As the English, Scottish and Welsh national football teams prepare for the start of the Euros next week, the BBC has been busy stirring up some friendly rivalry between the contending home nations ahead of its 24/7 coverage. Its in-house team at BBC Creative talked The Drum through its hand-drawn audience-focused campaign, centered on the notion of waiting.
After a disappointing lack of sport over the past year, we’re just moments away from the first of this summer’s major sporting events – and the BBC wants football fans of England, Scotland and Wales to know that it is the destination for 24/7 Euros coverage across TV, radio and online.
The BBC Creative push centers around the insight that people have been waiting a long time for this tournament, executing this notion across a variety of media, from an animated ‘Our Wait is Over’ cartoon to an out-of-home (OOH) campaign tailored to each contending nation’s fanbase to get the UK’s football fever going.
“We had many excellent ideas. But ‘Our Wait is Over’ shone through in its simplicity,” explains Sam Pavey, planner at BBC Creative. “By tethering ourselves in this nondescript, purgatory-like waiting room we were able to write in so many stories and different nods to players and fan culture across the many different nations playing in the tournament.”
However, the route to final execution hasn’t been straightforward, with the team having to navigate the tournament’s postponement last year, which took them back to the drawing board. “We had a great idea last year that we were weeks away from shooting,” recalls Tim Jones, creative director at BBC Creative. “I’m pretty sure we were sent home the day after the preproduction meeting.”
Pavey shares that the original plan for last year’s campaign centered on the hope and excitement of a new generation in a new decade. “Together with our other major broadcast sport events, including the Olympics and Wimbledon, we wanted to signpost the summer of 2020 as decade-defining,” he says, adding, “it was written in blissful ignorance.”
Yet, despite this, Pavey says the task and objectives for this year’s campaign didn’t change, even if its methods of production had to. “We still needed to get the nation excited for the tournament on the BBC,” he says. “To signal the upcoming moments of drama, excitement and national unity that the competition brings, which feels so specific to the BBC,” but he admits that they did want to “acknowledge the weird, and frustrating, time we’ve been living in.”
This brought them to the notion of the waiting room. “The notion of waiting was the insight that informed the whole brief. Everyone’s ‘wait’ was unique and based on their own experiences as a fan or a player – but ultimately their passion and commitment is what makes that moment when the tournament does arrive all the more meaningful,” explains Jones.
While the BBC Creative team originally had a physical shoot planned in 2020, the decision for this campaign to be hand-drawn was decided very early on, even before they started writing. “The decision was partly driven by the production constraints Covid has focused upon us,” says Jones. “Shooting would have been difficult and very expensive, shooting with talent would have been almost impossible.”
“But it was a blessing in the end as it freed us up to really blur the lines between players and fans and really have fun with how everyone had been passing the time. It’s like falling asleep on the shoulder of an international footballing superstar or trying to swap a sticker for one of yourself.”
Jones highlights how the team wanted the style to have a familiar, almost comforting feel to it. “It’s been a rough year in so many ways, so making something that had a lightness, both in the writing and animation, was really important to us. Going in a more traditional, hand-drawn cell animation direction definitely gave us this.”
Center to the campaign, claims Pavey, was the BBC’s audience, who says, “the wait brought fans and stars together in a really identifiable way. We could have gone down a postcards of Europe approach – but in our more grounded premise we’ve been able to bring richer stories of fans and players to life.”
While the ‘Our Wait is Over’ animation was released back in mid-May, this week the BBC released its OOH campaign that features an array of football references tailored to each nation’s fanbase, and brings the BBC closer to fans than ever before.
Alongside other designs, England fans are reminded of the advantage of having to wait another year for the Euros with ‘At least we’ve had an extra year of penalty practice’. ‘Wales. Wales. Wales. In that order’ written in both English and Welsh has been placed across Wales, as a nod to Gareth Bale’s celebration after he helped his home nation secure its place in the competition.
Meanwhile up north, ‘Is it finally time to Boogie? Yes Sir’ is on display throughout Scotland, reminding fans of the 1970s disco classic and Scotland’s unofficial anthem.
Jones explains: “OOH really allows us to talk directly to our audiences. And with sites across all three qualifying home nations we were able to write a campaign that really reflected the wait and anticipation the fans have experienced, but in a really specific and relevant way. Of course, we wanted to do this with some humor, so this was a lot of fun for the team to write.”