Kiyan Prince was a youth team footballer at Queens Park Rangers and talked about as a possible England star. Tragically, he was stabbed to death outside his school aged just 15. Kiyan Prince Foundation (KPF) was set up by Kiyan’s father, Mark Prince, to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime and gang culture.
Despite how clearly huge the problem is today in the UK and the incredible work Mark has been doing over the past 15 years, KPF was still struggling with two major challenges. Firstly, as a small charity, they lack funds and awareness. Secondly, the young people they want to connect with don’t consume traditional media and are very hard to engage through standard advertising techniques.
The UK is currently facing a knife crime epidemic. Barely a week goes by without a story in the news about another young person, often living in an inner-city, having their life taken by a knife.
Urgent action is needed to reach out to this marginalised group. But how?
These are kids that don’t consume traditional media, instead preferring to spend their time on peer-to-peer networks which are hard to insert messages into.
There is, however, one place where they do spend hours every day – the video game, FIFA.
As a team, each of us with our own young children, we wanted to use every bit of our experience and connections to rethink how we could get a massive broadcast message to market without the inherent funds needed. We wanted to drive the sort of awareness that’s normally reserved for the big brands and to get in front of an audience that had previously been untouchable.
From the time we first presented our idea to Mark it was clear that the partnership would not be the same as any we’d had previously. Not only had what we were suggesting never been done before, it was almost outright ridiculous. To the extend where most clients would have laughed in our face.
As John McCarthy said in his tweet, ‘I still can’t believe they managed to pull off the Kiyan Prince campaign… The idea written down looks absolutely bonkers, absolutely a ‘ok now bear with me’ pitch.’
But Mark believed, and so did we. Our mutual belief drove our partnership and gave us the confidence to do what no one had done before.
We agreed from the start that every penny raised would go to the foundation. In general, in the industry, you pay for everything. Even with pro-bono clients. But we knew if we wanted to achieve our goals, our partners had to be in the same mind set as us. Supporting us because they believed it would make a difference.
From JD to Adidas to Framestore to freelance visual artist Chris Scalf, everyone offered their help free of charge.
The inspiration for the campaign came from a realisation that, were Kiyan still alive today he’d be at his absolute peak as a professional footballer. He’d have been a star on the pitch, he’d be on billboards and cereal boxes, in Fifa21 and Match Attax. This thought really brought home the potential that had been lost due to one tragic incident of someone choosing to use a knife.
We then sought to give him everything he would have had, were he still alive.
The idea was then simple – what if Kiyan still could do those things? Could we flip Kiyan’s story so that it became a positive one? Could we inspire young people and raise funds for the Foundation?
Fortunately, partners we approached could also see the power in this story and the relevance to their audiences. First EA, then Adidas, then Match Attax, then JD. We were worried that major brands like these would be reticent about being a component within a larger campaign but there were no egos, no jostling or demands.
On the anniversary of his death, QPR added Kiyan’s name to their squad and released a photo of the virtual Kiyan in their kit. Simultaneously, he became a playable character in FIFA21, the world’s biggest sports video game, Match Attax gave him his own playing card and he became the face of JD, the UK’s leading sports retailer.
Our relationship with Mark is very close and is built on trust, respect and shared beliefs. With such a delicate and sensitive subject our biggest challenges were communicating with friends and family so emotionally attached to the subject. Authenticity in how we created Kiyan was crucial. By working with the University of Bradford, VFX company Framestore and his former coaches, we created a scientifically accurate digital recreation of the 30 year-old Kiyan. The world’s first virtual athlete.
The publicity generated was designed to drive funds and awareness from the general public, whilst online educational content that told the real story of Kiyan was created for the surge of young people going online to find out more.
- Over three years’ worth of donations in a single day (with more still coming in).
- 915 pieces of coverage internationally, including every national UK newspaper bar the Financial Times.
- 15 pieces of top-tier broadcast coverage from the likes of BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC News, ITV News, Sky
- News, Times Radio and TalkSport, including a 12 minute segment on BBC Breakfast.
- Twice as many people have searched Kiyan’s name online in the last month than when he died.
- Research among 500 people aged 16-25 showed that 60% had heard of Kiyan after the campaign with 97% saying they were inspired by his story
- Schools across South London played the campaign.
- Kiyan’s dad’s interview with the F2 (football influencers popular with our target audience) has been watched over 37,000 times.
- Presenting a new way of communicating with an audience that otherwise is very difficult to communicate to. Biggest learning: provided it can be done and for the right reasons, people respond well to it.
- That so many people continued the conversation on social media outside of the Kiyan Prince Foundation – knife crime and championing youth – push home not just the message to make right choices, but if you didn’t know what choices to make there are people like mark – making that conversation the point of conversation for that day.
- Nothing is impossible with belief.