It only comes around every four years, the whole world is watching and it usually ends in disappointment – that’s right – it’s World Cup marketing season!
This year’s crop of World Cup marketing campaigns by most brands have been notably muted compared to previous years. This could be down to the fact that Russia isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as the big blue skies of South Africa or the exotic beaches of Brazil, or the fact that the current political climate makes aligning your brand with the Russian state as palatable as a Russian salad that’s been left of out the fridge all day.
The Big Idea
Instead of focusing on Russian stereotypes or the usual myriad of football related platitude that some brands choose, Beats chose to rely on its roster of football superstar brand ambassadors to build its campaign around.
The campaign centres around a hero piece of video content in the form of a ‘mixtape’:
This content mashes together the backstories of four of the football world’s biggest players – Harry Kane, Mesut Özil, Benjamin Mendy and Neymar – using Beats’ key brand messaging of ‘defiance’ as the thread running through each segment.
This narrative is bookended by the story of a plucky young Russian superstar of the future who just needs a spark to set him on the right track.
What They Did
Beats enlisted the help of Britain’s favourite mockney director Guy Ritchie to bring its Defiant Mixtape to life – and the video is full of Ritchie-esque touches including;
- Gruff cockney narrator? Check
- Fast cuts between scenes? Check
- Characters with salty nicknames like ‘The Shark? Check
The film zips between the back story of the four superstar footballers in the run up to the World Cup telling the story about how they have personified defiance in their own way, with each story peppered with cameos from other famous faces.
On paper an advert starring five millionaires directed by millionaire on behalf of a headphones brand that was founded by millionaires probably shouldn’t work.
And so it’s a pleasant surprise that it does.
The fast-paced nature of the content and the way it rattles through its various stories genuinely makes you feel excited about the prospect of seeing the climax of these players stories at the World Cup. The only thing more exciting than watching the World Cup is the excitement that fans have about the prospect of watching the World Cup.
Another thing this campaign does well is finding a way to humanise its stars – realistically none of us will be as rich, famous, talented as these people, but by talking about their human struggles, frailties and shortcomings it makes us feel like we at least have a modicum of something in common with them.
A strong central thread + entertaining voice over + fast cut editing + make very rich footballers feel more human.
World Cup ads often struggle to stand out and feel original or they can come across as too serious. This campaign had enough tongue-in-cheek humour to avoid this.
Filming your Russian World Cup advert in Ukraine and then hoping nobody notices? Not such a great idea in the current political climate. A cursory glance at the comments below the video on YouTube would indicate that more than a few people did (1,100 to be precise) both Russians and Ukrainians alike.
The content uses the theme of the mixtape to try and tie the various players stories together but beyond that, music plays little to no role in the video. In fact, if you photoshopped the headphones off the players then this content could have been created by any of the big culturally-connected sports brands.
Also, take out the bookend narrative about the young Russian footballer of the future and the video doesn’t really feel World Cup-y at all.
This works both as an advert but also as entertaining content in its own right. Whilst this ad isn’t quite in the same league as some of the classic football campaigns of yesteryear by the likes of Nike, compared to some of the milquetoast efforts by other big brands, this campaign stands out like Ronaldo playing in a Sunday League team.
The best World Cup adverts realise the excitement, glamour and exotica produced when 32 countries from across the globe come together for Football-mas that is the World Cup.
If you’re able to capture just a slice of this then you can succeed in getting fan’s imaginations racing and maybe even manage to shift some pricey headphones.