Kiyan Prince, football prodigy killed aged 15, returns as a virtual professional footballer to raise awareness of knife crime

In a cutting-edge campaign for football, gaming and sponsorship, on May 18th 2021, Kiyan Prince made headline news when he signed for his former club, Queens Park Rangers. He was given was also introduced as a playable character in the world’s biggest video game, EA SPORTS™ FIFA 21. In addition, Match Attax issued a Kiyan Prince playing card and major brands, including Adidas, sponsored him. The campaign gained over 1000 pieces of coverage internationally and drove three year's worth of donations in 72 hours.


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 niche Gen Z audience. But how? 

This is a story of how a talented teen footballer’s tragic death at the hands of someone carrying a knife in 2006 became the basis for an anti-knife crime campaign like no other, featuring the world’s largest sports video game, cutting-edge deep-fake technology and a father who has turned personal tragedy into creating a movement for change. 

The Foundation's Aims

1)      To let young people know that it can help them to seek the right path in life, no matter how difficult or troubled their circumstances are. Promoting social mobility and thriving communities and reduce violent crime, by inspiring and coaching young people across the UK.

2)     To raise enough money to open a permanent facility so it can help to reach thousands more young people in the fight against knife crime.

The Idea

In 2006, Kiyan Prince was a promising youth team footballer for Queens Park Rangers (then a Premier League club) when he was stabbed to death breaking up a fight outside his school. We realised that were he alive today, he would have just turned 30 and be at the height of his powers as a professional footballer. What better example, we thought, of the potential that knife crime robs, than showing the life he could have had?

This is the quoteI 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.

John McCarthy, The Drum, Media Editor, Job Title


These are teens 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. 

Strategy & Approach

We were already working with the Kiyan Prince Foundation, so pitching was focussed on building brand partnerships. We spoke to dozens, but most declined as they were worried about being part of a campaign that centred around the death of a child. Fortunately, FIFA, JD Sports, Adidas, QPR and Topps Cards all saw the power and positivity of the idea and the brand purpose and got onboard. 

This is the first time EA, the makers of FIFA, have ever done anything like this and took two years to come to fruition. The further tie-ins with JD Sports, QPR, Adidas and Topp’s Cards were no less innovative. 

Finally, by avoiding typical anti-knife crime messaging of prison and loss of life, we created a campaign designed to inspire rather than scare young people into change. 

We want young people to realise that if they stay clear of knife crime and approach life with the same moral code and energy that Kiyan did, they too can achieve their own version of success. 

By adding Kiyan in-game this year, we not only want to celebrate what an incredibly talented footballer he was and should have been, but also continue to offer EA SPORTS FIFA as a platform to raise awareness of the Kiyan Prince Foundation.

James Salmon, Marketing Director, EA SPORTS FIF


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. 


12 min
segment on BBC Breakfast
pieces of coverage internationally
trending on Twitter
of National Newspapers covered the campaign (bar FT)
year's worth of donations driven in first 72 hours
said they were inspired by Kiyans story of those and of those who play FIFA 89% said they would try playing Kiyan in the game.

This isn’t a story about death, it’s a story about life. An ambitious, hardworking, talented boy and the man he could have become. The kind of man he can inspire boys to be. The younger and more marginalised an audience are, the harder they are to reach, so our starting point was to think about how to connect Kiyan’s powerful story with kids who are virtually immune to traditional knife-crime advertising. Getting to them through gaming, influence networks and sponsorship felt like a unique and effective medium to speak to them and help The Kiyan Prince Foundation continue its vital work.

Billy Faithfull, Chief Creative Officer, Engine Creative


Kiyan Prince, football prodigy killed aged 15, returns as a virtual professional footballer to raise awareness of knife crime

A moving tribute to a young football star in the making. The Kiyan Prince Foundation brings his legacy centre stage and to new generation.

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