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Puma launches Arsenal kit with water projection film on the Thames

July 11, 2014 2:41 PM
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Once, a football team might have unveiled its new kit with the star player doing a few keepy-uppies on the training pitch and a photographer from the local rag. Last night, Puma unveiled its new kit for Arsenal with an epic 90-second commercial broadcast onto the River Thames using a water projection screen and streamed live to the world...

On the banks of the River Thames last night, passers-by were treated to a spectacular sight. A giant projection of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, appearing to walk on water, introduced “the coming together of Puma and Arsenal” before cutting to show a series of players demonstrating their skills in a trio of new kits: one red, one blue and yellow, and a third dark blue shirt with lime green diagonal stripes.

Once, a football team might have unveiled its new kit with the star player doing a few keepy-uppies on the training pitch and a photographer from the local rag. Last night, Puma unveiled its new kit for Arsenal with an epic 90-second commercial broadcast onto the River Thames using a water projection screen and streamed live to the world...

In the background of the film, counting down to the final reveal, was a giant ticking clock projected on to the face of the London Eye. As well being visible from the banks of the Thames, the project was broadcast online to Arsenal fans around the world, and from the window of the club’s Carnaby Street store, where players Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini posed as live mannequins modelling the designs.

The event was Puma’s biggest product launch to date, and is part of an extensive print and digital campaign to promote the brand's new partnership with the club, which was previously sponsored by Nike. As Arsenal is based in north London, it may have seemed like an odd choice of location, but GBH creative director Mark Bonner says it was carefully selected.

“Arsenal was established south of the river in Woolwich and then moved north, but we wanted to establish the launch firmly in London's centre. It’s a bold, aggressive thing to do but it also has a resonance – the clock face looks out to the north from the Southbank, and represents the famous clock that Arsenal transported from its original home to what is now the Emirates Stadium. As it was being broadcast to important Asian and North American markets, the location also provided a really iconic view of London for fans in those regions,” he says.

The launch film was also designed with the viewing location in mind. "Everything was carefully positioned, so the clock lines up with the eye, and the ball strikes it - the aim was to create something tremendously imposing, which, when viewing it and feeling the spray from the water screen [which pumps water at hundreds of gallons a minute, creating a fine mist which acts as a translucent screen], would be quite a visceral experience," says Bonner.

The campaign promoting Puma and Arsenal’s partnership is based on the concept, 'Stronger Together', and Bonner says Puma has sought to link both brands' (yes, Arsenal is now a brand) record of innovation. "Both have a lot of firsts - Puma launched the first kit for a continent [the African Unity strip] and the first all in one kit for Cameroon. Arsenal was the first team to have numbers on their shirts, and the first to play under floodlights."

The campaign is divided into three strands - Future, Forever, Victorious - which each represent a different kit. Forever (the red home kit) supposedly represents Arsenal’s heritage, while the away is titled Victorious after, apparently, the succesful away games Arsenal have enjoyed. The third, Future, will be used for European matches and by the club’s youth teams, and Puma says it represents Arsenal's focus on the future and on nurturing new talent. It is supposedly the first Arsenal kit to have diagonal stripes - or lime green, for that matter.

In the weeks leading up to last night’s kit launch a series of 15-second teaser videos were released, showing footage of Arsenal players and fans sharing reflections on the club, its history and its future. Each feature snippets of conversation, quick cuts and a bass-heavy soundtrack, building a sense of suspense before revealing the launch date and Stronger Together hashtag.

Following the event, a trio of 50 second films will also be released online. Future features footage of players from Arsenal’s youth teams, and Oliver Giroud mouthing audio clips from young players about their dreams of playing for the club. In Forever, Jack Wilsthire mimes the words of 1971 FA Cup hero Charlie George, while in Victorious, a series of players voice audio clips from recent stars such as Thierry Henry, reflecting on title and championship wins.

Some of the players are clearly more comfortable than others delivering their lines, but Bonner says the entire squad was keen to take part. “The club loved the idea, and thought it created a really powerful statement about player’s understanding the club’s history, and being the modern carriers of those stories from the past. “They were all pretty fired up on the day - they didn’t want to let the kids or the fans’ voices down - and I think fans will really appreciate the effort to connect this kit launch with the club’s story,” he adds.

Each film features some great visual effects, inspired by the watery theme of last night’s launch: all three are given a colour wash in the same hue as the corresponding kit - red for Forever, yellow for Victorious and blue for Future - forming a hazy backdrop and, in footage of on-pitch action, giving the appearance of crackled and ageing film. As with the launch film, players appear in white and are struck by a ball which, on contact, creates a splash of colour, which spreads into the final design. “The idea was to present the kits as being soaked in the stories of these players and their victories, as if they’re imbued in the fabric,” explains Bonner.

A similar effect has also been applied to an extensive print campaign, which features 119 executions. Photographs were shot by David Kerrick and retouched by Tapestry, which experimented with smoke, clouds and ink on glass and fabric to achieve the desired result. “We wanted to create something that didn’t just feel like a montage, but looked as if the players were enveloped in these stories,” adds Bonner.

It’s been a huge collaborative effort, involving production companies Partizan and Glasshouse, as well as GBH, Tapestry and Puma. “We were able to work really closely with the production partners all the way through – we had a dozen or so review sessions with everyone to ensure the print and film work looked connected,” adds Bonner.

“We wanted to express the message in a fan-like way – all of the branding and graphic language is aimed at three generations of Arsenal fans, from the young to what the kids call the Golden Gooners, and we really liked the idea of the expressing those messages in an old-school, analogue way” explains Bonner.

New kit launches are becoming increasingly elaborate affairs, but it seems Arsenal and Puma's is the biggest, boldest and most extravagant yet. "We've done several with Puma over the years, but none quite like this - and I think it's the meaningful translation of a club's values that we've been involved in," says Bonner. "We're very proud of that marketing strategy, which brings these three individual kits into one, cohesive story."


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