Cannes Lions

The Pioneers


Case Film
Case Film
Supporting Images






HSBC is title sponsor of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series and going into the end of 2017/start of 2018, the upcoming Rugby World Cup Sevens. Our brief was to use that sponsorship in a way that encouraged positive interactions with HSBC, communicated HSBC’s brand promise of ‘Together we thrive’, supported the growth of rugby sevens (HSBC’s partnership objective) and helped reach new fans.

Our objectives:

• To grow rugby sevens and reach new fans all over the world

• To illustrate HSBC’s brand promise of ‘Together we Thrive’ – that individuals and business achieve more together than they do alone

• To position HSBC as the driving force behind Seven’s growth and a key thought leader through earned and owned media channels

• To encourage greater positive engagement with HSBC


It’s one thing to create content about rugby sevens. It’s quite another to focus on the virtually unknown US team and promoting it in the US market, where rugby isn’t even cared enough about to dislike it. To make the completely unknown into something universally entertaining, we decided to transform the US sevens into heroes – the Pioneers of Sport – by making a two-part documentary about their lives.

We knew just creating a documentary wasn’t enough to mythologize the US sevens as Pioneers. We needed to get Pioneers on the right channels to reach new fans in the US, to turn the documentary – and in turn the Pioneers themselves – into a story that transcended rugby’s audience. We negotiated a free exclusive broadcast agreement with NBC and ensured the full film was available to all through social media, distributed through rugby and key influencer channels.


Our insight? Americans don’t care about rugby or their team. That’s why our message was HBSC’s brand promise, ‘Together We Thrive.’

First, we had to make it real, so we drove a publishing-first strategy, negotiating with the American Network NBC early in production. We produced the content to their exact specifications guaranteeing to hit a huge new primetime audiences on NBCSN and the Olympic Channel who were new to rugby.

Next, we had to make it an event interesting to the US market – i.e, not rugby fans – we promoted the documentary debuts like movie premiers with movie posters, influencer engagement, social promotion, and earned media outreach.

The full film was also available to all through social media channels, distributed through HSBC, USA Rugby, World Rugby and key influencer channels to penetrate the rugby community.


Having commissioned and storyboarded the film we ensured our crew had full access to the team at the key moments as they travelled around the world, capturing every emotive, exciting moment.

The two-part documentary was launched across HSBC social channels with a full publishing roll-out, including official film posters, HSBC social channel branding and multiple teasers.

Simultaneously NBC aired the documentary on primetime for free: a rarity for a 22.5-minute piece of branded content. We also negotiated two free 30-second HSBC adverts during the broadcast.

We enrolled media and influencers to highlight HSBC’s role in supporting rugby’s growth. We generated earned media (78 pieces) on the upcoming film release, including interviews with the USA players and coaches driving to the film as well as including a 9-minute broadcast interview with BBC World.


• The Pioneers has 1.8 million views, 2 million+ impressions and over 12 million opportunities to see across social media.

• NBC aired it on primetime and then subsequent ‘encore’ presentations including on the Olympic Channel.

• The average YouTube view duration of Part One is 44% (9:53), high for longform and 637% longer than the HSBC global channel average. Part Two performed similarly with an average view duration of 28%, longer than the HSBC’s average by 282%.

• It stimulated 7,464 engagements, more than 1,000 comments, and 17,719 likes.

• The Pioneers earned 78 articles, including The Guardian, ESPN and the Mail Online. All contained HSBC key messaging and 75% had positive sentiment towards the bank.

• BBC World ran a 9-minute broadcast promoting the documentary.

• Rugby is now the fastest growing sport in the US. The USA are leading this year’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

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