What is it like to ‘play’ with Lionel Messi?
There is a moment when it hits you that you are working with Lionel Messi.
Earlier this year, WePlay was appointed by Bitget, one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges, as the lead creative agency on a campaign fronted by maybe the greatest footballer of all time.
It was a project that required meticulous planning, clear and considerate communication, and smart use of resources. In other words, it demanded the highest standards of professionalism. But there is a brief point on the day of a shoot like this one where it can be hard to stop the butterflies from fluttering. The call comes to the set: Leo is on his way.
Planning and communicating
The Messi campaign with Bitget had a reasonably quick turnaround: six weeks from a successful pitch to the day of filming in Paris. That meant every process had to be managed as efficiently as possible. You confirm timings and expectations. You move quickly to confirm a location for the shoot. You identify the people who will be taking part and make sure any and all travel arrangements are in place ahead of time.
You come to understand the lines of communication. An athlete with the profile of Lionel Messi is operating under enormous pressure on the pitch and is in high demand everywhere else. They assemble a team around them that they trust, each with a specific role, and it is important to deal with that in a considerate, respectful way.
The six weeks of preparation for the shoot become an all-encompassing assignment. Bitget had secured three hours of Messi’s time for the campaign and not a moment of it can be wasted. The concept is outlined, storyboards are agreed upon between the brand and the client, and every detail is slotted into place.
Boundaries are set early on, which helps to inform creative decisions. As well as time restrictions, there are obvious limits on what is appropriate for a brand activation. A talent like Messi is a precious asset – not to mention an expensive one. Asking him to try an overhead kick on a concrete studio floor is not worth the risk.
Taking your shot
Ultimately, though, you do want him right at the centre of the campaign. He is a compelling global figure; if you wanted to, you could sit him on a suit in a chair and people would pay attention. We opted for something more dynamic and impactful, but to make the best use of Messi’s time, we decided to keep the shoot itself straightforward and layer in visual effects in post-production.
For the period you have access to the talent, the primary concern is that they are relaxed. Athletes are not actors. In Messi’s case, we knew he was arriving after a morning training session with Paris Saint-Germain and that this would not be his only promotional activity of the week. We worked with a pre-approved local production company that had a strong relationship with Messi’s team.
The shoot itself – which comprised stills and merchandise signings, as well as video capture – had to be designed with near-military precision. For the talent, the experience must be as smooth as possible.
In that respect, the rehearsal for the shoot – which was done on this occasion on the previous day with Messi’s stunt double – is almost more important. That is the time to experiment with lighting and framing, or identify and eliminate potential headaches. You will only have a couple of chances to get it right when it counts.
Messi himself, for the record, was incredibly professional. He is quiet and focused but also humble. He showed interest in what the production crew was doing and was happy to take some personal photos with the team once the real work was over. Most importantly, we got everything we needed to finish the campaign.
That, of course, is what it comes down to: making sure the client is happy and benefits from their access to an elite-level brand ambassador.
But when the job is done, the extraordinary reality sinks in. That is the part that stays with you.
To view the full Bitget x Messi case study and watch our hero video, click here
To learn more about Bitget, click here