Cannes Lions

Virtual Sentosa

BBH, Singapore / SENTOSA DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION / 2020

Awards:

1 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
Case Film
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Overview

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Overview

Background

For more information please visit virtualsentosa.com

password: forawardsonly

Worldwide lockdowns were causing massive cabin fever with people desperate to leave the confines of their home. Sentosa was not as famous as Phuket or Hawaii but the playing ground was levelled as the pandemic kept every island resort off-limits. This was an opportunity for us to bring the best of Sentosa to people stuck at home, allowing them to go on a holiday from the safety of their sofas.

Idea

Sentosa was the first destination to be recreated within 2020’s breakout game Animal Crossing. Virtual Sentosa was the perfect place for people to escape to in a world under lockdown and the perfect way for visitors old and new to travel to Sentosa from afar.

Every detail of the digital island holiday experience was carefully thought through. Attractions were precisely recreated, even down to the amenities basket in the island’s resorts. It even ran like a real holiday destination, with hourly tours, brand experience guides on hand, bespoke souvenirs, free yoga sessions by the virtual beach and social-media worthy photo spots. The brand built on organic interest from influencers and invited them to livestream their visits, and also hosted weddings and birthdays to create even more content angles. In addition, we reached out to journalists, hosting curated tours and giving them a new, fascinating angle to cover travel during lockdown.

Strategy

Virtual Sentosa gave us a new platform to engage with travel journalists, populate travel influencers’ feeds with fresh content at a time when they can’t create their own. Additionally, hacking 2020’s hit game allowed Virtual Sentosa to reach out to the gaming community and be featured on gamers’ streaming channels. Most importantly, this made Virtual Sentosa highly relevant to the general public who were suffering from severe travel withdrawal symptoms and were desperate for a getaway.

Key-message wise, besides promoting the variety of unique fun that Sentosa offers to visitors young and old, there was also a broader business story of a brand making interesting pivots to engage with their consumers during these trying times.

Media invites were tailored and distributed to local, regional and international mainstream, lifestyle and gaming publications.

Execution

We moved Sentosa onto Animal Crossing, tapping into the zeitgeist of digital utopias to escape reality. In 12 days, we crafted an island resort from scratch, based on its real-world 50.7m sqft counterpart.

We painstakingly replicated 18 attractions, filling the digital island with replicas of its real-life cafes, water parks, dance festivals, resorts and spas and more. Our real-life island brands were given a digital makeover and included on the island. Customised souvenirs were designed as giveaways and tour guides were stationed on-island to help guests explore every bit of the redesigned island.

With no paid media, Virtual Sentosa became a global hit as the first entirely-redesigned holiday destinations on Animal Crossing, reaching more people than ever before. Its impact was felt beyond local shores, attracting visitors from all continents except Antarctica. It provided publicity for island businesses and put Sentosa top of mind when the world reopens.

Outcome

With no paid media, Virtual Sentosa became one of the most widely-reported destinations, with over 300 headlines across every continent (except Antarctica) and category, entering the mainstream with over 7.5B impressions and $2.66M SGD in media value. It received kudos from TripAdvisor, top travel journalists and politicians, was featured on primetime news from Singapore to Peru, and mentioned in many social conversations.

Searches for Sentosa were higher (versus Hawaii and Phuket) in our key markets of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.

Over 44,000 visited the website and 15,000 individuals registered for a chance to visit, with visitors spending more than 15,000 minutes on the island.

Virtual Sentosa was recognised as a breakout effort in tourism marketing by Hypebeast and Conde Nast has called it a case study in how tourism marketing can innovate and connect with future travelers, even as travel itself remains closed globally.