'Take risks and back yourselves' - Behind the Campaign, with David vs Goliath starring David Haye

Stripe Communications MD Chris Stevenson lifts the lid on the campaign to turn boxing legend David Haye into a top poker player to promote a huge live tournament.

What was the campaign, in a nutshell?

David vs Goliath was created to promote Goliath, Europe’s biggest poker tournament, for Grosvenor Casinos. We had to drive reappraisal of casinos, draw new players to the game and drive admissions to Goliath. Former heavyweight boxing champion David Haye went on a journey from poker novice to taking on Goliath in 12 months. We created a feature-length documentary and a series of filmed diary entries for social and media amplification.

How did the idea come into being?

When someone asks you to think of a creative strategy to amplify an event called Goliath, creatively this is a fairly obvious place to go. However, the components had to be right for it to work. There aren't that many high-profile Davids who are relevant to our audience, have the time to spare, have never played poker before, who want to learn the game and can commit to doing so for at least 12 months. It really hinged on David Haye.

What ideas were rejected?

We didn't have any ideas rejected but there were many things that we considered for the campaign that we rejected. Also, it was something of a gamble. However, because we were filming a fly-on-the-wall documentary, disasters are as entertaining as successes, and this was certainly a bumpy road. We came to realise that even if David turned out to be a terrible poker player, as long as his journey was authentic, he tried, and as long as the journey was compelling, the outcome was immaterial.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

We had several parties to bring on board. David Haye, obviously, but then a production company we could trust to make the documentary. We worked with Chief Productions, which made our previous feature-length documentary Wildlands for Ubisoft. We trusted the director to understand that we had a brand story to tell as well as making something editorially compelling.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

David Haye was brilliant but his attention span when it came to learning from the pros was short. We brought on board three Grosvenor Casinos sponsored poker professionals to teach him how to play but it was evident, almost immediately, that we had got the set-up wrong. The poker pros had a track record of teaching people to play and making some very successful players over the years, but David was not going to be a star pupil. The first few months of this project were pretty fraught. David wasn't developing well, and we were concerned that his participation in Goliath was going to be a failure. There was a eureka moment where it started clicking about six months in and you can physically see it in the film.

How did you measure the results?

Through achieving commercial objectives of the tournament. Grosvenor Casinos’ Goliath Poker Tournament 2019 broke records by becoming the largest live annual poker tournament in the world, with admissions increasing by six per cent and entries to play up by 23 per cent.

David vs Goliath, the documentary, was distributed on Amazon Prime on 17 April. In the opening two weeks it was trending in Amazon Prime's most-popular movies in the UK. We have now secured further distribution on iTunes and Googleplay.

We secured 300-plus pieces of media coverage for the project. On social, we implemented an integrated strategy using Grosvenor Casinos channels, David Haye’s own social pages and a variety of relevant influencers. Following the exclusive launch of the trailer on our social channels, we secured more than 250,000 video views and an average video engagement rate of 58.1 per cent.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

This was a risk. In fact, looking back I don't think we all fully appreciated how much of a risk it was and how it could not have worked out the way we wanted it to. But we were all so determined and had so much conviction to make it a success, we never thought it wouldn't work. So take risks and back yourselves.

Lastly, don't over-complicate things. In PR, we are masters of over-complication. The best ideas are the simplest.

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