Behind the scenes on a Messi shoot

Creating growth: introducing the WePlay Creative Studio

Sami Izzet

23rd Feb 2023

Creative has a massive impact on marketing

We’re all visual people. We engage with and buy into things that have a certain aesthetic – a clarity or resonance.

If you look at all the top brands, it would be difficult to find one that is not well presented in terms of how it looks and what it says. Great branding is scalable for what businesses need to achieve.

So creative and design are fundamental in delivering rounded campaigns for our clients. And that’s why, over the past year, WePlay has put so much work into building out an in-house Creative Studio that can truly add another dimension.

That is changing how we can look at creative. While high-quality design still plays a crucial role in driving performance and data lead campaigns, we’re now placing more emphasis on the storytelling aspect of creative work and ready to play in that strategic area.

Our partners are progressively acknowledging the significance of creating a compelling brand narrative that encapsulates their offerings and entices their target audience. It is our objective to facilitate the realisation of this goal.

Building out WePlay’s creative capabilities

When I first looked at our Creative team last year and what we were doing, a lot of it fell on the execution side. We would deliver supporting paid advertising and social creative for existing partners, designing assets that would live on their channels.


This is extremely valuable – it is vital for building engagement – and will always be part of our DNA. We had also been augmenting that by extending our capabilities in video production. Still, to truly unlock the potential of what we had to offer, we needed to step up from that content support and start getting our Creative Players into strategic conversations.

That meant building a team that could operate at different levels – one that could still excel in delivering those key assets but also have a seat at the table when it came to talking about brand identity, positioning and messaging.

As you start taking on responsibilities like logo brand development, brand design, brand positioning, and big budget videos, then the projects inevitably become more complex and expensive. Nonetheless, we wanted to be more ambitious, as it would transform the influence of our creative. In the opportunities we’ve taken so far, we’ve moved from being a supplier of content to a full-service creative agency.

Why the Creative Studio matters

People think of creative as fun: something appealing to look at and enjoy.

It certainly can be, and we get a lot of satisfaction out of making things that others love. However, it is easy to underestimate just what creative can do.

As an agency, fundamentally, we work to solve problems. So that is what we try to focus on through a creative lens.

Whatever the brief, whatever the project, whoever the partner is, somewhere among the pages of documentation and the numerous conversations in workshops, there are a few key issues that you’re trying to solve. With great creative, you can identify that challenge and not just solve it but do so in an elegant, dynamic way that really lands.

For example, we recently produced a new visual identity for the International Boxing Association (IBA). They have a long-term strategic view of becoming the global home of boxing and that had to start with their pinnacle events.

The Men’s and Women’s World Championships were being operated by local organising committees that developed a new look and feel each time. For the IBA’s role to be globally recognised, it needed greater consistency that still allowed the character of the host to come through. This year, the women’s event is in New Delhi and the men’s is in Tashkent, Uzbekistan – two very different destinations.

It also needed to be a brand that was easy for sponsors and local partners to use. There is no point having something that was beautiful to look at but difficult to implement. So, the IBA wanted consistency, adaptability, and ease of use – and that’s what we based the brand around.

International Boxing Association Women's World Championship

Creative problem-solving can emerge in other ways. One of our most exciting projects in 2022 was delivering the campaign for Lionel Messi’s partnership with Bitget, a world-leading cryptocurrency exchange based in Singapore.

It was an incredible opportunity. We were working with one of the greatest athletes of all time – a global icon. At the same time, there is a lot to consider when you are involved with a brand ambassador at that level.

You have the creative puzzle of aligning the brand values with the image of that talent. And you also have a very serious practical challenge. Put simply, we only had around three hours of Messi’s time and we needed to make use of every minute.

That meant developing a visual style that would cut through and connect with that key information, while delivering it in a compact, efficient shoot. Sometimes that focus can help: you distil everything that matters into a succinct message, and you can then become more granular and detailed underneath.

Behind the scenes of a shoot with Messi and newly launched creative studio

Results through collaboration

When it comes to collaborative projects, it all comes back to honesty. It is important to be open about expectations, and not afraid of pushing back or giving the right advice.

Ultimately, we are paid to deliver for the client. My view is that they’ve hired us to be the experts, and they’ve hired us for our help. So we need to bring their vision to life but we also have to explain what we think will and will not work. Our partners will often introduce some outstanding ideas of their own that we want to incorporate, and sometimes we know from experience that certain things will not be possible. It all demands a relationship where both sides are committed to the best outcome.

That honesty also builds a level of trust, which is what you need when you’re working to tight deadlines on big projects. That is the bedrock of everything that we do.

Those conversations must start as early as possible. For the bigger strategic projects, especially, we always like to open with a deep dive or discovery session, where we look through audience data and try to understand the full picture.

That process is crucial because it gives you so much more leverage and validation. Everyone has an opinion about design. If you put creative in front of anyone on a project, regardless of whether they are the account executive or the CEO, they will have a personal reaction.

But if you can tell a story through that creative, and you have research that proves your narrative, and you can show the client how it will trigger the outcomes they want, then you remove that layer of subjectivity and bring everyone back to the common goal.

The same goes for your partners’ expectations around tradition and tone of voice. They may want to keep a thread running through to what they have done in the past. Or they may want to be completely disruptive, more colloquial or dramatic, to resonate with a younger or different audience. We will often be working towards the latter, which means we are moving away from traditional fonts or using surprising colours. Bold decisions can prompt diverse responses, which only makes the dialogue and sense of shared purpose more important.

The next steps for our Creative Studio

For all the effort that has gone into the last year, we’ve been having a lot of fun.

The big brand production pieces and videos are fantastic to work on. They can inspire everything else you do, all the way down to the smaller social and paid media executions. We love getting into the visual narrative of a brand and being given that accountability over what fans will see, and we’re excited to be doing more of those projects.

Meanwhile, we want to align everything to our core mission as an agency: growing engaged audiences that grow revenues. We have to turn fan engagement into action.

No matter what you’re trying to do through digital marketing – whether that’s convincing someone to buy tickets or merchandise, register for subscriptions or sign up for mailing lists – great design is an incredibly significant component.

Creative and media can be a bridge to a decision. That is what we will keep building.

If you want to see how our Creative team can energise your audience to accelerate your brand’s growth, get in touch.