Mastercard Staged an 'Out-of-This-World' Soccer Match in Zero-G

Luis Figo and fans set a new Guinness World Record

In May, targeting gender inequality in sports, Puma demonstrated the difficulty of playing on a literally unlevel soccer pitch—inclined at 4.5 degrees, rising 7 meters above the ground at one end.

But that's nothing compared to competing in zero gravity, more than 20,000 feet above the ground, which is exactly the scenario agency FP7 McCann Dubai staged for Mastercard.

In August, seven fans and Portugese football legend Luis Figo took flight aboard a sub-orbital transport fitted with a special pitch measuring 20-by-5-by-2.5 meters (that's length x width x height). The group split into two teams for a 30-minute match. Of sorts. 

Mostly, they floated and bounced and at times impressively zipped around in the unfamiliar environs—but managed to keep the game going, as you'll see in the two-minute spot and BTS reel below. Ultimately, their efforts earned a Guinness World Record for the highest-altitude football match ever played, topping out at 20,230 feet.

The Out-of-This-World Match With Luis Figo
The Out-of-This-World Match | BTS

"Football transcends boundaries and unites people around the world," Figo says in press materials. "I have played in stadiums where the electric atmosphere sparks emotions that cut across cultures and nationalities. This was the exact same experience I had playing this beautiful game at 20,000 feet above ground with a group of fearless football fanatics."

Muse chatted with FP7 creative chief Federico Fanti about the aerial escapade:

Muse: Did you study other zero-G films or campaigns for pointers?

Federico Fanti: We found inspiration in OK Go's epic music video that was also shot in zero gravity. The only difference was that they had 20 or so flights to capture everything they wanted, which they did in bits and pieces, whereas we only had one flight, and had to play our match continuously to get the record.

Where did this idea come from? Someone looked overhead and said, "Let's play soccer up there!"?

Mastercard wanted to expand its decades-long football legacy. But in a year with many prominent football campaigns, our challenge was to stand out with a one-of-a-kind event. We thought that since everyone is talking about football on the ground, why don't we take it above the ground? How about all the way up to the stratosphere? That was the genesis of this idea.

How'd you select the players—and why cast Figo?

We wanted the process to be inclusive, so we picked football fans from all over the world, from different walks of life, by asking them to share their stories and explain why football is "Priceless" to them. As for Figo, he has been a stellar ambassador for Mastercard, and has been part of several "Priceless" surprises around the world.

What sort of challenges did the film crew face?

This campaign tested the entire team's mettle—the sheer resilience of the agency, production staff and our brave clients. We were told "It's not possible" at almost every stage of the process. We were told it was impossible to build a football pitch on the plane because of the flammable materials, so we had to research and source unique materials. Also, it was deemed impossible to have the game continue throughout the flight with hyper gravity, zero gravity and double gravity. So, we had to plan the gameplay in a way that we could play the match continuously.

Filming the action must have been exceedingly difficult.

We had to record the stunt without having cameras flying everywhere or interrupting the game. We consulted with experts to position the cameras at the right spots and had multiple cameramen on the sidelines. There was also concern about whether we would make the minimum amount of playtime required to make the world record. We had to map the game so that the timekeepers and Guinness official would qualify it as such. In such a foreign environment, where none of us had ever been before, there were a lot of variables that we could not control. All we could do was plan as intricately as possible and then hope for the best!

There must be all kind of anecdotes from such an unusual shoot.

I guess the funniest part was at the beginning, as the players had never been in zero gravity before, and for the first 22 seconds no one was even able to get to the ball or hit it. But after the first few parabolas they got the hang of it rather quickly, with some of them literally flying from one side to the other, doing bicycle kicks, flips and headers. Sometimes it felt like we were watching a superhero movie.

There was barfing, right?

We had a couple of motion sickness "adventures," but again hats off to the troops for pulling through no matter what!


Agency: FP7 McCann Dubai
Federico Fanti, Chief Creative Officer
Tarek Ali Ahmad, Head of Business Leadership
Mario Morby, Head of Strategic Planning
Ranin Zbib, Senior Account Director
Maryam Habib, Account Manager
Josephine Younes, Senior Creative Director
Nayaab Rais, Senior Creative Director
Francesco Negri, Art Director
Giovanni Scopece, Art Director
Aliza Siddiqi, Senior English Copywriter
Manar M Abdulla, Senior Arabic Copywriter
Abdul Wahid, Senior Graphic Designer
Amin Soltani, Executive Producer

Yosra AlHarouni, Agency Producer
Ann Vaas, Social Producer
Deydson Rocha, Senior Editor
Mark Cruzem, Senior Motion Graphic Designer
Talal Tariq, Content Designer
Jane Tapang, Content Designer
Khaled Hamza, Creative Services Director
Anis Zantout, Regional Digital Director
Asitha HB, Senior Illustrator

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