Ben Hartman, International Chief Client Officer for Octagon and Jury President for the Entertainment Lions for Sport 2021 shares his top ten favourite pieces of sports-related work from over the years. Here he considers work that uses creativity to tap into fan culture and leverage the power of sports and eSports to connect people with brands.
Football Decoded for Microsoft, by McCann London (2018)
This is a near perfect example of a piece of work that started with the idea first and then used sponsorship as the mechanism to deliver; far too often, it’s the other way around. What really captures me is the ingenious use and integration of sponsorship assets to tell the story – from the LED signage through to the media partnership, the asset integration is remarkable. To top it all off, a brilliant cross-pollination of the world of sports and eSports.
Keeping Fortnite Fresh for Wendy’s, by VMLY&R Kansas City (2019)
One of those pieces of work that makes me smile every time. Whilst a partnership with Fortnite is a fairly well trodden path for brands, there is always the danger of a brand integrating itself with a lack of relevance to a fan’s experience. Wendy’s found a way to communicate their biggest competitive difference, the fact they don’t use frozen meat, within the gameplay itself. This added, not detracted, from what fans were seeking from the game.
Uber Eats Aus, Open Ambush for Uber, by Special Group Sydney (2019)
I loved the fact that this piece of work combined a brilliant media strategy (purchasing the ad space leading right back into the tennis coverage), with remarkable craft (filming their spots to mirror the exact Australian Open broadcast) to create a seamless, and incredibly humorous, integration. For me, this piece of work helped outline the unique notion of craft in a sponsorship piece of work in the production of what was required to replicate live sport coverage.
Dove, Strength to Care for Unilever, by Octagon Sydney
Athletes are not actors. What I love about this piece of work was the brand being brave enough to give control of the work to an athlete. Talent needs to have a clear role and the fact that Dove were willing to give rugby star and activist David Pocock a platform, the tools and trust to develop the work was fundamental to the impact of the work that inevitably followed.
We’re the Superhumans for Channel 4 by Blink Productions London (2017)
The legacy of great work is that it draws you back to watch it over and over again. For me, this is one that I find myself not just watching on a regular basis but enjoying it more each time. The beauty of this lies in the brilliance of the positioning of Paralympic athletes as superhuman – this led to a brave, flawlessly executed piece of work that truly deserved the recognition it received.
Perussian Prices for Plaza Vea by DDB Lima (2019)
In the world of sport, everything is so often polished and pristine, yet sometimes creativity can be driven through low budgets and a very clear purpose. The ingenuity in this idea lies in the fact that the targeted audience of millions of consumers in Peru were inspired by an experience of a relatively small number of their colleagues on arguably the biggest sporting stage in the world.
Distracted Goalkeeper for Uber by Tech and Soul São Paulo (2019)
I must admit that this is a piece of work that I was envious of when I first saw it come to life. The brilliance in the simplicity of the idea is astounding - having the bravery to impact the field of play during a live football match. The most impressive part would have to be the number of times this piece of work was told “no” before it was executed. It is one thing to have brave ideas, it’s another to be able to pull them off.
Heroes of Today (Iberia, Correos, Telepizza, LaLiga, 11811 and Baviera) by DDB Madrid (2019)
Sport plays an important and ever-increasing role in helping drive awareness and action to make positive shifts in attitudes across society. The first time I watched this film, it brought me to tears. This is storytelling through sport in its finest form – the film is captivating, the context of sport in Nazi Germany is jarring, the craft almost unnerving and the kicker at the end that makes you feel repulsed. It’s all testament to a truly remarkable piece of work.
Immortal Fans for Sport Club Recife by Ogilvy Sao Paulo (2013)
Sport for some can feel like the most important thing in the world and this work was a great example of a brand using sport as a platform to drive a purpose beyond fandom. Whilst most work that uses sport in this manner focuses on purely driving awareness, this phenomenal piece of work drove action. The creative genius in this relied on a deep understanding of the nuances of football fans in Brazil to create a pathway into becoming a fan forever.
Rugby Shirt for Adidas by Digital Arts Network Auckland (2007)
I truly believe that it was this piece of work that changed the brand's thinking that the jersey of the team they sponsored was more than just a billboard. There are very few fans in the world that hold the same level of passion as a New Zealander for the All Blacks. To literally use the blood, sweat and tears that went into the jersey as a way of connecting with fans changed the way advertisers looked beyond the shirt as a media buy to a genuine conversation with fans.