The South African illustration house Am I Collective has scored a major creative coup when it was commissioned to create 32 murals for ESPN’s 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign under the direction of New York based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy. The 32 murals celebrate each of the 32 teams that will be competing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. ESPN owns the broadcasting rights to the event in a number of territories including the USA.
Am I Collective MD Mark van Niekerk explains that Wieden+Kennedy had been scouring Africa for artists to create the murals in the style of 80’s Ghanaian movie posters. They kept running into the lack of design infrastructure across the continent. Getting the work to and fro the Wieden+Kennedy studios would have proven problematic for many African artists outside South Africa due to lack of access to broadband. Wieden+Kennedy then approached van Niekerk after artist management agency Bernstein & Andriulli recommended the Collective. Van Niekerk says Wieden+Kennedy were convinced by a test poster to hand all 32 murals to his team to create.
It took nine people three months to create the final murals which effectively meant that half the studio was booked out between December and February. But the end result speaks for itself as is obvious from the depth and attention to detail witnessed in each of the murals.
Van Niekerk says his team of illustrators used Ghanaian movie posters as a reference only, taking it into a new direction to give it an experimental yet refined and contemporary feel. “It’s a global campaign with an African base,” says van Niekerk.
With Am I starting work in December, well before many of the final World Cup teams had been announced, they had to keep in mind that changes would occur as some players fall to the wayside. The illustration team had to adopt its’ working hours as well, starting later in the day and ending well into the evening to ensure they stayed on call to Wieden+Kennedy.
Am I Collective is already attracting international attention for their work on the project with Vanity Fair, Ad Age and a number of blogs covering their involvement. While the Vanity Fair article referred to AM I as a “little-known … group of artists based in Cape Town” the Am I Collective is in fact well respected and quite well known to international agencies. To date it has produced work for agencies in 22 countries including India, Spain and Australia, amongst others, and van Niekerk confirms that up to 80% of its revenue these past eight months had been generated through international commissions. This is expected to rise as ESPN’s PR machine rolls the posters out in its targeted territories.
Van Niekerk also believes that the work will grow his groups’ stature in the South African market. Van Niekerk says some clients still view illustrators as “a bunch of freelancers having a good time” but the international nature of this campaign will cement its reputation as a professional and well run outfit.
Sarah Park, Creative Curator at ESPN ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, says AM I was a perfect fit for the agencies illustrative needs on this campaign. According to Park the artwork has begun rolling out in print, in major markets across the United States (New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Philadelphia), and online. Additionally, they will be incorporated into such executions as print ads, billboards, bus shelters, hand-painted murals on buildings, food trucks, a print insert, 3’x4’ art gallery pieces, art book, digital banners and rich media banners – all of which will begin launching throughout the period of 5/24 through 6/12.
Artwork courtesy AM I Collective