Francois d’Espagnac, Matteo Della Venezia and Tom Oliver
Senior Project Manager
Claire Colohan and Rebecca Wilford
Chief Production Officer EMEA
Head of Planning
Director of Photography
Reimer Eisig and Lennard van der Last
Adam Smyth and Giselle Hall
Senior Sound Engineer and Sound Engineer
Mariona Sauret, Adam Ryzman and Francis Harris
Ivo Van Vollenhoven
Why is this work relevant for Direct?
This is relevant for Direct because Xbox, when unable to build a relationship with FIFA gamers due to having lost the FIFA marketing rights, instead targeted them with a language they’d understand. Xbox turned the skills they saw on the field during real football matches into a call-to-action gamers recognised (Xbox button combinations). Whether on perimeter boards or commentary or in post-match newspaper reports, the artwork consisted of a series of Xbox controller buttons that decoded real football moves, allowing gamers to re-create them on Xbox, and become better at FIFA 18, all while Xbox never even mentioned FIFA.
‘FIFA 18’, the latest in the football videogame series, was going to be crucial for Xbox. However, Xbox’s competitor PlayStation had paid a fortune to buy all the marketing rights for the game. It meant that while PlayStation had total freedom to advertise the game any way they wanted, we at Xbox had the opposite – a 100% ban on marketing the game across all media. We couldn’t even show our own game packshot. How could Xbox target the right sort of gamers and market a game they were forbidden from marketing?
Describe the creative idea
To target FIFA fans, we leveraged something bigger than videogame football – real football. In partnership with top club Real Madrid and a top FIFA gamer, we translated every pass, every shot, every possible combination on the pitch into the corresponding Xbox controller buttons for ‘FIFA 18’, in real time. So every ad became a call-to-action to re-create the piece of skill you’ve just witnessed, in Xbox’s version of FIFA 18. This tactic linked FIFA with Xbox in the minds of football-loving gamers, without ever mentioning the game or contravening the marketing deal. Gamers started translating their own matches, from old black-and-white ones found online to their school matches to casual beach football. From perimeter boards to commentary to post-match reports to fan-made content, every touchpoint didn’t just speak about FIFA – it made our target audience better at it on Xbox.
Describe the strategy
The situation was an almost impossible one for Xbox. Forbidden from mentioning FIFA, showing any game assets or even a packshot meant that we had to target them in a more lateral way. So we leveraged the one thing with a bigger and more passionate fan base than videogame football – actual football. By partnering with a top club and attaching our gaming brand to actual football matches, our target audience of football-loving gamers would know that what we were really talking about was ‘FIFA 18’, even though that was never explicitly mentioned.
Describe the execution
The ‘Football Decoded’ campaign consisted of stadium perimeter boards, commentary, print, online video, social videos and an interactive installation – all of which decoded real football moves into the Xbox button combinations needed to perform them on Xbox’s version of ‘FIFA 18’. The campaign launched on 21 September 2017, with an end date of 30 May 2018. Campaign touchpoints were rolled out to coincide with key Real Madrid matches, to ensure maximum reach. Perimeter boards first appeared during El Classico, the much-watched match between Madrid and Barcelona, while post-match reports followed the Champions League quarter final. Overall, the partnership with Real Madrid was decided upon due to their scale and quality (most valuable sports brand according to Forbes; 290 million social followers; 4.5 million stadium visitors p/a etc.). This meant that a larger cross-section of gamers learned new Xbox FIFA skills from some of the best footballers on the planet.
List the results
- Over 100 million impressions
- Reached 650 million spectators per match (x 12 matches)
- FIFA unique player base grew by 10% year-on-year from launch through to Q3