Celcom uses Olympic gold medallist as its brand ambassador

  • Business
  • Saturday, 27 Apr 2013

WHAT would be a great way to deliver an advertising message regarding a superfast mobile network? For Celcom Axiata Bhd, it is to bring in the fastest man alive.

Malaysia was shook up when, like a bolt out of the blue, Celcom Axiata unveiled its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) campaign featuring Usain Bolt as the ambassador.

If you've never heard of Bolt, well, he is known as the fastest man that ever walk on this world. He ran the100 metres in 9.58 seconds and holds several Olympic gold medals for sprint.

Celcom works with advertising agency M&C Saatchi (M) Sdn Bhd to construct the campaign featuring Bolt to stamp Celcom's position as the fastest network provider in Malaysia. The campaign is supported through several platforms. At its heart is a 60-second video with the tagline The Fastest Territory is Yours!

The video starts with a mysterious hoodie-clad male figure sprinting around Kuala Lumpur city. His energy, in the form of blue streaks, is influencing people around him to move faster. At the end of the video, the figure removes his hood and reveals himself to the viewer as Bolt.

Despite what the video shows, the actual shots of Bolt running were filmed in Bolt's native country, Jamaica, with post-production done in Malaysia. And all along, the shooting took place in a mansion converted into a studio.

The creative behind the campaign was spearheaded by M&C Saatchi, and the team was led by the agency's associate creative director Ahmad Fariz and creative group head Choo Chee Wee, under the guidance of the company'smanaging director Datin Lara Hussein.

Lara is very pleased with the outcome given the time constraint. The team had only days to prepare and the production crew had only six hours to shoot Bolt in action.

“Bolt prefers us to run the shooting in Jamaica; thus I would say our main challenges are the time management as well as logistical constraints,” she adds.

She prefers not to share the total production cost, but indicates that “it was definitely worth it”.

A lot of talents were involved in the production for the video and photography session, ranging from production crew, to a famous athlete, to photographers, to Jamaica's production team. All together they were determined to create an innovative and effective advertisement video to send out a clear message The Fastest Territory is Yours!.

“Our target is to make it simple and effective,” says Lara.

Almost 20 people were flown to Jamaica and they spent only three days there. “One day is for setting up equipment, one day for shooting, and a day for departure.”

To ensure that the shooting ran smoothly, M&C Saatchi hired German director Aleksander Bach who has a vast experience with video advertisement production, including shooting commercials for Mercedes-Benz and Nike.

“We had several directors lined up, but in the end we chose him because of his techniques and experience. The shooting session had to be perfect, as we only had six hours with Bolt,” says Ahmad Fariz.

According to the agency, trying to capture the best photos of Bolt took longer than shooting the video.

“We needed to get the best shots, creating the perfect motion of his muscle movement to look seamless, something you can't replicate; thus we made him run for almost two hours!” Ahmad Fariz explains.

Bolt even quipped that he never ran so much in one day.

Fariz says the relatively-small shooting space was a challenge for Bolt as well, “but we made do with what we had.”

The campaign will run across TV, print, outdoor communication and digital media.

Meanwhile, the video ad has been available on TV, Facebook and YouTube since Monday, April 22.

Asked on the level of the effectiveness of the campaign, Lara says the campaign is to promote a network; thus it is difficult to measure the results compared with a campaign that promotes a product.

“Using an icon is a very quick way (to get the message across) if you get the right one. Having an endorsement campaign is a very good strategy; it is impactful if we can do it right and get the right icon. The only problem is that it (the process) takes a long time,” she explains.

Lara says with the digital network platforms such as YouTube that reach a bigger audience, the Malaysian brand also has the opportunity to be recognised globally.

To promote the campaign, M&C Saatchi introduces teaser billboards with the silhouette of a man replicating the famous Usain Bolt pose along Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong and Summit USJ and a 10-second viral video with The Fastest is Coming tagline before the campaign's official launch.

This is not the first time the telecommunications giant is using a sports personality in its marketing campaign.

Previously, Celcom had a football icon line-up, which included John Terry, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Robert Pires.

“However, we had stopped using sports athletes or celebrities (like Maya Karin) since 2009,” says Celcom chief marketing office Zalman Aefendy Zainal Abidin.

Zalman says it is Celcom's strategy to unveil its latest icon now, since it has been a while since it featured icons in its marketing campaign.

“We want to make a bold statement in our campaign. We believe the best way to deliver an impactful campaign is to use icons because they humanise the product,”

“Having said that, if we have continued to have famous icons all the way, then it may become a blind spot, so now is the right time to bring them back,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Under the same campaign, Celcom also uses two other speed icons, namely Flash (comic book superhero that possesses “super-speed” ability) and a cheetah (the world's fastest animal).

According to Zalman, all the icons are selected because it is align with theme, which is “Speed”. “We selected all the icons representing their respective genres.”

The campaign is scheduled to run for two months, Zalman says there is a possibility for an extension.

“There will be more to come,” he adds.

In conjunction with the campaign period, Celcom is also conducting a series of activities to further support the campaign .

Celcom is currently having a Can You Bolt? contest on Facebook. The contest will require participants to submit photos of themselves imitating Bolt's famous pose. Through the contest, participants stand a chance to win a free 4G LTE modem with free three-month subscription.

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