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Snapchat honors Black footballers with AR statues

Virtual statues of Eartha Pond, John Barnes, Rachel Yankey and Viv Anderson outside Wembley Stadium

Snapchat is redressing an imbalance of representation between Black British footballers and their white counterparts by immortalizing absent greats with a series of augmented reality statues.

Developed in partnership with creator collective Kugali and anti-racism organization Kick it Out, the promotion responds to the fact that of 200 statues dedicated to footballers across the UK, just five depict Black players.

Snapchat was moved to act in celebration of the European Championships by showing the contributions of Black footballers, who now comprise 25% of all professional players in England but were entirely unrepresented in statue form until ten years ago.

Over the past decade, this imbalance has slowly been corrected, first by a statue for Thierry Henry at The Emirates in 2011, then Arthur Wharton at St George’s Park in 2014, and most recently a statue of ‘The Three Degrees’ – Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson – at West Brom in 2019.

In the absence of bronze representation, Snapchat is taking matters into its own hands by creating augmented reality depictions of four of England’s most influential Black footballers – Eartha Pond, John Barnes, Rachel Yankey and Viv Anderson. Together they virtually flank a statue of Bobby Moore outside Wembley Stadium in silent tribute to the contributions made by Black sportspeople to the national game.

Appearing as a Lens on the Snapchat Carousel, as well as by scanning a Snapcode, the digital tribute illustrates an alternate reality where skin color is no barrier to being placed on a pedestal.

Tobi Ruth Adebekun, SnapNoir Europe lead, said: “At Snap, we believe that Augmented Reality is a powerful format for storytelling and we began thinking last year about how we can use our technology and platform to tell stories that are rarely ever told. We’re grateful to have partners in Kick It Out who have been at the forefront of making change in football in the UK, and creative partners in Kugali who are dedicated to telling African stories. Together, we hope that these Lenses educate Snapchatters on Black British history and inspire them to seek out different stories and perspectives.”

The custom Lens was built by Kugali Media, creators of augmented reality experiences focused on African storytelling.

Snapchat is evolving its augmented reality technology away from unicorn rainbow vomit toward more powerful purpose-driven approaches, illustrating the potential of augmented reality to advertisers.