It’s tough being a soccer fan in the U.S. With the major sports networks focused on homegrown sports like football, baseball, and basketball, footie fans are often left in the dark. Despite it being the world’s game, fans of “real football” are forced to find little pockets of likeminded supporters that congregate in small bars to catch their favorite team’s match. BeIN Sports wants to change that, and it’s doing so with a bang–or rather, with a cacophonous drone.
To announce its U.S. launch, beIN Sports, billed as America’s international sports network (which pretty much means soccer at the moment), has created a high-tech vuvuzela that with a mighty blow will instantly turn televisions from whatever channel they’re on to beIN. For those who missed the 2010 World Cup completely, or who have employed the powers of selective memory to block out the non-stop buzz that accompanied the competition in South Africa, a vuvuzela is a horn capable of the most annoying whine. One toot of the plastic pipe is sure to grab anyone’s attention, and then switch the channel to soccer.
“Soccer has a unique standing in this country–it’s not celebrated, it’s really marginalized. We wanted to created some empathy and celebrate the diehard fan, and also give them the tools to convert others to the cause,” says Matt Ian, executive creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, the agency behind the product.
In launching the brand, Ian says the goal was to create a campaign that celebrates the beautiful game. Since beIN didn’t have ESPN dollars to promote itself, Ian says the agency had to get inventive. “We were like, “How do we do this in a more compelling way since we can’t blanket the airwaves and have Messi in our ads. So, we had to get a little bit creative with the communications we used. We were like, what if we created an actual product that empowered guys to bring soccer to the fore by literally changing the channel to soccer?”
The agency created a 3-D printed prototype for the electronic vuvuzela, or eVuvu, in house to test make sure such a device was possible. Engineered with Arduino, the eVuvu sports a mini-microphone that picks up the horn’s unique sound signature. From there, a 32-bit microchip sends an infrared radiation LED signal to TV cable boxes with the command to change the channel to beIN Sports. So if a fan’s stuck at home watching schlocky TV with his other half, he can hit the eVuvu. At a bar willfully ignoring a match? Blast the bugle and be regaled with your favorite sport.
At the moment, 20 eVuvus exist and, while not universal in its powers, it’s able to control broadcasts from two providers, with greater reach in the works. The agency is getting these game changers in the hands of fans through a call-to-action at the end of a spot promoting the device. People are invited to visit beINgamechanger.com or use the hashtag #beINgamechanger to submit a request for a vuvuzela. The catch? You have to present a compelling story of how it would be used for football good. “The idea is to make the first 20 have a big enough of a ripple effect and then maybe get others out in the world,” says Ian, noting that if the concept makes a big enough splash, they’ll look into commoditizing the device.
While the Game Changer here might be a vuvuzela, Ian says its merely one manifestation of the greater campaign idea. The agency’s first brand spot for beIN baked in the idea of changing the game with a literal visual play. In it, a soccer fan cuts down an upright end-goal post and inverted it to make a soccer net.
“This is one piece of this effort,” says Ian. “Game Changer seemed to be for us a good mantra. Maybe it’s this one execution, maybe its something else. We look at Game Changer as the way to guide our communications in fulfilling our mission, which is to give soccer the respect it deserves.”