in broadcast rights alone for the 2010 World Cup, making more in a revenue split from South Africa after the conclusion of the games. Assuming that number holds in 2018, the woman who designed the mascot for the 2018 World Cup will make 0.000000233 percent of what FIFA does — all while creating a character who will be featured during the opening ceremony, advertising, and merchandise.
That is disgusting.