Recently retired sprint superstar and UNICEF ambassador Usain Bolt fronted a smart social media PR stunt across his own personal platforms to promote Soccer Aid.
The campaign mechanic was based on a classic ‘tease and reveal’ approach built around Bolt’s own Twitter and Instagram feeds and his Facebook page and.
The ‘tease’ phase began on 25 February with a Tweet and Facebook post from Bolt, a well-known football fan and a supporter of Manchester United, announcing that he had signed for a football team.
The 100m world record holder has often said that he’d like to play professional football after retiring from sprinting and the tease sparked something of a global soccer media and fan frenzy of speculation.
Fans sought clues as to which clubs might be in the frame: from his favourite side Manchester United, to those (like Borussia Dortmund) who are sponsored by Bolt’s long-time kit supplier Puma, while several South African sides were also subject to rumours.
A handful of trusted journalists (at the BBC, Manchester Evening News and Evening Standard) were actually provided with the name of that team under embargo and none gave the game away.
As promised, Bolt revealed the name of the team this morning – it turned out that rather than an elite club, the sprinter had signed for a charity XI.
The reveal phase, which unveiled that Bolt would line up for the Soccer Aid World XI in a celebrity charity match within the Soccer Aid series), ran 48 hours later on 27 February.
This creative also features Bolt’s long-term kit partner Puma which has penned a Soccer Aid kit supply deal and it was further supported by follow-up promotional content pieces across Soccer Aid’s own channels.
The game, which will take place on 10 June at Manchester’s Old Trafford, will be played in support of Unicef.
The UN charity is organizing the game through Soccer Aid Productions: a new joint venture created between it and Triple S Sports & Entertainment Group.
The campaign was created by UNICEF’s in-house press team and Triple S Communications (the PR arm of the group launched in 2016 by former FA communications chief man Mark Whittle).
“The Usain ‘tease’ on Sunday night was a collaborative effort between the PR teams of many high-profile stakeholders involved in the new Soccer Aid for Unicef. These partners include Soccer Aid co-founder Robbie Williams, Unicef UK, ITV, Manchester United, Triple S Events, Initial Productions and of course Usain Bolt himself,” explained Whittle.
“Given the number of people involved it’s a credit to the Soccer Aid Productions team that the world’s media was kept guessing until the reveal at 8 am this morning.”
This was clearly a smart PR play and the statistics prove it.
The tease post generated 15k Likes and 7.2k retweets on Bolt’s Twitter feed, 320k on Instagram and 620k views on his Facebook page, while the reveal post notched up 3.5k Likes and 9.7k retweets on Twitter, 450k on Instagram and 645k Facebook views.
NB In total Bolt boasts 5.1m Twitter followers and 19m Facebook followers
Plus it generated countless £$€ in unearned media value.
Using Bolt’s social channels to initially create intrigue and anticipation genuinely managed to surprise plenty of football fans and many in the media too.
So it certainly generated plenty of traction and managed to cut through the crowded sports marketing space which currently includes plenty of Winter Olympic/Paralympic work.
Most people don’t mind being pranked now and then if it is for a good cause.