Havas Entertainment’s Alex Sherr tells Dare! about a creative media campaign for Beats by Dre, which sparked a cultural moment.
The campaign, Bring Back Fans Not Racists, targeted the return of football fans to Britain’s largest stadiums following months of disrupted coverage set off by the pandemic.
Here, Client Director, Alex, looks back on the impactful campaign, which allowed Beats by Dre to express its voice to fans, both in stadiums and at home, and spark conversation surrounding racism in football.
What is the foundation of this campaign?
Beats by Dre is a brand that has historically been rooted in Black culture. Dre was a pioneer of street journalism and his passion for music as a cultural force led to the production of headphones that would allow people to hear what the artists hear. Beats had the voice of a generation at its helm. Fast Forward to 2020 and we needed to rediscover this heritage and shift back to the brand’s defiant roots, with an ambition to make a difference in culture once again.
And we found our ideal moment to act, when a limited number of football fans were allowed to return to stadiums in December 2020 after a nine-month hiatus due to Covid. Throughout the pandemic, racism in football became more prevalent than ever before. This was our moment to make a difference in culture. To make a statement of our intent to ensure racism in stands remained a thing of the past.
Essentially, we asked ourselves, how could Beats have a voice in this moment, connect with Black communities but also drive societal and cultural change on a long-term basis? There were just 72 hours between the moment it was announced that fans could physically return to stadiums and the launch of this campaign. It was a massively short window. That forced us to hone our thinking and helped shape our media and creative route.
Tell us about the various components of this campaign.
There were a few turning parts. Our strategy centred on getting as close to football fans as possible and that laddered down into two things. We wanted to own the moment and ignite conversation. We knew that the most important thing we could do was actually get people talking about the issues of racism within football. Beats by Dre had created a manifesto-style ad in-house, which laid out societal issues and honed in on these issues within football. As the gates opened, we wanted to make it clear that we were bringing back fans, not racists and that’s where the premise came from.
We turned football stadiums into screens, by running guerilla projections outside stadiums pre kick off, where Beats’ powerful manifesto ad was cast onto stadium walls at the Emirates Stadium, Stamford Bridge, West Ham’s London Stadium and Anfield. We also placed digital OOH in close proximity to stadiums where fans were returning.
We ran contextual press ads, predominantly targeting football fans in London where most of those games were taking place. We positioned the manifesto next to relevant football content, for example, right next to a Trent Alexander-Arnold interview in a newspaper, as he spoke about the return of fans and racism during Covid.
Finally, with face masks now mandatory in all stadiums, we used them to our advantage to create an innovative, new media channel to help boost the anti-racism message. Something that had never been done before and a creative way to bring our message to life. We created masks with the words ‘Bring Back Fans Not Racists,’ and had brand ambassadors outside the stadium handing these out. That immediately ignited conversation. We had a really small budget for this campaign and what the face masks allowed us to do was actually have a presence on TV by working with Sky and BT to feature our masks on the live TV broadcast of matches, ensuring those watching at home would also be able to witness our campaign and get everyone talking from their sofas, as well as the stands.
What was the reaction to the campaign?
The campaign was picked up massively across social media sparked by fans and journalists sharing and tweeting about the campaign. We were also able to get the backing of fans and players as well. We had the likes of Leeds and Tottenham tweeting about it and posting about it on their Instagram pages. We also worked with some of the talent Beats work with, like footballers Alex Morgan and Jack Harrison, who wore the masks and shared photos on social media. What ended up happening was that we were able to gain a vast amount of traction, even though only 12,000 facemasks were distributed. We were able to amplify our message to 10 million football fans, both in stadiums and at home. Importantly we got people talking about this important work!
How does working on campaigns like this one make you feel?
Putting aside the media value and everything the campaign delivered from that perspective, the bit that we’re most proud about is the fact that we were able to get people talking and influence something in society that is beyond just sales or driving brand awareness.
There was a reason Beats by Dre did this and it was about being a voice for change. That’s the kind of work we want to do most. We want to look at what’s happening in society, not only for Beats but for all our brands, and combat those issues, not just be bystanders. The fact that we could do this in a really creative and innovative way in order to drive that message massively helps. Beats has always been about influencing culture and figuring out how they can create a cultural moment. That’s the type of work I love doing.