If you’re watching the World Athletics Championships at home or in person, you may have spotted a giant, yellow creature twerking with fans, dancing with athletes and doing cartwheels across Hayward Field.
That’s Legend the Bigfoot, the event’s official mascot.
And if you’ve ever wondered what goes into the development of a mascot, just ask David Pike and Makenzie Fancher, University of Oregon graduate students at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center who got the chance of a lifetime to work one of the largest events in sports.
The pair received paid internships to work on the Oregon22 marketing communications team, with a focus on bringing Legend to life.
That meant developing Legend’s persona. Is Legend a prankster? A sweetheart? On the mascot personality spectrum of Mickey to Gritty, where does Legend fall?
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“There’s a lot of different directions that could have gone. People might think Bigfoot and think shy,” Fancher said. “We had a very lengthy discussion about how competitive is Legend. How athletic is Legend? Legend can do some really cool stuff, but is Legend the best track of field athlete out there? No.”
By the time they joined the Oregon22 project in April, the concept and design for Legend was already underway, but the hairy, yellow Bigfoot with a big underbite still needed a fleshed-out backstory. Legend, they decided, would be a long-time track and field fan who was simply too excited about Oregon22 to stay in the shadows.
Pike and Fancher developed the 30-second reveal video announcing Legend to the world. Set to dramatic music, viewers first see a massive furry foot with purple toenail polish emerging from the woods, before we get a full view of the creature, hands on hips, looking admiringly up at Hayward Field.
“From our perspective, the only event big enough to draw Legend out of hiding for the past hundreds, thousands, however many years he’s been in hiding, was the World Athletics Championships,” Fancher said.
Pike and Fancher also conceived a series of 10 storybook illustrations to explain Legend’s journey to Eugene. In the cartoons, the Bigfoot emerges from a cave in an undisclosed part of Oregon and makes stops at Crater Lake, the Painted Hills, Mount Hood and Cannon Beach before arriving at Hayward Field. It was a way to show off Oregon’s array of natural wonders to the international visitors arriving for the track championship.
The team also landed on a list of key personality descriptors that would drive the Legend story. Legend is playful, curious, adventurous and, it turns out, decently athletic. (The handstand down the stairs is particularly impressive.)
More than anything, Legend is struck by a sense of awe and amazement, as evidenced by the permeant grin and raised eyebrows affixed to their face.
“Legend is seeing everything for the first time,” Pike said. “They want to experience everything and they’re curious or excited and are now breaking out of their shell from being a recluse from the whole society of humans. They’re just really excited to participate and make friends.”
“You’re the only you that Legend has met,” Fancher added. “So every person that Legend interacts with is a wonder.”
Now that the meet is underway, the marketing team’s focus has shifted to building Legend’s social media following and capturing day-to-day events on and around the field. Legend has a team of handlers that film the mascot’s antics and feed them to Pike, who turns around Instagram reels, TikTok videos and Twitter posts.
“It’s kind of like a behind the scenes of what’s going on at the event through the lens of the mascot,” Pike said.
So far, the biggest hit has been Legend’s run-in with rapper Travis Scott, who is apparently a big track and field fan and watched the meet from a Hayward Field suite.
Being at University of Oregon during the World Athletics Championships has given the grad students a rare chance to work on the entire life cycle of a mascot, from birth to … well, going back into the woods, or wherever mascots retire to at the end of a world event.
“I wouldn’t have even thought about it being possible to work on a global event of this level,” Pike said. “Just being here in that time and place and having those opportunities, it’s just nothing that I could have done on my own.”
As for the future for Legend, there will likely be some sort of sendoff as the Bigfoot returns to the cave they call home.
Until then, look for the giant, goofy canary-colored Sasquatch in the stands and on the field throughout the run of the World Athletics Championships.
— Samantha Swindler, email@example.com, @editorswindler