EA Sports has unveiled a campaign for Fifa that highlights the lack of British Asian representation in professional football and introduces some new Muslim role models in sport.
Created by Adam & Eve/DDB, this is the winning ad in Channel 4’s annual Diversity in Advertising Award, which awards £1m worth of airtime to the best campaign idea tackling diversity. The award’s 2020 theme focused on the authentic portrayal of UK black, Asian and minority ethnic cultures in advertising.
EA Sports’ campaign for Fifa 21 heroes the Midnight Ramadan League, a grassroots team set up for those who struggle to play during the Ramadan fast, with matches kicking off after Iftar (the evening meal with which Muslims break the daily fast) and before Suhoor (the early morning meal that comes before fasting).
The ad tells the story of Qaiser, a British Asian teenager who plays in the Midnight Ramadan League. Qaiser is tired at the end of a day of fasting, but his younger sister Aaminah kicks a ball at him and says, “stop being lazy.”
After Iftar, Qaiser heads out to join the rest of the Midnight Ramadan League on the pitch. When his energy lags and a tackle knocks him to the ground, a professional footballer – Leicester City midfielder and Fifa ambassador Hamza Choudhury – suddenly appears to encourage him, saying: “If I can do this, so can you.”
The action quickly switches between a Fifa game and real life, where Qaiser helps his team win the match before hurrying home to play with his sister. It ends with the tagline: “Inspire the next generation.”
The work was written by Selma Ahmed, art directed by Genevieve Gransden and directed by Bassam Tariq through Pulse Films. Tariq also directed the 2020 film Mogul Mowgli starring Riz Ahmed.
Fifa’s ad will debut on Friday (23 April) during Channel 4’s Gogglebox. M/SIX handled media planning and buying.
As part of the campaign EA Sports has published a comic book written by Choudhury and entitled Hamza: My Story, which it will distribute to schools. The book chronicles Choudhury’s upbringing and journey to becoming a professional footballer.
The brand has also released some bespoke Fifa 21 Midnight Ramadan League assets for the game, such as kit and stadium dressing inspired by the team.
Research has shown that representation of British Asians in professional football is disproportionate to the wider population: in 2020, just 10 (or 0.25%) of the UK’s 4,000 professional footballers were British Asians, compared with 7% of the population. The figure in professional leagues is also out of sync with recreational football; British Asians make up 9.7% of people in the UK who play football recreationally.
Tariq, the director, said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever direct such an unapologetically Muslim commercial with my fellow sisters and brothers in faith. It wasn’t enough that we worked closely with the Midnight Ramadan League co-founder Obayed Hussain, but we prayed, broke bread and drank buttloads of chai together. I’m honoured to have worked on such a pivotal commercial not only for the Birmingham folks but also for myself as I continue to broaden my own experience of what it means to be Muslim and Asian.”
David Jackson, vice-president of brand at EA Sports Fifa, added: “Football is the world’s game and has immense power to unite family, friends and fans. At EA Sports we strive to grow the love of football through the stories we tell, so we are delighted to work with Hamza to celebrate the Midnight Ramadan League. Hopefully we can inspire future generations to get out on to the pitch and play.”
The runners-up in Channel 4’s competition, Lloyds Bank and its agencies MediaCom and Guap Studios, were awarded a “highly commended” accolade and, for the first time, the broadcaster is awarding £350,000 of free advertising to the bank to help fund the campaign in a match-funding arrangement.
Veriça Djurdjevic, chief revenue officer at Channel 4, said: "Now in its fifth year, our Diversity in Advertising Award continues to highlight the importance of reflecting the cultural diversity of the whole of the UK in TV advertising. Evidence on screen points to positive progress being made, which is really heartening, but we’re not there yet and so we look forward to launching EA Sports' impactful new campaign – sharing an important and authentic story with Channel 4 viewers."