Nissan’s Virtual Face Paint App Goes Global For The Olympics

The new AR app launches today in time for fans to show their national pride in Rio.

Sports fans can show and share their national pride and support for those taking part in next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro by virtually painting their face with one of almost 2,000 different designs, thanks to a global rollout of Nissan’s Olympic ‘Diehard Fan Nations’ app.


The augmented reality app allows fans to choose from up to 20 different designs for each of the 206 non-Brazilian nations due to participate, paint their chosen design over a favorite picture or video of their face, then share the result–all using a smartphone or tablet.

As host nation, Brazil will have its own, dedicated app only available in Brazil.

Launching today, Nissan’s Olympic Die Hard Fan is a global upscaling of an idea originally conceived by digital experience design agency Critical Mass for the car manufacturer’s sponsorship of 100 U.S. college and university sports teams, which launched last November.

In the months since its launch, Nissan’s college sport Die Hard Fan app has been downloaded more than half a million times and generated millions of shares.

Like its predecessor, the new app was developed using a combination of analog, traditional face painting skills, and state of the art digital face mapping technology from Image Metrics, which enables fast and lifelike results as the final image fits seamlessly onto the image of any user’s face and moves naturally in real time.

“When we first used the face mapping technology, the result was fantastic but not as lifelike as traditional face painting,” Chris Gokiert, president of Critical Mass explains. “So we used analog artistry done by hand by face painters then shot the faces painted from all angles before supplying Image Metrics with the files to process.”


With a 100 collegiate teams to cover, production of the first edition of the app was already complex. With more than double the number of teams and far more per-team variations, however, expanding the idea for the Olympics was a major logistical challenge.

The first step for the creative team was developing a selection of images inspired by each country, its national flag, symbols, abstract designs already used on existing national sports kits, and other associated marks. While each had to be instantly recognizable, the biggest challenge lay in ensuring all were unique to avoid duplicating designs conceived for any of the other participating nations.

“The creative development was mind-numbing in terms of scale and the organization needed,” Gokiert admits. “We had a process in place, which was a great help. But even so, the priority throughout was design that was striking yet simple and–above all–authentic.”

The 2016 summer Olympics opens in Rio de Janeiro on August 5.


About the author

Meg Carter is a UK-based freelance journalist who has written widely on all aspects of branding, media, marketing & creativity for a wide range of outlets including The Independent, Financial Times and Guardian newspapers, New Media Age and Wired.