‘Long Live the Prince’: The brands re-writing history to highlight knife-crime

The story behind ENGINE Creative and EA Sports groundbreaking Kiyan Prince Foundation campaign.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


Creativity has the power to change the narrative. On the 18th May 2006 QPR starlet Kiyan Prince was murdered by a fellow student outside the gates of his school. He was just 15 years old. 

Now on the 15th anniversary of his death, a campaign for the Kiyan Prince Foundation (KPF), his legacy is reimagined virtually in EA Sports’ video game franchise, FIFA 21.

Queens Park Rangers (QPR) had initially signed Prince as a youth player in 2004 and planned to sign him as a professional. He was denied that chance, but his footballing legacy has now been brought to life on the virtual stage through a combination of courage, commitment, creativity and technology, to show what could have been for such a talented young man. 

The multi-layered and in-game campaign sees Kiyan Prince sign for his former club QPR, poignantly with a squad number ’30’ on the back of his shirt; the age he would be today had his life not been so tragically cut short.

Changing the narrative

Despite the tragedy, this campaign is firmly rooted in celebrating Prince’s ability. In an unprecedented brand collaboration not only will Kiyan be introduced as a player in EA Sports FIFA 21, Match Attax will introduce a Kiyan Prince playing card and Adidas will sponsor him. We also see him appear on the iconic Piccadilly Circus digital billboard in an advert for JD Sports. QPR, which named its stadium after Prince in 2019, is supporting the campaign with extensive PR, as well as naming Prince in their squad for the 2021/22 season.

The campaign, called ‘Long Live the Prince’, was created by ENGINE Creative on a pro-bono basis. All proceeds generated by the campaign will go to the charity run by Kiyan’s father Dr Mark Prince OBE. It marks a step change in the traditional storytelling used to dramatise the human cost of knife crime. “I want my son to be remembered not for the tragedy of his death but for the triumph of his achievements,” explains Prince. “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.”

As Billy Faithful, Chief Creative Officer at ENGINE explains: "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.” It’s a strategy which frees Prince’s life and legacy from being reduced to little more than a cautionary tale, one dominated by the tragedy of his death rather than the trajectory and possibility of his life.

James Salmon, Marketing Director, EA Sports FIFA Brand, adds: “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.”

This isn’t a story about death, it’s a story about life.

Billy Faithful, Chief Creative Officer at ENGINE

Doing things differently

To create a virtual likeness of Kiyan as the 30-year-old he would be today, ENGINE Creative partnered with Framestore, the Academy award-winning creative studio behind Avengers: End Game and Blade Runner 2049. 

With input from the Prince family and help from Professor Hassan Ugail at the University of Bradford, cutting edge aging-projection software was used to create a scientifically accurate image of how Kiyan would look today. 

This image was then developed by Framestore and renowned photoreal artist Chris Scalf to create the likenesses seen in the campaign. Framestore brought the likeness to life in film through AI technology in partnership with the Electric Lens Company; a group of artists, directors and technicians creating virtual experiences through varied platforms.

Accurately recreating Kiyan as a  player was the result of careful collaboration with EA Sports. Developers worked closely with Kiyan’s family, friends, former teammates and coaches to bring him to life in the game in an authentic way. From aging his appearance using images from his teen years to developing his on-pitch characteristics and style of play, Kiyan has been developed as the superstar he should have been. 

Courageous creativity

The result is a campaign which is both genuinely groundbreaking, but rooted in an authenticity which lies at the beating heart of the creative work. So how did the team bring the team together and overcome the challenges implicit in such a genuine media first?

Richard Nott, Creative Director at ENGINE Creative, explains that FIFA was the starting point. When the creative team approached EA Sports, they showed immediate interest; a warmth of response which gave them the confidence to think bigger.

“The first hurdle from there was finding a partner who could create a virtual 'real world' Kiyan, outside of the game, who we could approach other brands with,” explained Nott. Framestore rose to this challenge, with Nott describing the team as ‘a godsend’. When the Framestore team met Mark and heard his story they were fully committed. A commitment, that came, as Nott explains “Even though we weren't even sure that what we were requesting was technically possible.”

From there, the campaign was built piece by piece - Adidas came onboard, then Match Attax, then JD.  “All of them have been incredibly supportive, which is incredible when you think about the number and level of brands involved,” adds Nott. 

The campaign also includes social media activity, with footballers and influencers such as Raheem Sterling and F2Freestylers sharing their support for the campaign with the hashtag #longlivetheprince. While a short film has also been created to engage vulnerable kids, as well as a series of ads fronted by the virtual Kiyan Prince.  

JD billboard.jpg

The cultural firepower of gaming  

The creative idea for the campaign is firmly rooted in gaming.  As David Dearlove, Creative Director at ENGINE Creative explains, the audience the Kiyan Prince Foundation works with are notoriously difficult to reach through traditional channels.  But one thing young people do spend hours engaging with is gaming - and FIFA21 in particular.  He says: “The initial thought was 'what if a young kid discovered this incredible new player in the game that they'd never heard of before. They'd want to learn more about him' we thought that could be a powerful way to make them engage with KPF's message.  We could connect with kids who would otherwise be unreachable.”

The result of this approach is a truly groundbreaking, genuinely brave piece of marketing; one that capitalises on the pivotal role of gaming both as a cultural connector, but also as a space for storytelling. It’s a campaign which must have involved a lot of big thinking and courage. So what has the team learned from the campaign?

“A lot of big thinking of course,” agrees ENGINE Creative’s Faithful, “but a huge amount of belief, a huge amount of hard graft and a myriad of production challenges to overcome. If anything, the big thinking was a least of it in a way - most people we spoke to - brands, influencers, organisations - were immediately moved by the powerful storytelling but the big challenge was getting it done, keeping people onboard despite the hurdles we had to overcome to tell such a multi-layered story.”

It’s a commitment to telling Kiyan’s story rooted firmly in the dedication of Mark Prince’s dedication to using his own pain to prevent others from having to tread the same path he has had to walk.  The Kiyan Prince Foundation, which he set up in 2007, works with at-risk children, instilling a positive mindset in order to lead them away from knife crime and towards achieving their full potential. 

Money raised by the campaign will help the foundation to take its message to schools nationwide and set up a permanent base for the charity’s activities.

Match Attax - Kiyan2.png

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