As a long-term headline sponsor of the Olympic Games, Visa has the kind of access to venues, sporting events and athletes that the everyday consumer can only dream of. Wrapped up as part of exclusive travel and hospitality packages, they become a powerful marketing opportunity for partner banks and financial institutions to encourage card spend and drive new customer acquisition for partners like HSBC Global.

Driving card usage and acquisition for HSBC

Services provided:

Audience Analysis
Creative Ideation
Videography & Photography
Creative Concept Platforms
Brand Activation
Motion Content
Content Creation
A one-of-a-kind opportunity

In October 2023, Visa and HSBC agreed to run an exclusive global promotion during the build-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024. With one-of-a-kind VIP trips to Paris on offer, this was a compelling chance for Visa cardholders to experience the Olympic Games like no-one else. It doesn’t hurt that Paris, the host city, is also a desirable destination in its own right for overseas visitors – who visit for the art, culture, fashion, architecture and cuisine.

Visa asked bbd to tender as part of a competitive creative pitch to bring this compelling promotional prize to life for a truly global audience. Our previous experience working on numerous national promotions for Visa and their partners equipped us with insights into the complexities of such a campaign. The caveat? It had to be unlike anything that’s been run before, and had to be live by February 2024. Paralympic Games Paris 2024. With one-of-a-kind VIP trips to Paris on offer, this was a compelling chance for Visa cardholders to experience the Olympic Games like no-one else. It doesn’t hurt that Paris, the host city, is also a desirable destination in its own right for overseas visitors – who visit for the art, culture, fashion, architecture and cuisine.

Three global brands, one shared purpose

HSBC needed a premium creative execution that could achieve cut-through across 14 markets. it had to be instantly ‘gettable’ as being tied to both the Olympic Games and Paris, easily translatable and seamlessly adaptable to suit different markets, ethnicities and audience aspirations. The campaign would need to be HSBC branded, but within very strict IOC partner branding constraints.

The activation would support 2 key business priorities: Awareness and usage in everyday spend categories; and, Acquisition of new HSBC cardholders. The campaign would span across owned and paid channels in 14 global markets, including: Hong Kong, UK, Mexico, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Australia. This also happened to be HSBC Global’s first fully integrated, cross-market campaign, so needed to set the bar high.

Creating a singular, universal theme

Whilst this was, on the face of it, a relatively simple proposition – a ‘spend and win’ promotion – our initial creative response took a mutli-faceted approach to both the visuals and language used. We explored themes including the romantic allure of Paris, athletic prowess and cultural iconography. Needless to say, we won the pitch. Initial feedback from the HSBC client team was that they were “really excited and were very impressed with the range of ideas and quality of art direction”.

The winning route brought to life a typical Parisian scene – a stunning monument or landmark – with people going about their day. Within this scene we introduced an unexpected moment of sport or competition – an athlete or athletes ‘competing’ within the scene. A peloton of cyclists circling a busy Arc de Triomphe roundabout, Fencers sparring in front of Versailles, or an athlete on the starting blocks of the Trocadero. In essence, the visual expression of ‘Getting up close to the action in Paris’.

A winning concept

Whilst the essence of the execution was right, we could not quite capture the perfect pose, lighting or expression by compositing scenes from several stock photos. We also had the added complexity of needing to represent multiple ethnicities within the same scene and sport. So after countless unsuccessful hours of image searching and comping, we reached an impasse. There was only one way to achieve the vision we had. A photoshoot.

We proposed our solution to the client and they were on board, in principle. Given that it was Winter, we ruled out a location shoot in Paris (it’s the Summer Games after all). And we still had to find a scene that we could convincingly place athletes and bystanders into. Several scamps later, we were agreed. Football and hurdling were our two hero sports – broadly the most appealing to our varied audiences – with the Arc de Triomphe being the backdrop. It’s one of the most recognisable landmarks, and interplays well with both sports – acting as a ‘goal’ for footballers and a convenient bench acting as ‘hurdle’ for our athlete.

