What does it take to win the most important game in the world?
If you still haven’t seen this week’s World Cup advert, waste no time in checking out “The Game Before the Game”, a star-studded mini-film from Beats by Dr Dre. Directed by photographer-turned-filmmaker Nabil Elderkin (who has done videos for Kanye West, Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj, among many others), the shots pan across Brazil as locals and legends prepare for the most important game of their lives.
In one week it has amassed close to 8.5 million views. Why?
It shows, rather than tells. It makes you feel alive. It’s theater in and of itself, and it’s the theater of the game and what it takes to go out there and win: love, hunger, family, prayer, wild explosions of passion, ritual, and sacrifice. It’s inspiring and epic. It’s driven by music.
Coincidentally, it’s also a plug for Apple, who recently announced that it is buying Beats Electronics for $3 billion. In the film, soccer player Neymar Jr. sits in the locker room; intently focused and plugged into a gold iPhone 5S fashioned with Beats headphones, he talks to his father, who – speaking in whispers from the favelas of Brazil – tells his son to “run like it’s the last day of your life.”
The equipment is easy to miss, as the screen fills with the likes of LeBron James, Lil Wayne, Serena Williams, Rio Ferdinand and more, all engaging in their own preparatory games and backed by the soaring thumpbeats of “The Jungle” by X Ambassadors and Jamie M Commons. Beats chief marketing officer Omar Johnson has said that each pre-game ritual captured in the ad is authentic – “nothing is make-believe.”
Apple Needs Some New Stories to Tell
With Beats Electronics, Apple has forged a one-of-a-kind partnership with one of the world’s best content creators. It has gained access to the major storytellers and curators of the music and entertainment world, and simultaneously, the opportunity to re-imagine how it tells its own story.
Apple’s longtime emphasis on design that looks and feels high-end means it must continually expand its services and expertise, by calling on culturally savvy tastemakers to ensure that its products and marketing stay relevant with a younger, hipper and more urban audience.
It hasn’t been easy; Apple’s image and marketing has seen better times. Following backlash after its universally bombed Olympics “Genius” ads – as well as infuriated leaked emails from Apple’s Worldwide Marketing SVP to its longtime ad agency, re Samsung’s superior ad campaigns – Apple is now trying to re-find its way, building out its own internal agency to mine the best creative ideas. The move is a major (and unprecedented) step toward an increased focus on content and creative ideas.
Beats Electronics’ access to expertly-crafted content, through its strategic relationships with musicians and record labels, is another way to attack this. As the Spotify’s of the world take over the age of on-demand streaming music, we can now see Apple re-positioning itself at the core of the music industry.
The Best Brands Don’t Just Sell, They Delight
“The Game Before the Game” is a subtle reflection of this shift in content direction. Director Elderkin said in a Time interview, “The feeling I got from the get-go was that the whole project was driven by the tight relationships Beats has with these talents. The athletes and musicians worked with us as if we were all part of the same family. It didn’t feel like they were just sponsored athletes endorsing a product.”
The end product is a rich example of branded entertainment, a particular offshoot of content marketing wherein brands create entertaining content to capture and maintain consumer attention for prolonged periods of time. This genre of content marketing enables brands to shift from being mere sponsors, to creators and curators. With “The Game Before the Game,” Beats Electronics, and thus Apple, have become not only publishers but entertainers: destinations for moving, grip-at-your-emotions theater that is culturally relevant, and expertly curated.
We’ve talked before about the need for brands to tell good stories, and they’ve existed long before Beats came along. Other celebrated moments in which brands told compelling, emotional narratives include:
- Intel and Toshiba’s crowdsourced social film, “The Beauty Inside”
- Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow,” showing how a fast food chain can take a stance on processed goods
- Dove’s real beauty campaign, “Beauty Sketches”
- Fashion house Chloé’s collaboration with the New York City Ballet (a personal favorite)
We’re a technology company that appreciates creativity. And though we don’t believe technology can or should replace creativity, we think it can help facilitate it. In the same way that filmmakers need constantly evolving, state-of-the-art cameras to do their greatest work, we believe marketers should have innovative tools to create their best content. It’s a big moment in advertising and content marketing. We’re proud to be part of it, and help brands create stuff that matters.