Orange rallies support for Les Bleues with digital fakery 

Telco in France uses deepfake tech to showcase skill of female football players ahead of the World Cup, scores 15 million ad views

Despite the increased visibility of women’s football, researchers at Durham University found that over two-thirds of male football fans still hold negative attitudes towards women’s sport. This summer, French telco Orange, a partner of the French Football Federation (FFF), released an ad to combat these biases and to promote the 2023 Women’s World Cup (which runs from 20 July to 20 August).

Created by agency Marcel, Paris, the Bleues’ Highlights ad begins as a compelling highlights package of French football stars such as Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann performing expert pieces of skill and scoring wonder goals. But halfway through, the ad pulls the rug from under viewers by revealing the actual people behind the moments of football magic – players from the women’s French team.

The agency went through over 80 games in the FFF’s archives to source the footage and achieved the seamless special effects using deepfake technology.

Following the reveal, the ad displays the message: ‘At Orange, when we support les Bleus, we support les Bleues’ – referring to both the masculine and feminine forms of the word and showing Orange’s support to French football as a whole.

The campaign launched on 28 June in sports publications such as L'Équipe and TV channels like BeIN Sports. It was also promoted on the FFF’s platforms and by influencers on YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat.

Results / According to the agency, the ad was viewed over 15 million times, generated 50 articles and was mentioned during prime-time TV news. It was also shared on social media by the French Minister of Sports and World Cup-winning athletes.

Contagious Insight 

Unwavering supporter / This campaign continues Orange’s commitment to supporting all French teams, renewing its association with great football moments. The brand has a long history of backing football: it’s been a partner of the FFF for 24 years, which includes both men and women’s teams since 2018. Notably, Orange allocates equal financial support and communication budgets for the creation, production and media promotion of both national teams.

As a result of both stereotypes about women’s football being poor quality and it receiving less media coverage for women’s games, viewing figures have historically been lower. Orange tackles one to address the other – putting a unique spin on the familiar highlights compilation to showcase the undeniable talent of female players.

Talking to Contagious, Solène Raverdy, Marcel’s account director, explained the importance of Orange’s outspoken commitment to women’s football: ‘Women’s football unfortunately still generates debates and comments among fans, because we live in a patriarchal society, where we cannot escape the cognitive biases that lead us to view women’s football through the lens of certain prejudices. It is important through this support for the French women’s team to shine light on the players in a way that allows young girls to finally have role models in this sport, enabling them to identify and perhaps feel supported when they decide to participate in this beautiful sport. Moreover, this video aims to reduce inequalities between men and women that can be found not only in sports but unfortunately in many other sectors as well. We hope there will be much more debate on the subject in the weeks to come. This would mean there is discussion, and it is through these exchanges that things begin to change.’

Proof positive / What sets this campaign apart is its positive take on the topic. It sees Orange transform the perception that women’s football lacks skill and excitement into a compelling narrative that showcases the team’s excellence. It centres the message around the appreciation for great moments of skill that bring people together – cleverly highlighting that real love for football transcends gender boundaries. Great football is great football. But positive tone doesn’t come at the expense of authenticity: the initiative not only celebrates the skills of the women’s team but also makes a statement about their rightful place among football’s finest. It suggests that campaigns addressing societal issues don’t need to tap into doom and gloom to be effective – sometimes, proving people wrong means showing them how good things are.

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