The Climb Released amidst the cluttered extreme sports video game category, Sony PlayStation’s new mountain biking title, Downhill Domination, faced a gnarly uphill grind. The extreme sports video game genre sold 10 million units last year alone. But only 100,000 mountain biking games had EVER been sold. (Our client wasn’t even sure if a mountain biking title deserved a TV spot). Mountain biking was seen as the wimp of the extreme sports gaming category. Our challenge was to change this.
Stretching Our Legs To get into the mindset it takes to bomb a mountain at mach 10, we decided to hit the local bicycle shops and trails. If anyone could give us insight into downhill mountain biking, it had to be these guys. After talking to “the professional,” “the soul rider” and “the junkie,” we uncovered the following insights:
This is not regular mountain biking - this is mountain biking on steroids. During a typical race, riders descend 3,000 ft. in three to five minutes. They go over 40 MPH, the bikes have huge shocks with disc breaks, the gear is basically body armor, and they wear motorcycle-like helmets to ensure they don’t lose a jaw on whatever rock, branch or flying bike part gets in the way.
Fear is a controlled substance. Whether they’re a junky looking to hit it, a soul rider who has mastered the Zen of controlling it, or a hard core pro who grabs it by the short and curlies, fear is an emotion they are all very in touch with. They have a win at all costs attitude, even if that results in a few “pins in the ankle” or “scar tissue on the brain.” Falling is part of improving their game and scars are trophies - each bearing its own special memory.
After putting together a video of the interviews and a book containing magazine articles and competitive advertising, it was time to brief the team.
Choosing Our Line: The Strategy What do we want consumers to take away from the ad? This is eye watering, all-out riding that calls for some balls.
What can we say that motivates creatives to deliver this? Fear is your only boundary.
How does the product deliver this? This game is all about doing whatever it takes to get down the hill fastest, even if it means flying off of mammoth cliffs, charging through lightening storms or hucking water bottles at your opponents. There are no boundaries.
How do we communicate this under the “Live in Your World, Play in Ours” brand ideology? PlayStation’s creative philosophy is about blurring the lines between the real world and the gaming world. The creative executions should blur these lines as well.
Clipping In The downhill guys we talked to were amped about the sport. We wanted to share their enthusiasm with the creative team, especially since the creatives harbored the same sentiments the category did: that mountain biking isn’t that extreme. To overcome this stereotype and bring the insights we found at the bike shop to life, we decided to take it to the mountain.
Working with media, we contacted Mountain Bike Magazine and managed to negotiate a free day of mountain biking with the creative team. A few bloody knees, bruised egos and beers later, it had all come together for the creatives.
Bombing It: The Creative The work was influenced by the insights we learned from the bike store guys and our experiences on the mountain. In the end, we overcame the challenges we set out to. We realized how extreme downhill mountain biking was and the resulting advertising gave the sport some gonads. Because the advertising was a true manifestation of the “Live in Your World Play in Ours” brand philosophy, the client bought a television spot that turned out to be well worth the money.
Race Results People loved the advertising campaign. According to Ad Age, 1.4 million consumers surveyed voted Downhill Domination #1 in likeability, beating out Hummer and The Truth Campaign. 1
People remembered the advertising campaign. According to an internal tracking study, Downhill Domination was in the top five of 22 recalled PlayStation ads, despite only having 1/3 the media weight of an average PS campaign. 2
People bought the title. Downhill Domination is the #1 selling mountain biking game for the PlayStation. With 191,358 copies, Downhill Domination has sold more units than all the other mountain biking title for the PlayStation, nearly doubling sales of all other mountain biking games combined. 3
(Footnotes) 1. Ad Age, Nationwide Survey, October 2003 2. Communicus Tracking Study, 2004 3. TRST Data, 2004