Once Upon a Spartan Race
Changing what it means to be extreme.
In September 2018, we were struck by a challenging brief. A Canada-owned TV channel in Singapore, BlueAnt Extreme had approached us for help in acquiring more viewership for their high-velocity, action-packed channel.
Similar to a project we previously managed – #StandOrange– this would also be a mainly digital campaign where the focus is on strengthening their social media presence. But before we got into the details, we had to first ask ourselves what BlueAnt Extreme was all about.
To this, we then asked ourselves what it actually means to be extreme. Is it taking your dog out for a walk but without the leash? Or is it something like ordering spicy takeout food on the day of an important meeting? Or perhaps even a combination of the two?
The answer became obvious after we stopped overthinking. ‘Extreme’ is as it suggests – bringing two polar opposites together; going from zero to a hundred quickly; and expecting the wildly unexpected.
It’s about going out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself to the max. This is when it became clear that the story we wanted to tell would be one about ordinary people with extraordinary limits.
Now, imagine the absolutely gorgeous influencers you see everyday on Instagram, posing in their latest post. Then in the next second, they suddenly announce their participation in the next Spartan Race.
“Wait... what?” seems appropriate for a response and was mostly the reaction we got.
Keep in mind, these were not fitness enthusiasts. These were your models – men and women with perfect body and teeth that probably won’t even hurt a fly – taking on one of the world’s toughest and most cutthroat obstacle races... but of course, not before getting a full-body spa.
This was the big idea – extreme yet entertaining.
So began the search for potential candidates for this seemingly impossible mission. Fortune favors the bold and lucky for us – within the span of only two weeks – we were able to lock down 5 influencers from all across South East Asia.
Novita (@novitalam) and Xin Lin (@xinlinnn) from Singapore; Nana (@nanabwincess) and Karen Kho (@karenkh0) from Malaysia; and last but not least, the male lead – Teejay Marquez (@teejaymarquez) from the Philippines.
These influencers would be the main drivers of the campaign, endorsed under a partnership with BlueAnt Extreme (which we helped secure) to produce content about their arduous training journey (i.e. their intense workout routines and their rigorous diets) that would take place from just a month before the Spartan Race in Johor until the big day itself.
Throughout the content-creation process, we made sure we were always in the driver’s seat – curating videos from all 5 influencers and ensuring they remained consistent in terms of their messaging and direction. An influencer’s kit was even dispatched to guide them along the month-long quest.
The Storm Before the Calm
On the day of the Spartan Race, we flew our entire production crew to Johor to cover the influencers’ run and even provided live coverage for the viewers that had been closely following their journey at home. Blood, sweat and tears coursed through the fields of Johor as the only way to get close-up shots of the influencers was to actually run beside them DURING the race.
It all paid off immensely though. The response was phenomenal. Within a course of two months (including post-production) and a minimum media spend (less than SG$10,000), we managed to raise awareness of BlueAnt Extreme’s channel to over 4 million users across Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines with an engagement rate of 3% – beating the world average of 1 - 2% in the sports category.
All of the original content produced by the influencers and published by BlueAnt Extreme were also later reused and aired on TV in between programmes – effectively adding more content to BlueAnt Extreme’s library for their perusal.
But the most amazing aspect of the campaign will always be the influencers who went out of their way to complete the race. Who would’ve thought? Models a year ago. Warriors today. The mental fortitude and physical resilience they must’ve developed in order to stretch over the finish line were definitely both extreme and inspiring.
Proving the naysayers wrong and being the heroes of a generation dictated by stereotypes, the campaign helped us realize just how much influencers can do to change conversations and affect opinions in our society. And until today, it remains one of the most memorable campaigns to us because of how they’ve moved us inside.