Gambling brands; love ’em or loathe ’em, there is little doubt they are one of the biggest spenders on advertising and marketing and without them the industry would be a much poorer place, quite literally.
But oh the irony, that Ladbrokes is launching a major new ad campaign in the same week that its parent company, Entain, has been warned it could lose its licence to operate in the UK following what the Gambling Commission branded “completely unacceptable” failures over problem gamblers and potential money laundering.
Based on the iconic Rocky II scene in which everyone’s favourite pugilist runs through the streets of Philadelphia, drawing in a crowd behind him and ending with the “big steps” finale, the TV spot is claimed to be one of the most ambitious uses of visual effects ever.
Rather unimaginatively entitled “Rocky”, Ladbrokes is said to have achieved the biggest character replacement in Hollywood history by digitally replacing the original cast with hundreds of modern sports people, drummers, horse riders, drag queens, dancers, gymnasts and many, many others. The film ends with the brand’s strapline “We Play Together”.
The campaign, which has been devised by Neverland with media through the7stars, breaks tonight (August 19) during House of the Dragon, Gogglebox and The Last Leg and is timed to coincide with the weekend’s big fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk.
But creating was no small feat, involving team of movie specialists painstakingly going through the run scene of Rocky II and digitally removing all the original cast, apart from Rocky. They then mapped out the locations and camera movements of the film to allow them to film a new set of characters which could be placed back seamlessly into the original film.
The new cast were filmed in a 95m by 50m studio in Budapest, running across sets that were built to exactly match the locations Rocky runs through, including the steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Even the Gonna Fly Now soundtrack has been reimagined, with The English Session Orchestra and the London Voices choir playing their part.
The 90-second launch film is being backed by a series of digital and social activations, including Snapchat Lens enabled posters which will bring to life characters from the film and invite users to enter their world of play. The Gonna Fly Now song will also be making its way back onto the airways through a series of audio ads that will feature the song.
Ads will also run on YouTube and feature in breaks during top Premier League fixtures on Sky and BT Sport over the weekend, culminating with a spot at full time in the Manchester United v Liverpool match on August 22.
Entain UK brand marketing director James Kennedy said: “Creating this campaign has been incredibly challenging and exciting. Under our endline of ‘We Play Together’ we’re bringing more entertainment and shared experiences to Ladbrokes, and we love to do this in unexpected ways. This scene is one of the most iconic in movie history and the Rocky Balboa character is a legend of the silver screen, so mixing things up with this piece of movie magic has been a lot of fun. We’re backing Rocky all the way!”
Neverland founder Jon Forsyth, who was acting executive creative director on the campaign, added: “This is the most audacious and exciting creative idea I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t even begin to convey the amount of time, craft and skill that has gone into making this. It sets a new benchmark in film making and I take my red headband off to the talent who have made this crazy idea a reality. Knock out.”
So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?
Well, putting aside that this is not an ad for entertainment, as Ladbrokes would have us all believe, but an ad for gambling (and all the hurt that can cause), we actually quite like it, and it is way better than the usual gambling ads which tend to lean heavily on a “lads, lads, lads” ethos or, even worse, the supposed glitz and glamour of casinos.
For once, we have an ad that could attract the masses, and that, dear reader, sadly throws up a problem. As we admire the undoubted craft that has gone into its creation, others may well be tempted to lay some bets for the first time. And while that is the ultimate aim of any gambling ad, given the Gambling Commission’s ruling, can Ladbrokes actually be trusted to “Play Together”?
Decision Marketing Adometer: A “TKO” 10 out of 10 (for the ad); 2 out of 10 (for Ladbrokes)