An evocative short film celebrating Standard Chartered Bank's decade-long sponsorship of the Liverpool Football Club will have you seeing red.
That's because it's the English Premier League team's primary color. In fact, they're nicknamed the Reds, and the hue shows up just about everywhere in "A Liverpool Story." Red frosting decorates a soccer-jersey-themed birthday cake, while crimson night shirts, handbags and ballet-costume embellishments also appear.
Devised by TBWA\Singapore and Somesuch director Rollo Jackson, the stirring 90-second spot—arriving amid a historic season for the club, which is 26-1-1 and clearly en route to its first league title since 1990—was shot on location in the northern port city using mostly local talent. The British bank's presence is negligible, confined to a logo at the end, allowing the work to transcend branded content and stand on its own as an artful meditation on the power of fandom.
Jackson's story spans 10 years in the life of the franchise and one of its uber-fans, a schoolgirl who feels a powerful connection to the club and its players. Sometimes, her Reds worship feels like youthful infatuation, as she follows games on her phone rather than paying attention in class. As she matures, however, we see her draw strength from the team's fighting spirit, and come to understand LFC's hallowed place in the community.
"The bank wanted to celebrate a partnership that has seen LFC go through so many highs and lows, so many challenges," TBWA executive creative director Andy Grant tells Muse. In turn, that commitment mirrors the bank's dedication to customers and partners worldwide, Grant says.
Capturing an authentic atmosphere was paramount; hence the local casting with snatches of dialogue coming to the fore.
"We didn't want to just see these characters, we wanted to hear them, and really bring them to life," says agency associate creative director Jeff O'Keefe. "For example, when the young woman says goodbye to her mother on her way to the chip shop, she says 'Ta-ra,' which is slang for 'Bye' in Liverpool. You can also hear the Liverpudlian accent in the friend's line, 'He's got this,' and in the lead actor's line, 'Go on, lads.'"
Pride of place and a strong sense of shared cultural identity shine through, with the city's tight-knit, middle/working-class ethos conveyed by the actors and reinforced by the appearance of Liverpool landmarks such as the Trent Alexander-Arnold mural and Anfield Stadium.
"I wanted to make a film that pays homage to LFC's 700 million fans worldwide, capturing the feeling of hope, disappointment and euphoria Liverpool fans the world over have experienced," says Jackson, whose background in documentaries serves him well here. "Aesthetically, my approach was to make a film that was understated—from the cast to the locations to how we lit it—and to let the emotion come through naturally rather than tell people what to feel."
Indeed, the muted palette draws us in and keeps things real. Images of the team's triumphs, such as its UEFA Champions League title last year, and travails—including its dismal start in 2014, the retirement of Steven Gerrard and departure of Fernando Torres—heighten the poignancy.
A breathy take on "You'll Never Walk Alone," originally from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel, drives the odyssey. Emerging artist Astræa performs the track, which will soon drop on Spotify.
"Over the years, it has become an anthem and sung by the fans before every match," says O'Keefe. "One of the earliest popular versions of the song was recorded by a Liverpool band called Gerry and the Pacemakers [contemporaries of Liverpool's most famous group, the Beatles], which gives it extra meaning."
Streaming proceeds will benefit Chartered's Futuremakers charity, supporting economic equality and helping young people reach their potential.
In a sense, the film's overall approach resembles efforts from athletic apparel companies Puma and Adidas, along with leagues such as the NBA, that seek to fuse sports with various aspects of popular culture. Though differing in details, such campaigns acknowledge sports fandom as a lifestyle by which some folks, and even entire communities, increasingly define themselves.
"A Liverpool Story" follows that game plan, providing a bolder emotional payoff. Here, fandom is inextricably and believably woven into the human condition. Everyone in town—and, by extension, the Standard Chartered brand—plays for the same team.
"Our relationship goes above and beyond sponsorship," says the bank's global head of brand, Emma Sheller. "It is a shared connection based on values and heritage that has enabled us to create unique, purposeful moments for clients, communities and supporters across the world."
The initiative launches this week across TV, cinema, social media and LFC's fan channels.
Executive Creative Director: Hagan de Villiers & Andy Grant
Creative Director: Perry Essig & AS Anam
Associate Creative Director: Jeff O'Keefe
Senior Art Director: Paulo Cruz
Planner: Robin Nayak
Global Business Lead: Melissa Hill
Group Account Director: Benoit Freyburger
Brand Director: Julia Watson Donnert
Brand Manager: EuChuan Then
Brand Executive: Seana Carter
Project Director: Debora Minasi
Emma Sheller – Global Head, Brand & Marketing
Caroline Darcy – Global Head, Sponsorship & Events
Louise Cullen – Project Lead, Brand Refresh
Miguel Betrisey – Head, Sponsorships
Marc Davies – Senior Manager, Sponsorships
Executive Producers: Haydn Evans & Ryan Shanholtzer
Director - Rollo Jackson
Executive Producer - Scott O’Donnell
Producer - Tom Gardner
Production Manager - Maddy Perkins
Cinematographer - Bobby Shore
Production Designer - Sami Khan
Costume Stylist - Verity May Lane
Casting Director - Martin Gibbins
Liverpool Service Production
Time Based Arts
Colourist - Simone Grattarola
Editor - Ryan Boucher
Sound Designer - Peter Duffy
Sound Mix - Factory Studios
Singapore Sound Mix – Song Zu
Head of Sound Design - Damian Waddell
Executive Producer - Donny Pereira
Singapore Post Production - Heckler
Executive Producer: Richard Mayo-Smith
Flame Artists: Pedro Santos, Sacha Schmidt
Music Supervision - Arnold Hattingh & Harley Beckmann-Hawksley @ Theodore / Wake The Town.
Publisher: Peer Music / Concord Music Publishing