A long shot, in short order

We then had our biggest challenge yet. Time. It was a week or so before Christmas, and we needed to have the shoot done by the second week of January if we were to deliver a complete asset toolkit for multiple markets by the end of the month.

Deciding on the shots was the ‘easy’ part – achieving them not so. Whilst we had two ‘scenes’, each required three variations of model because we needed adequate coverage to suit all markets, including those adhering to Sharia dress code. This equated to four middle-eastern footballers, one Indian striker, one South American striker, a black male hurdler and an asian female hurdler. But we had to shoot the footballers with and without knee covering, and the female hurdler in both long and short attire!

So we had a shot plan. But we still needed a location large enough to reproduce the exact lighting of our chosen background images, with room for a hurdler to have adequate runup and runoff. Then we needed 9 models of specific ethnicities, 4 of whom either needed to be able to play football or actually hurdle, available at short notice. We also needed a stylist to source a variety of professional, Olympic standard, non-branded clothing and shoes for all athletes (7) and our two bystanders. And hair and makeup. And finally, we needed a production crew capable of achieving our vision on set – namely a photographer, photographic director, retoucher, lighting technician and runner.

Two days, six shots, nine models

WIth a lot to consider, the shoot was meticulously planned. Blend studios set the lighting up and performed a test shoot the day before to ensure we could come in and hit the ground running on day 1. A range of clothing options meant we were able to tweak the wardrobe on the day to ensure all the models looked as authentic as possible, with a stylist on hand to make adjustments to hair, makeup and clothing fit on the fly.

Other considerations unique to this project were that our original visuals had models with leading left feet (for both the hurdlers and the footballers). But all the models were right footed. Which meant we had to shoot everything in mirror. Sounds simple enough, until you consider we had numbered shirts – which we had to get specially printed back to front to eliminate the need for retouching! A key part of the puzzle was the commissioning of a professional Sports Coach. This was absolutely fundamental to enable us to capture the poses we needed from the (not professional) athletes.

With Trevor on hand throughout the day, we could review every shot and tell him what needed to change. He would then brief the athletes on what they needed to do to achieve the perfect body position.

Another vital link in the chain was the ability to not just review the shots in real time, but to place the shot in situ to ensure the composition would work. For that reason, we had our dedicated retoucher, Dave, set up on a separate workstation – ready to place shots into the digital scene. We quickly learned that it was impossible to get every limb in exactly the right placement, so retouching on set was essential in helping us create the perfect shot. The final compositions look even more incredible when you realise they are made up of a montage of several images – a face with the right attitude or expression, beautifully positioned leading and trailing legs, all on the perfectly posed torso.

A ready-to run campaign toolkit for 14 markets

With the bulk of the copy content being supplied by client, our job was to help elevate the creative with compelling headlines. These needed to ‘explain’ the creative to an international audience in an engaging way – combining the specific sports shown in each composition with the allure of the big prize. All whilst being simple enough to ensure nothing would get lost in translation.

From our set of six master visuals, we set about creating a suite of assets to be shared with the 14 different markets for localisation and deployment. Channels included HSBC-owned eDM, web, in-branch POS and in-app marketing to existing customers. In addition, we developed static and video executions for deployment across digital display, programmatic OOH and paid social – driving card spend and new cardholder acquisition.

The complex part in all of this was the approvals process however. With 3 sets of stakeholders involved (Visa, HSBC and the IoC), managing amends and the application of very stringent rules required a rigorous internal Q&A process, lightning fast response and close collaboration with all 3 parties.

Once the assets were approved, we then developed a comprehensive campaign toolkit which explained the creative idea, the promotion and prizes, as well as providing rules around IoC compliance and approvals, plus the entire prize fulfilment process.
Timeline from shoot day to delivery day? Just over two weeks to deliver finalised assets and toolkit to an online repository, ready for the local teams to pick up.

"Great news, HSBC loved your creative approach and thought that you had a strong eye for art direction and the work hit the brief of looking and feeling premium, aligning to their brand. We’d love for you to be the creative lead on this Visa first global campaign with HSBC."

Visa UK Client Marketing Manager

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