A Campaign of Play

By Published on .

Television commercials are often like children's cough syrup - something that seems necessary, carefully packaged and flavored to drown the bitterness and made compelling enough to be easily consumed. This is not to say that there aren't stunning commercials. There is no question that in many instances advertising agencies and design houses have elevated simple sales pitches into a spectacular art form. But much of the world is too sophisticated now. We don't want to be told what we want. We want to feel it.

Here's an incredible idea that offers a completely different way of approaching marketing by truly integrating a brand into everyday culture.

The Ball, 2002

The project is called The Ball. If you're in advertising and design you'll probably be able to think of a thousand different ways of branding, designing, advertising, packaging, sponsoring, monetizing and leveraging this project more effectively, but the idea is lovely and it's theirs.

The Ball kicks off from its "Mount Olympus", Battersea Park in London, where the very first game of modern rules football took place in 1864. It's destination: the Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup. This year it will make a 10,000 mile pilgrimage to South Africa, passing through Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and arriving in South Africa on the 6th of June. On its way, The Ball participates in as many games of football as possible, inviting people on the street to share the joy of playing and connecting them to the World Cup.

There are many things to love about this idea. It's sincere, its playful, it's engaging, authentic, personal, emotional, memorable and unique. It literally touches people, and I strongly believe that that impact cannot be replaced or replicated by any commercial. I'm also willing to bet that it doesn't cost a fraction of what your latest production budget was for a live-action 30-second ad. It is not difficult to imagine that if we each got to play for a moment with The Ball in a local neighborhood street, a school or an office courtyard, we would remember the World Cup in a special way. One that would evoke a memory of play, community and a pure, very real sense of fun.

To me, what is fascinating about the idea is not the specifics of the execution but a unique approach – one that we can learn from when we create new brand expressions to bring to the world.
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