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How Mastercard Launched Luis Figo into Zero Gravity


Setting a Guinness World Record, FP7 McCann Dubai’s CCO Federico Fanti speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about creating a football match that’s almost out of this world

How Mastercard Launched Luis Figo into Zero Gravity

At some point, we’ve all wondered what it’s like to be in zero gravity – weightless and floating, experiencing an out-of-this-world feeling. In Mastercard’s latest campaign – with the help of FP7 McCann Dubai – the financial services company’s long-standing football legacy saw it take to the sky for a unique football match. 

Taking place at an altitude of 20,230 feet, in zero gravity conditions, Portuguese footballing legend Luis Figo and seven football fans became the first team to play football in this manner. With a resilient team working on the project, the result was something many said wasn’t possible to achieve. “We were told, ‘it's not possible’ at almost every stage of the process,” says Federico Fanti, CCO at FP7 McCann. “This campaign was the most challenging project I have done so far. The nature of this project made it impossible to forecast the final output of the stunt.” But the team managed – creating something unique enough to work and breaking a Guinness World Record.

Speaking to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani, Federico talks about the trial and error process, Mastercard’s football legacy and issues this piece of advice, “I would definitely eat lighter before entering a parabolic flight.”

LBB> Where did the idea of breaking a world record come from? What was the client’s response when they were presented with the concept?

Federico> Mastercard wanted to expand its decades-long football legacy. In a year with numerous prominent football campaigns, our challenge was to stand out with a one-of-a-kind event. We thought that since everyone is talking about football on the ground, why don't we take it above the ground? How about all the way up to the stratosphere? That was the genesis of this idea. The client was brave enough to support the vision of the agency from day one, and the final result was satisfyingly rewarding for both sides. 

LBB> How did you find the fans you featured, and what was their reaction to being in the campaign with Luis Figo?

Federico> We wanted the process to be inclusive, so we picked football fans from all over the world and from different walks of life. We asked them to share their stories and explain why football is ‘Priceless’ in their own personal ways. And then, we opted for the seven ‘unlikely heroes’ to play football on an ‘out of this world’ pitch with a legend like Luis Figo, so you can imagine the thrill and the excitement they had during the whole stunt. 

LBB> How long did it take to create the airborne pitch, and what were some of the elements you were keen to incorporate into the design? What adaptations did you have to make e.g. handrails on the ceiling, etc.?

Federico> This campaign tested the entire team's mettle, as well as the sheer resiliency of the agency, production staff and our brave clients. We were told, ‘it's not possible’ at almost every stage of the process. We were told it was impossible to build a football pitch on the plane because of the flammable materials, so we had to research and source unique materials. Also, it was deemed impossible to have the game continue throughout the flight with hypergravity, zero gravity and double gravity. Therefore, we had to plan the gameplay in a way that we could play the match continuously.

Unlike every previous stunt in zero-g - where the content was shot during multiple parabolic flights - we decided to raise the difficulty level by shooting our match in one single flight and with just one day of rehearsal before the actual stunt.

LBB> In terms of timescale, how long did it take to create the pitch, film the campaign and release it to the audience?

Federico> From the ideation of the idea to the final on-air of the content, this project took around six to seven months.

LBB> What was the most challenging part of creating this campaign? Can you talk us through some of the details?

Federico> This campaign was the most challenging project I have done so far. The nature of this project made it impossible to forecast the final output of the stunt. In a zero-g football match, everything is absolutely unpredictable. You cannot control the ball in zero-g and most importantly, you cannot fully control your own body so there is no way to direct a bunch of people with zero experience on a parabolic flight. 

We had to record the stunt without having cameras flying everywhere or interrupting the game. We consulted with experts to position the cameras at the right spots, and had multiple camera operators on the sidelines. There was also concern about whether we would make the minimum amount of playtime required to make the world record. We had to map the game so that the timekeepers and Guinness officials would qualify it as such. In such a foreign environment where none of us had ever been before, there were a lot of variables that we could not control. All we could do was plan as intricately as possible, and then hope for the best!

LBB> Looking at the behind the scenes footage, it really does look like an incredible experience. What were some of your favourite parts of working on this spot?

Federico> Every little step of this project was really exceptional. The making of the football pitch was very rewarding for a visual geek like me, but the most exciting part was watching and experiencing the dumb and whimsical fails during the match.

I guess the funniest part was at the beginning. As the players had never been in zero gravity before, for the first 22 seconds, no one was even able to get to the ball or hit it. But after the first few parabolas, they got the hang of it rather quickly with some of them literally flying from one side to the other doing bicycle kicks, flips and headers. I remember at times, it felt like we were watching a superhero movie.

LBB> Is there anything you now know that you’d make sure to consider if you did the project again? 

Federico> Since I got sick after the 13th parabola, I would definitely eat lighter before entering a parabolic flight.

LBB> How has the audience responded to the campaign? 

Federico> The response of the audience was absolutely fantastic.

TV news, press and radio stations worldwide talked about the campaign. This stunt engaged and compelled much more people than the formidable heroes who experienced it.

LBB> Would you like to share anything else with us?

Federico> Just a piece of advice for all the creatives who will read this article: if someone tells you that your idea is just impossible, just go for it big time!


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FP7 McCann Dubai, Thu, 20 Oct 2022 15:54:00 GMT