How Engine Creative helped QPR put a virtual version of late football prodigy Kiyan Prince in its FIFA 21 squad

Kiyan Prince – a Queens Park Rangers youth team player who was stabbed to death when he tried to break up a fight at the age of 15 – has been added to the video game as a 30-year-old QPR player, in a powerful campaign that aims to inspire young people to fulfil their potential and steer clear of gang violence.

Cutting-edge technology and expertise has been used to create a lifelike portrait of Kiyan Prince at 30
Cutting-edge technology and expertise has been used to create a lifelike portrait of Kiyan Prince at 30

Kiyan Prince's former club has given him the squad number ‘30’ for the 2021/22 season, and he has been recreated as a playable character for QPR in the world’s most popular game, EA Sports FIFA 21.

Match Attax will issue a Kiyan Prince playing card and major brands, including Adidas, will sponsor him.

The campaign, called ‘Long Live the Prince’, has been created by Engine Creative on a pro-bono basis. All proceeds raised will go directly to the Kiyan Prince Foundation, the charity run by Kiyan’s father, Dr Mark Prince OBE.

The aim of the campaign, which marks the 15th anniversary of his death, is to highlight Kiyan’s potential 15 years after his life was cut short by knife crime – an issue that has been on the rise this year, with nearly as many teens already killed in 2021 as in the whole of 2020.

However, rather than being an anti-knife campaign full of grim imagery, this campaign’s messaging is more about fulfilling life rather than having it taken away.

“I want my son to be remembered not for the tragedy of his death but for the triumph of his achievements,” Mark Prince said. “Through this campaign, the world finally gets to glimpse Kiyan’s incredible potential fulfilled. And hopefully we can inspire other kids to be the best version of themselves too.”

The idea was conceived by Engine Creative duo David Dearlove and Richard Nott. Media strategy and execution was delivered by Engine MHP. They worked in partnership with the Kiyan Prince Foundation, QPR and EA Sports (represented by 160over90).

Nott told PRWeek the campaign has been more than a year in the making.

“We have been working with the Kiyan Prince Foundation for a couple of years and at the end of 2019 we thought Kiyan would have been approaching his peak years as a footballer, there was something quite sad and powerful about that," he said.

“We thought: 'What if we could get him into FIFA to show everyone what he would have been like at his peak?' Part of the thinking behind that is that the group of kids that we could reach on behalf of the foundation don’t really engage with traditional media – TV or the press. What they are into is games, and FIFA is the biggest game among young lads. It’s a nice way of showcasing and celebrating Kiyan and his potential fully realised.”

Dearlove said they wanted to build on the idea of showing what Kiyan's life could be like at 30 by finding him a squad number at his childhood club, QPR, which provided a number for the whole 2021/22 season. As a modern footballer, they also secured sponsorship from JD Sports and Adidas, and his own Match Attax card.

“It was about trying to realise as much as possible what Kiyan would have if he was a footballer now,” Dearlove said. “When Mark (Prince) goes to schools and talks about his son, it’s not about ‘this is what happens when you get stabbed’; Mark focuses on what his son’s hard work, positivity and talent can achieve – he was basically on the brink of becoming a Premier League player. It’s to inspire kids to achieve their own version of greatness.

“A lot of knife crime campaigns are often drenched in ‘This is what the inside of a prison cell feels like, you make one mistake in your life is over’ – crying mums and stuff like that; we wanted to flip it on its head and showcase Kiyan’s legacy as a positive one.”

For QPR, the collaboration was an obvious next step. Recently the club’s fans voted to rename its Loftus Road stadium in honour of the Kiyan Prince Foundation.

“We are very keen to help support [this campaign]… it’s such a wonderful innovative idea and it’s really reaching the people that Mark’s work tries to reach. This campaign is creating a conversation around who Kiyan is and within the FIFA 21 game we wanted Kiyan to be a player that people would want in [their] team,” QPR head of media and communications Paul Morrissey said.

“It’s about starting that conversation on ‘Who’s this new number 30 at QPR?’ Hopefully this will lead people to find out more about Kiyan and the life that was lost and the life that could have been lived.

“What we really hope is this will help raise the awareness of the Kiyan Prince Foundation and what they do as much as we can. Everyone at the club admires how much Mark has turned something so tragic that no parent should have to deal with into a positive change. It’s inspirational.”

To accompany the launch, a short film directed by Dearlove was created to engage vulnerable children across social and earned media, along with a series of ads fronted by the virtual Kiyan Prince, across press, social media and out of home, including at Piccadilly Circus (pictured below).

Ageing-projection software was used to create a scientifically accurate image of how Prince would look at the age of 30, with input from Professor Hassan Ugail at the University of Bradford. The imagery was developed by Framestore and photoreal artist Chris Scalf.

Photography for the campaign was shot by David Clerihew with post-production by Framestore and Nineteentwenty. 

So far, the campaign has received more than 350 pieces of coverage, with articles in every national print/online title except the FT, as well as outlets such as Reuters, Forbes, ESPN, SportBible, Bleacher Report, Sporf, Yahoo!, AP, PA and Bang Showbiz. 

From a broadcast perspective, the story went live as part of a 12-minute segment live on BBC Breakfast this morning, with further pieces on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC London, BBC Radio 1, Sky News, Sky Sports News, Times Radio and Talk Sport. 

Engine MHP said further pieces are expected on BBC News, ITV News, Channel 5 News and ITV London.

Mark Prince and former professional footballer Les Ferdinand, who is director of football at QPR, will lead a major PR drive to help raise awareness and tell the story of the transformative effect the sponsorship money will have on the charity's work. 

Donations to the Kiyan Prince Foundation can be made by texting KPF £5 (or an amount of your choosing) to 70490.

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