Winning work: An immersive experience for everyone from three to 83 at HSBC World Rugby Sevens in Singapore

With Publicis Communications winning the Most Engaging 360 Video/Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality Work at the Mumbrella Asia Awards for its work on HSBC World Rugby Sevens, Digitas’s Keith Byrne has a few lessons to share for other brands thinking of playing in the same space

Each year HSBC brings the exciting World Rugby Sevens Series to Singapore. 60,000 people pack the National Stadium to watch one of the fastest sports on the planet.

As part of this year’s event, Publicis was tasked with creating an experience to welcome guests to the HSBC Hexagon Suite. A space for guests of the bank to meet, eat, drink and watch live matches.

Our brief was very simple. Bring our most valued guests together to experience the thrill of live rugby. The experience needed to be easy, immersive, and above all fun to cater to the different aged guests invited to the suite. A three year old or an 83 year old needed to be able to participate.

We came up with over 20 concepts before landing on the ‘one’ that answered the brief. The idea for an augmented reality kicking game came first, then the idea to partner with rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll to digitally host the experience.

Brian was already booked to appear at the event as a HSBC Rugby Ambassador, so including him in the immersive game worked nicely as an extension to the weekend’s festivities.

With the idea locked in, we set about building the game in partnership with Zodiac Solutions. In a matter weeks, we moved from a concept on a page to storyboards to animation design to a back-end build to a green screen shoot in Hong Kong, and then finally to a set built on site at the stadium.

The game itself was very simple. Brian welcomed each guest to the event and challenged them to take three kicks on goal. There wasn’t a real ball to kick, but a digital ball on screen. Kinetic motion sensors enabled gameplay with a traditional controller. After each kick, Brian gave a coaching tip.

What made the game unique was an algorithm that responded to the speed and direction of the kick, meaning players could try multiple times, getting different coaching tips. We pre-filmed Brian giving 12 coaching tips. The game’s algorithm then turned these into over 100 customised, real-time responses.

Due to the game’s location at the entrance of the suite, we hoped that 30% of our guests would participate, either arriving or leaving. Our initial KPI turned out to be well short with over 60% of our guests participating.

Speaking about the game, HSBC vice president of brand and sponsorship Sourik Sinha said: “A unique, memorable, money-can’t-buy experience. The real challenge is always making technology relevant and in this case we were able to humanise technology.”

Why did this game have such high levels of participation and what are the learnings that other brands can take from this experience?

People will only spend a moment with you: Keep your experience short and simple. This is an obvious statement but one that is often forgotten when working with technology. The reason we rejected a lot of our initial ideas is because they weren’t simple enough. 

We were asking for too much of a person’s time or expecting them to know the intricate rules of rugby. Our experience took 90 seconds. A person was asked to enter their name on an iPad, take three kicks on goal and then collect a printed photo.

People behave differently in different settings: From building similar experiences in the past we knew that people would be open to playing our game because of its time and location, compared to if we’d hosted this experience at a HSBC branch. 

The Singapore Sevens is a fun day out for the whole family. People are there to enjoy themselves and relax. Taking this experience in the branch before the event wouldn’t have worked as people are in a different mindset with other tasks taking precedence.

People appreciate and remember unique experiences: When developing the game we knew we were replicating Nintendo Wii technology, so we wanted to add unique elements to heighten the experience. 

That’s why we wanted Brian to host the experience because how often do people get to have a kick with a famous rugby player? Maybe once in a lifetime. The truth is that people appreciate and remember unique experiences and treating our most valued guests to one of these is another way for HSBC to build brand loyalty and love.

Keith Byrne is creative director at Digitas Asia-Pacific, based in Singapore


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