Work Debrief - Paying homage to the real heroes of the beautiful game

Sky Sports wanted to capture the intoxicating feeling of a goal for football fans to celebrate the start of the new season, Andy Fowler writes.

Brothers and Sisters, working with Sky's group creative director, has created a 90-second film to promote Sky Sports' coverage of the football season. The spot focuses on fans' reactions to the most precious moments in football - those rare occasions when their team score a goal.

The Background

About six years ago, Sky's group creative director and our friend, Barry Skolnick, had an experience he'll never forget. His beloved Leeds United beat Preston in the play-off semi-finals on a rainy night. The goal meant so much and the celebrations were so wild that he remembers not being able to breathe. All he could think was that what happens in the ten seconds after a goal is unbelievable.

The Brief

Six years later and our annual challenge arrived: promote the start of the football season on Sky and persuade people of the value of football in their home. The task was extra difficult this year because no-one knew what effect the Olympics would have on the nation's attitude towards sport. We knew we had to find a big, fundamental, emotional truth that would remind people what football can be.

The Creative idea

Now, the truth is that Barry has told me that Leeds United story more than once over the years. Possibly more than five times.

As we shot the breeze together one Tuesday morning at Brothers and Sisters, it just felt like the right inspiration for this year. What better way of reminding people how wonderful football is than by creating a campaign about the way goals make you feel?

In football, they are rare and precious. It's not like cricket or basketball, where there are hundreds of runs or points scored in each game.

Each time the ball hits the back of the net, it means something, which is why you can't help but go crazy. It's a tidal wave of intense emotion. It's ecstasy and relief, the lid being lifted off a pressure cooker. The drug of the working man. Everything you need to know about the love of football and why it touches people's lives all over the world can be found in the ten seconds after the ball hits the back of the net.

If we could capture the feeling contained in those seconds, we would have something special. Not by focusing on the players - but by turning the camera on the fans, the real heroes of the game, and studying their behaviour.

The Style and Direction

Over the past year, together with Barry, we've developed a house shooting style for Sky Sports that has become a trademark for the brand. It's about capturing sport as it really is, in a beautifully honest light, finding a perspective that reveals something new. As a team, we were inspired by 16mm film footage of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, shot by a guy called Harvey Harrison. It feels cinematic and rich, and so different from the usual live coverage from set camera positions that we're over-familiar with.

A year or so ago, we started collaborating with the director Ivan Bird, who cut his teeth as a cinematographer on ads such as Guinness "surfer" and the movie Sexy Beast. As well as making beautiful pieces of film, he has an amazing habit of capturing little moments of real emotion.

Sky helped us get positions pitch-side, and Ivan and his boys do the rest. They capture sport with an honesty that we're not used to. They capture sport as it really is.

The shoot

To create 90 seconds of film, we went on a hell of a journey, a good old-fashioned road movie. We shot at 19 games across five competitions in three countries, capturing 75 hours of footage. From Barcelona to Sheffield, from St Andrews to Stamford Bridge.

The ad was shot in its entirety on Canon 5D cameras - light and portable yet able to capture beautiful pictures. They give Ivan and his boys the flexibility they need. They also allow them to film from regular seats in the stands, where bigger film cameras wouldn't be allowed.

They become fans like thousands of others, meaning no-one notices their presence and they get the most natural material.

The Editing

The first part of the editing process was to just let the editor, Jonnie Scarlett, loose on the footage. A major cull was needed and, after a couple of weeks, he had it down from 75 hours to the best two hours.

Initially, the idea was about focusing on the goal celebration, but you needed somewhere to go with it, and Jonnie constructed a story about the importance of a goal in football. You can see a game of football in your head through the emotions of the fans.

The edit also had to be balanced as we didn't want to be seen to be favouring any particular team. We found ourselves watching the edits over and over, not to pick holes, but just because it was such a beautiful piece of film to watch. A real character study of football fans - something that would live beyond just the season that it was shot in.

In fact, if you look at the cut, there is something quite timeless about the footage. Some of the shots could've been from the 50s or 60s. We all fell in love with different characters in the film and, as things changed, fought to try to keep the most memorable ones in.

The Music

We always thought that the roar of the crowd was the music. But the more we watched the film, the more we realised it wasn't enough. We didn't want to find an anthem. We wanted to find something that lifted it, but didn't overpower it.

Being football, some of the most famous songs from the biggest bands in the world have been used, as have obscure little songs, classical compositions, opera - everything has been done.

The creative directors Cameron Mitchell and Elliot Harris started to think about choirs, because they would complement the roar of the crowd - a choir in its own right.

It was not a big stretch to then find You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones - one of the most famous uses of a choir, ever. It's such a memorable track and one that perfectly captures the sentiment of the idea about what fans go through.

We recorded in Angel Studios with Sniffy Dog, using a 50-strong choir made up of three parts - The Bach Choir (some of whom actually sang on the original), a kids' choir from a school in Fulham and a group of gospel singers who came in to help layer some extra power into the climax of the track. We then looked at ways we could build the track from a single voice to five, then ten, then all 50 by the end, very much in the way a chant begins inside the stadium.

Andy Fowler is a founder and the executive creative director at Brothers and Sisters.

Client: Barry Skolnick, group creative director, Sky
Agency: Brothers and Sisters
Executive creative director: Andy Fowler
Creative directors: Elliot Harris, Cameron Mitchell
Agency producers: Lois Mould, Matt Ellingham
Production company: Rattling Stick
Director: Ivan Bird
Producer: Lucy Sherwood
Offline editor: Jonnie Scarlett
Post-production: The Moving Picture Company
Business and operations manager: Jason Capra
Senior account director: James Fitzjohn
Senior account manager: Jordan Metcalfe